Panic Disorder

Definition of Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is fairly common and affects about 2.4 million people in the U.S., or 1.7% of the adult population between the ages of 18 and 54. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the condition, and its symptoms usually begin in early adulthood. Often time panic attacks feel like heart attaches and strike without warning. These episodes can occur at any time, even during sleep. The fear and terror that a person experiences during a panic attack are not in proportion to the true situation and are a result of years of suppressing fears and worries.

Signs and symptoms of Panic Disorder

Most people with panic attacks experience several of the following symptoms:

“Racing” heart
Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy
Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers
Sense of terror, or impending doom or death
Feeling sweaty or having chills
Chest pains
Breathing difficulties
Feeling a loss of control

Treatment of Panic Disorder

Causes are not clear, however some people have biological vulnerability to panic attacks, and may be triggered by major life changes (such as getting married, having a child, starting a first job, etc.) and major lifestyle stressors. Treatment begins by identifying triggers and becoming aware of signs that an attack could be coming on. Panic attacks generally last less than 10 minutes, although some of the symptoms may persist for a longer time. People who have had one panic attack are at greater risk for having subsequent panic attacks and new research shows that discussing panic attacks can actually bring them on. In therapy we will label panic attacks as “episodes” and learn what to do during an episode. Once the attacks are under control we will begin peeling away layers of fear and anxiety to get to the root of the problem.

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