Panic disorder is a common mental illness, specifically a type of anxiety disorder characterized by recurring and unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden, intense surges of fear, anxiety, or terror that can be overwhelming and disabling. Panic disorder affects millions of people worldwide, and it can severely impact their quality of life, work, and relationships.
We will explore the symptoms and signs of panic disorder, including what causes it, how it’s diagnosed, and how it can be treated.
What Are the Symptoms of Panic Disorder?
The symptoms of panic disorder can be physical, emotional, and cognitive. Panic attacks are the hallmark symptom of panic disorder and are often described as sudden and intense surges of fear or terror.
During a panic attack, individuals may experience symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest pain or discomfort, nausea or stomach discomfort, feeling of choking or suffocating, dizziness or lightheadedness, and fear of losing control or going crazy.
In addition to these physical symptoms, individuals with panic disorder may also experience emotional and cognitive symptoms, including feelings of terror, apprehension, or impending doom, as well as a sense of unreality or detachment from oneself. These symptoms can be very distressing and often lead individuals to avoid situations or activities that they fear may trigger a panic attack.
What Causes Panic Disorder?
The exact causes of panic disorder are not fully understood, but it is believed that a combination of factors can contribute to its development. Genetics may play a role, as there is evidence to suggest that panic disorder can run in families. Imbalances in brain chemicals that regulate mood and anxiety, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, may also contribute to the development of panic disorder.
Environmental factors, such as stress or trauma, can also be a trigger for panic disorder. For example, a traumatic event, such as a car accident, can lead to the development of panic disorder in some individuals. Other risk factors for panic disorder include a history of anxiety disorders, depression, or substance abuse, as well as certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders or heart disease.
How is Panic Disorder Diagnosed?
Proper diagnosis of panic disorder is important to ensure the correct treatment path is picked. To diagnose panic disorder, a healthcare professional will typically perform a physical exam and ask about the individual’s symptoms, medical history, and family history. They may also conduct laboratory tests to rule out other medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms. A mental health assessment may also be conducted to evaluate the individual’s overall mental health, including any history of anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders.
Criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) are used to confirm a diagnosis of panic disorder. These criteria include the presence of recurrent and unexpected panic attacks, as well as persistent concerns about future panic attacks and significant behavioral changes as a result of the attacks. A thorough evaluation is important to rule out other conditions and to develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Common Treatment for Panic Disorder
The treatment of panic disorder typically involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed medications for panic disorder. These medications can help reduce the severity and frequency of panic attacks and other symptoms of anxiety.
Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can also be effective in treating panic disorder. CBT can help individuals learn to identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their anxiety. Exposure therapy, a type of CBT, may also be used to help individuals gradually confront and overcome their fears and phobias.
Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, may also be recommended as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for panic disorder.
At Exodus Health, we understand the impact that panic disorder can have on an individual’s quality of life. That is why we offer innovative treatment options for individuals struggling with this condition, including ketamine infusion therapy. Ketamine has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, including those associated with panic disorder.
Our team of medical professionals is dedicated to providing personalized care to each of our patients, ensuring they receive the treatment that is best suited for their needs. If you or a loved one is struggling with panic disorder, we encourage you to reach out to us to learn more about how we can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward finding relief.