Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is like any other type of anxiety disorder. People who suffer from this condition may start becoming anxious about a particular situation that it starts impacting their daily life.
It is quite possible that many of us may have suffered panic attacks in our life, with these groups of people the attacks occur suddenly without any rhyme or reason. It would be pertinent to point out here that panic disorder affect almost 3% of Canadians, and it more common in women than in men.
The problem is that panic disorders can appear at any age but it is more pronounced in young adults. If the family has a history of panic attacks, then it is quite likely that other members could also be at a risk as far as these attacks are concerned. It could also be caused by other reasons such as history or abuse, traumatic event in life, stress and sudden changes in life which could be difficult to adopt.
Causes of Panic Attacks
Though the exact cause of panic disorder is not fully understood, researchers do believe that this problem could arise due to chemical imbalances in the brain. As mentioned above it also tends to run in families and hence there could be a genetic disposition to it. It could also be caused by trauma and excessive stress. Certain medical conditions could also cause panic disorders and an example is hyperthyroidism and certain types of heart problems. There are also some external triggers that could cause panic attacks such as:
• Excessive amount of alcohol.
• Excessive drinking of caffeine, tea and soft drinks.
• Stimulants such as cocaine and other substances.
• Taking some prescription drugs and immediately discontinuing it.
Symptoms of Panic Attacks
It would also be pertinent to have a closer look at the various symptoms associated with panic disorder as follows.
• Pain or discomfort in the chest, choking, dizziness and feeling like fainting.
• Fear of death
• Fear of losing control of all things.
• Having a feeling that he or she is not a part of environment
• Chills or hot flushes.
• Stomach ache, diarrhea and vomiting and nausea.
• Tingling and numbness
• Heart which keeps racing and excessive sweating.
• Shaking and trembling and also having trouble breathing.
All panic attacks do not last more than 10 minutes. However, as the symptoms associated with panic attacks directly affect the heart, lungs and other vital organs, it is quite possible that the person may have a feeling that his health has gone for a big toss. They may also feel that they require immediate treatment to survive this problem. But by the time the doctor examines the patient the panic attack may be over.
The worst thing about panic attacks is that it is highly unpredictable and hence the person is always in fear that another attack is jus round the corner. In fact, even if the person starts to avoid the places where he or she had this attack, they might develop another condition called agoraphobia. Hence many of these patients start avoiding a certain place after suffering a panic attack and try to move to some other place. They usually avoid places where a lot of people might be seen together.
Panic Attacks Diagnosis
Diagnosis of panic disorder is done by the doctor mainly based on symptoms, physical examination and a look at the family history. Before diagnosis the doctor will try and rule out any other pre existing medical condition.
Panic Attacks Treatment
See also: How to Stop Panic Attacks?
Treating panic disorders involves combining medicines with cognitive and behavioral therapy. The main objective of such treatment is to reduce the number of such attacks and also its frequency which will help the patient to lead a better quality of life. Here are a few of the commonly used medicines for treating panic disorder in patient.
• SSRIs such as Paroxetine.
• SNRIs such as Venlafaxine
• Imimparamine and other such TCAs (Tricyclic Antidepressants)
• Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (Phenelzine)
• Various types of anti anxiety medications including benzodiazepines.
Apart from the above medications, doctors may also recommend various types of behavioral therapies including relaxation and exposure therapies. While exposure therapy exposes the patient to the same situations gradually, relaxation therapy is all about techniques which help the patient to become relaxed in previous situations that have resulted in such panic attacks. Cognitive therapy is also recommended which is all about changing thought patterns.
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A proper diagnosis coupled with a multi pronged strategy is the best way to help patients overcome problems associated with panic attacks.