Do I Have Panic Disorder?You may have a condition called panic disorder if you experience unexpected panic attacks and live in fear of another attack. Although the cause of panic disorders is unknown, studies have shown it stems from a phobia of internal sensations. For instance, someone who becomes angry has an accelerated heart rate that may escalate into anxiety and feel like they’re having a heart attack. At the moment it feels like you’re spiraling and overcome with your emotions, making it difficult to calm down. This disorder is unique in the sense that it can take a toll on our bodies making it difficult to diagnose. The fear and anxiety can be personified through chest pain, sweating, and shortness of breath, which can diminish the quality of life.
Diagnosing Panic Disorder
A licensed healthcare professional will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) by the American Psychiatric Association to diagnose panic disorder. According to the DSM-5, panic disorder is the presence of panic attacks that are recurrent and often unexpected. At least one panic attack is followed by one month or more of the person fearing that they will have more attacks. This leads to them changing their behavior and avoiding situations that might trigger an attack.
Other criteria to consider: the attacks must not be direct physiological effects of a substance (such as drug or use of medication) or a general medical condition. The attacks are not accounted for by another mental disorder such as social anxiety disorder.
A panic attack is characterized by four or more of the following symptoms:
- accelerated heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling like you’re choking
- Chest pain
- Abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or faint
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
- Hot flashes
Panic Disorder Treatment
If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of panic disorder, consult with a healthcare professional and seek proper treatment.
There are many options to manage symptoms of panic disorder. For example, psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is among the most common forms of treatment to reduce symptoms. Though talk therapy takes time, it’s been proven effective because it allows you to find the core of your anxiety and ultimately work towards facing your fear.
Therapy can also be combined with anti-anxiety medication like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and benzodiazepines. It’s important to note that just like any other medication, there are side effects and risks. Discuss treatment options with your doctor to find what works for you.
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