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1st October 2020 

What is Panic Disorder

Panic disorder occurs when you experience recurring unexpected panic attacks. The DSM-5 defines panic attacks as abrupt surges of intense fear or discomfort that peak within minutes. People with the disorder live in fear of having a panic attack. You may be having a panic attack when you feel sudden, overwhelming terror that has no obvious cause. You may experience physical symptoms, such as a racing heart, breathing difficulties, and sweating.

Most people experience a panic attack once or twice in their lives. The American Psychological Association reports that 1 out of every 75 people might experience a panic disorder. Panic disorder is characterized by persistent fear of having another panic attack after you have experienced at least one month (or more) of persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks (or their consequences) recurring.

Even though the symptoms of this disorder can be quite overwhelming and frightening, they can be managed and improved with treatment. Seeking treatment is the most important part of reducing symptoms and improving your quality of life.

What are the symptoms of panic disorder?
Symptoms of panic disorder often begin to appear in teens and young adults under the age of 25. If you have had four or more panic attacks, or you live in fear of having another panic attack after experiencing one, you may have a panic disorder.

Panic attacks produce intense fear that begins suddenly, often with no warning. An attack typically lasts for 10 to 20 minutes, but in extreme cases, symptoms may last for more than an hour. The experience is different for everyone, and symptoms often vary.

Common symptoms associated with a panic attack include:

racing heartbeat or palpitations
shortness of breath
dizziness (vertigo)
sweating or chills
shaking or trembling
Feeling detached
numbness or tingling in your hands or feet
chest pain or tightness
fear that you might die

The symptoms of a panic attack often occur for no clear reason. Typically, the symptoms are not proportionate to the level of danger that exists in the environment. Because you cannot know when you will have a panic attack it may effect your wellbeing and everyday living.

What causes panic disorder?

The causes of panic disorder are not clearly understood. Research has shown that panic disorder may be genetically linked. Panic disorder is also associated with significant transitions that occur in life. Leaving for college, getting married, or having your first child are all major life transitions that may create stress and lead to the development of panic disorder.

Who is at risk for developing panic disorder?

Although the causes of panic disorder are not clearly understood, information about the disease does indicate that certain groups are more likely to develop the disorder. In particular, women are twice as likely as men to develop the condition, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

How is panic disorder diagnosed?

If you experience symptoms of a panic attack, you may seek emergency medical care. Most people who experience a panic attack believe they are having a heart attack. A paramedic will perform some tests to see if your symptoms are caused by a heart attack. They may do blood tests to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, or an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check your heart function. If there is no emergency basis to your symptoms, you will be referred back to your GP.

Your GP may give some form of medication for your symptoms, but there are some things you can do to help yourself, such as;

keeping a regular schedule
exercising regularly
getting enough sleep
avoiding the use of stimulants such as caffeine

How can Therapy help with your panic?
It may help you to talk about your feelings in a safe and non-judgmental environment. This in itself may lesson the severity and frequency of the attacks. During the therapy we can also look at your thought processes, and how these thoughts may stimulate feelings of panic. By learning relaxation and mindfulness techniques and becoming aware of your thought processes, you will gain a greater sense of self-awareness which again can greatly help to reduce the severity and frequency of the attacks .

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"There is no illness of the body, only the mind" - Socrates