Experiencing anxiety or feelings of panic is a normal phenomenon. This is part of our natural system in place to ensure our survival. We will often experience this anxiety or panic when we identify a threat in our environment and this activation of the nervous system enables us to decide on a route to safety.
However, sometimes we perceive and react to threats that do not warrant the reaction, and if this happens frequently, it might suggest the possibility of a panic disorder. It is important to remember that simply experiencing a panic attack or feelings of panic does not mean you have a panic disorder. If you feel that you may be experiencing a panic disorder, it is a good idea to reach out to a medical professional for assistance.
What Is Panic Disorder?
A panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by extreme fear and feelings of panic. These feelings can lead to a physical manifestation, which is commonly referred to as a panic attack.
These panic attacks can feel similar to a heart attack and so are quite distressing. It is unlikely that that a panic attack will result in any injury or bodily damage, even though it may feel this way. A panic attack usually lasts between 5 and 20 minutes, although some people experience them for longer. The frequency of a panic attack differs as well. Some people experience a few a month, others can experience a few a week.
Panic attacks can have the following symptoms:
There is usually increased fear and anxiety felt between panic attacks, as if you can’t quite settle down or feel calm and safe. This can be tiring and affect your overall mood and physical health. You may also experience a negative impact on your daily functioning.
What Are The Different Risk Factors Of Panic Disorder?
A panic disorder may be related to an experience you have had that has increased your nervous system activation and anxiety levels. However, there could be a genetic element as well. Often panic disorders may run in the family, yet not everyone in the family will experience a panic disorder.
However, a panic disorder may also be comorbid (or occur with) another disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder.
There are a variety of conditions that may lead to receiving a panic disorder diagnosis. However, if you feel that you are experiencing a panic disorder then please reach out to a medical professional for assistance.
Your medical professional may decide to incorporate medication to your treatment plan. This usually assists in minimizing the effects of the symptoms, especially during the time between panic attacks. There is also a hope that medication will reduce the number of panic attacks that you experience.
Psychotherapy can assist you in exploring the root or origin of the feelings of anxiety and fear. This could help you understand why you respond to stressful situations in this way and perhaps help you learn how to recongize when a panic attack is approaching.
By recognizing when a panic attack is approaching you can attempt to stop it and work through it instead of have it control you. Certain psychotherapeutic approaches can assist you in learning techniques and strategies to understand and manage your anxiety and feelings of panic.
Each day there are certain things you could include into your daily routine that will support a more regulated experience. These could be:
- Getting enough sleep
- Limiting caffeine intake
- Eating a balanced die
- Including exercise
- Learning how to manage a panic attack
- Including breathing exercises throughout the day
How Is Panic Disorder Diagnosed?
When you make an appointment with your medical professional, they will investigate your history, your family history, and your current experiences. It is helpful to describe your panic attacks as clearly as possible and share how frequent they are. If you are able to note how long they last and what insited them, this is also helpful information to share.
Your medical professional will determine whether your symptoms match the criteria for a panic disorder as they appear in the Dignosistics and Statistical Manual V-TR.
The more information you are able to share with your practitioner the more they will be able to understand your lived experience and implement an intervention that will support you in the most beneficial manner.
How Is Panic Disorder Treated?
You can treat a panic disorder and maintain a fulfilled and successful life. The treatment plan should be discussed with your medical professional and tailored to your lifestyle. This treatment is usually a combination treatment of medication, psychotherapy, and self-managment.
A panic attack can be a distressing experience and increase your fear and stress (which makes having another panic attack more likely). By reaching out and gaining the right support you can limit the impact that a panic disorder has on your life.
At Insightful Psychiatry we are here to help build that support with you. By reaching out and scheduling a consultation with us you are making the first step in the journey to take control of your life again.