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What is a Panic Attack? Panic Disorders, Its Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


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What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a sudden, out of the blue feeling of extreme fear and discomfort. It comes most unexpectedly and without any warning and you can feel your heart beating fast, feel dizzy, breathless, choked or as if you are going crazy or going to die.

What is Panic Disorder?

A person is diagnosed as having panic disorder if he has recurrent episodes of panic attacks and develops a fear of having another attack. Many times the patient will convince himself/herself so fervently that they are dying that many sufferers often feel the need to go to the emergency room and get tested. Even though this disorder is easily as well as successfully treatable, if it is not diagnosed it can become very debilitating to the individual.

Panic disorder strikes between 3 and 6 million Americans, and is twice as common in women as in men. It can appear at any age in children or in the elderly but most often it begins in young adults.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

In a panic attack symptoms develop abruptly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. Some of the common symptoms include:

a) Palpitations

b) Sweating

c) Trembling

d) Shortness of breath

e) Chest pain or discomfort

f) Nausea

g) Dizziness

h) Fear of losing control

i) Fear of dying

Treatment for Panic Disorder

Panic disorder often responds to treatment with medication, therapy, or a combination of both.

Cognitive/behavioral therapy is a relatively new treatment for panic that has been shown to be successful. Instead of using old-fashioned analysis-based techniques, therapists employing new CBT methods focus on the present panic - and how to eliminate it.

People who experience panic are not “crazy" and do not need to be in therapy for extended periods of time.

Some people find the greatest relief from panic disorder symptoms when they take certain prescription medications. Two types of medications that have been shown to be safe and effective in the treatment of panic disorder are antidepressants and benzodiazepines.

In addition, people with panic disorder may need treatment for other emotional problems. Depression has often been associated with panic disorder, as have alcohol and drug abuse.

What Causes Panic Disorder?

There are several theories about the causes of panic disorder and since every individual has a different predisposition, zeroing in on a specific cause can be quite an arduous task. Although treatable, this disorder can be very devastating and debilitating to the person if it goes untreated and may result in specific phobias like fear of driving the car or fear of leaving the house. It can result in the loss of a job or even relationship problems.

Fortunately, even with this disorder's rather undefined nature of causality, there is much treatment available that has helped majority of people suffering from panic disorder to cope with this problem.

Cathy M. Ross

(The website on Panic Disorders & Panic Attacks talks about how to deal with panic and anxiety attacks. It outlines the causes, symptoms and the different ways to Treat Anxiety Disorders . )


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