Panic attacks are characterized by a fear of disaster or of losing control even if no danger is currently present. They can affect anyone at any age and at any time. Generally harmless, a person may experience a fight-or-flight response when confronted with a panic attack. But what happens when that instinctive response goes out of control?
Affecting an estimated 6 million adults, panic disorders occur when that fight-or-flight response doesn’t shut off or persists for longer than normal. Instead, what happens to someone with a panic disorder is that the fear manifests and permeates that person’s entire life. It’s not uncommon for people to change daily routines, dissolve relationships, and avoid situations and places as a result of this mental health issue.
Symptoms of Panic Disorder
Physical symptoms like sweaty palms and an elevated heart rate are characteristic of panic attacks. But, not everyone who experiences a panic attack will develop panic disorder. There is a fine line between the two. Other physical symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Stomach pain
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Breathing difficulties
- Hot or cold flashes
The National Institute of Mental Health notes that panic attacks usually peak at 10 minutes for most people. Those with panic disorder may experience these feelings for much longer. A person with the illness may experience higher blood pressure or an increased heart rate for an extended period of time as a result of the attack.
The emotional and mental symptoms that accompany panic disorder are far more severe, often resulting in a person changing his/her schedule and habits. The primary indicator is fear, most notably an irrational, crippling, and/or inappropriate fear response. A person with panic disorder may:
- Fear the next panic attack and preoccupy himself/herself with that fear.
- Worry about being out of control during the next attack.
- Avoid places or triggers that remind him/her of a previous panic attack (for example, if a panic attack was experienced in a doctor’s office, a person may avoid all doctors’ offices for fear of another attack).
- Experience sudden and repeated panic attacks
Panic disorder is often associated with comorbidity, especially substance abuse and depression. People with panic disorder may often feel helpless and anxious about the illness, or even guilty about not being able to live life without that fear.
Getting Treatment for Panic Disorder
When left untreated, panic disorder can develop into phobias, primarily agoraphobia. The American Psychological Association also indicates that those suffering from panic disorder have higher rates of suicide attempts, spend more time in hospitals, are prone to financial dependence and substance abuse, and report feeling unhealthy both physically and emotionally.
This is why treatment is vital. Only a medical professional can diagnose you with panic disorder, so it’s important to get help if you match the criteria listed above. Your panic attacks can be helped; it just takes some time to master them. A comprehensive treatment facility will have a team of qualified physicians, counselors, and nurses on staff who can help you manage your panic disorder so you can live a life that is free of fear. Fear shouldn’t keep you from enjoying the things, places, and people you love. Give us a call today and, we can connect you with treatment that can help you heal.
Further Reading About Recognize the Symptoms of Panic Disorder
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton