Panic disorder is a mental health condition and panic attacks are a symptom of panic disorder. At some point in life, people may experience at least one panic attack but at the same time, people with panic disorder experience recurrent attacks.
Scientists are yet to identify a link with any specific gene or chemical reason behind this, however, it is believed that genetic and biological factors may increase the chance of having panic disorder.
When a person with certain genetic features faces environmental stresses may develop panic disorder. Major lifestyle changes like having a first baby or leaving home or any history of physical or sexual abuse may also increase the risk of panic disorders.
It has also been seen that panic disorder may develop in a person who has experienced several panic attacks, and becomes afraid of having another one. This can lead them to detaching from family and friends or they may restrict themselves from going out or visit places where a panic attack may occur.
Panic disorder can severely limit a person’s quality of life.
What are Panic Attacks?
Anyone can have a panic attack. Sometimes, these attacks are a symptom of panic disorder. A panic attack can happen when a person has high levels of anxiety.
One may experience overwhelming emotions, like helplessness and fear during a panic attack.
It can happen in a specific situation that triggers sensitive stress and anxiety. But some people experience them frequently, with no clear triggers. In this case, the person can have panic disorder.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), around 1 in 75 people have a panic disorder which can severely affect the quality of life.
However, panic attacks and panic disorder are both mental health issues which need treatments.
Q. What causes a panic attack? How to know that I am suffering from panic disorder?
Dr. Neelam Mishra, Visiting Consultant Neuropsychologist, Department of Neurology Artemis Agrim Institute of Neurosciences, Artemis Hospital shared her insight on panic attacks with the readers of the HealthWire and said, “Panic attacks are caused due to the anxiety disorder. It is a cluster which falls into the anxiety, so there is no fixed definition what causes the panic attack, but sometimes we see that people who are undergoing depression, stress and anxiety may also go through panic attack.”
“You may get some symptoms all of a sudden — like you may experience palpitation in heart, hand shivering, sweating, discomfort or you are not able to sit at one place, and you are confused. These are the things that make you realize that you are undergoing a panic attack,” she added.
Q. What are the physical symptoms of panic disorder?
Dr. Mishra said, “A person during a panic attack may undergo few sever palpitations, sweating, restlessness, anxiety, discomfort while sitting at one place, they undergo congestions and you would like to go out immediately. It can be a feeling of heart attack or a brain attack.”
However, it lasts for a maximum of 10-15 mins, and then it goes away and the person may not have to be worried about it as it may not affect you very hard and may go in a while, she added.
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Q. Is it true that a panic attack is more common in women than men?
“Most of the time heavy anxiety and stress is commonly seen in females. During the practice, we have seen women reporting it more, but males have also shown the symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety. The ratio for this is 60:40, 60 is for women and 40 is for men,” said Dr. Mishra.
Dr. Mishra added, “But I won’t say there’s a significant difference between both the men and women”
Q. What are the treatments and therapies available for panic attacks and when to see a doctor?
According to Dr. Mishra, there are multiple treatments available for panic attacks and anxiety disorders. The therapist would be the best person to see first for the panic attack or panic disorder. If the severity is been measured by the therapist, they will forward you further for the later checkups.
The medications will be decided upon the severity of the condition of the patients by the psychologists.
Q. Is there any correlation between depression and panic disorder?
“Yes there is a severe correlation between the panic attacks and depression because the panic attacks fall under the anxiety disorder, so both work hand in hand, and the symptoms will be of anxiety and panic attacks,” said Dr. Mishra.
Q. Relaxation techniques to treat panic disorder and anxiety?
Dr. Mishra, “Definitely relaxation techniques and methodology are the best way to deal with a panic attack or anxiety. However, this is not the only treatment as the person has to undergo proper therapy and counseling session. The person has to go to the therapist while the relaxation is 1% of what is going to be in the treatment. There are therapeutic sessions like CBT REBT and so on”