What is panic disorder?
Panic Disorder is characterised by repeated and often unexpected panic attacks, which involve surges of intense fear or discomfort that reach a peak within minutes. These attacks are accompanied by physical sensations such as heart palpitations, chest pain, abdominal distress, and shortness of breath or feelings of choking.
Symptoms of panic disorder
Do you often experience intense apprehension followed by unexpected attacks of fear or panic? Are these episodes accompanied by heart palpitations, a feeling of impeding doom or a fear of dying, discomfort in the chest and/or sweating and shakiness? If you experience multiple unanticipated panic attacks and hold a persistent worry that panic attacks will return, you may have panic disorder and should seek professional help.
What causes panic disorder?
Several factors are likely to contribute to the development of panic disorder. Panic disorder can be triggered by major life transitions such as having a baby or undergoing stressful or traumatic experiences such as going through a divorce or losing a loved one. Such life experiences can trigger panic attacks following the event or unexpectedly several years later. Genetics may also play are role in developing panic disorder. If you have a family member with panic disorder, this may increase the likelihood of developing this disorder. An imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain can also increase the risk of developing panic disorder.
Treating panic disorder
There are a variety of treatments available for those suffering from panic disorder. Psychological therapy or medication or a combination of the two may be recommended. If psychological therapy is recommended, it will typically take the form of/ be in the form of CBT.
CBT is considered to be one of the most effective treatments for panic disorder. Typical CBT sessions involve talking through one’s problems with a certified clinician, with the aim to understand how one’s own thoughts impact one’s negative emotions and behaviours.
When treating panic disorder, patient and clinician will discuss how you react to a panic attack including what you think about in the anticipation of, during and following a panic attack. Patient and clinician then work together to alter these negative thought patterns and behavioural responses such as avoiding places that might trigger a panic attack, in order to improve one’s feelings and experiences.