People struggling with panic disorders experience sudden and repeated attacks of fear which last for a few minutes or longer. These attacks are known as panic attacks and manifest as a fear of an adversity or of losing control even in the absence of actual danger. A panic attack might have physical manifestations and one might feel as if they are having a heart attack. They might start sweating, have a racing heartbeat and breathing difficulties. Panic attacks can develop at any time and people grappling with panic disorders dread the possibility of having an attack.

A majority of people experience panic attacks at least once or twice in their lifetime. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), one out of every 75 people might experience a panic attack. A panic disorder develops during teens or early adulthood. Even though the exact etiology is unknown, major life transitions, like finishing college, having the first child, and getting married or divorced, among others, are reported to contribute to the development of this disorder.

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Symptoms of Panic Attack

Panic attacks develop when there is an abrupt surge of overpowering fear which comes without any reason or warning. It is much more intense than feeling stressed out. Some of the symptoms of a panic attack are:

  • Paralyzing fear
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Choking and chest pains
  • Trembling, sweating, and shaking
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea
  • Numbness or tingling in fingers and toes
  • Fear that one might go crazy or even die

A panic attack can occur in a harmless situation and even when one is sleeping. Some of its primary characteristics are:

  • It is sudden and arises from nowhere
  • High intensity of fear
  • Recurrent attacks, since the body cannot handle it for more than a few minutes.

Although not dangerous, a panic attack can be quiet terrifying because one starts to feel out of control. Because of this, one might also develop other physical ailments like diabetes, hypertension, and other stress-related problems. Frequent panic attacks may also lead to substance abuse and an increased risk of developing mental illnesses like depression. It is believed that people struggling with a panic disorder do not have actual fear of an object or a situation, rather they fear the probability of their next attack which overwhelms them and leads to an actual attack.

Causes of Panic Disorder

Primarily, stressful events are responsible for the development of panic disorder, especially the death of a loved one or separation. A stressor reduces an individual’s level of mental resistance because of which physical predisposition kicks in and an attack is manifested.

Additionally, genetic predisposition could be responsible for the susceptibility of developing the disorder especially when one is undergoing stressful times in life. People with panic disorder usually report someone in their family as either struggling or having had struggled with the disorder. The probability of inheritance is also high amongst the twins if one of them has it.

It is hypothesized that biological markers could also be responsible for panic disorder though none of those biomarkers have been identified yet. Ethnic populations are also at risk and females are more susceptible compared to males.

Panic Disorder Complications

If left untreated, panic disorder can adversely affect every area of one’s life. One may be so fearful of further attacks that they may ruin their existent quality of life. Some of the complications associated with a panic disorder are:

  • Substance abuse
  • Financial troubles
  • Relationship problems
  • Issues at school or work
  • Avoidance of social settings
  • Suicide ideation and suicide
  • Frequent visits to the doctor for medical care
  • Anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric problems
  • Development of certain phobias like fear of driving or going out of home

Some people develop agoraphobia which is the fear of places and situations because one might fear getting no help or finding no escape if there is a panic attack. Such people become highly reliant on others to even step outside their homes.

Treatment for Panic Disorder

The best treatment facility for panic disorder should offer holistic treatment with medication and cognitive and behavioral therapy. The medications generally prescribed for the management of the disorder are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These are a class of antidepressants. Some of the drugs belonging to this class are sertraline, paroxetine, and fluoxetine. Other medications prescribed by a mental health rehab facility are serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), antiepileptic drugs, benzodiazepines, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

Cognitive restructuring is a part of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which helps a patient restructure their negative thoughts. The initial part of therapy is informational in which a patient is made to understand about their mental disorder. Mostly people associate this with going crazy or think that an attack might induce a heart attack. Cognitive restructuring helps to change these negative thoughts into more realistic and positive ones. It also enables a person to identify their triggers which could be a situation, a change in heartbeat or even a thought. The therapy helps one to differentiate a trigger from a panic attack so that the trigger becomes powerless for at least sometime.

People with panic disorder fear more about getting an attack rather than fearing a situation or an object. For instance, a person might be grappling with the fear of flying not because they fear that the plane may crash but because they fear that they may have an attack on the plane. So the fear is mostly about triggering of the physical symptoms of a panic attack. Here, behavioral therapy, especially its component interoceptive exposure, plays an important role.

Interoceptive exposure is similar to systematic desensitization, wherein, it stresses on the actual physical symptoms of the attack. This can help one experience the physical symptoms of an attack, however, in a controlled or non-dangerous manner, teaching the patient that the symptoms need not mean a full-blown attack.

Another component of behavioral therapy is in vivo exposure which is about disintegrating a fearful situation into smaller steps and taking one step at a time until one masters the art of taking the most difficult or fearful step.

Additionally, there are some relaxation techniques that teach a patient how to control the intensity of their physical symptoms, like a rapid breathing rate. Finally, a support group can also help immensely as it offers a platform for people facing the same struggles to come together and share their concerns with each other.

Invictus Health Group and Panic Disorders

Invictus Health Group’s partners offers comprehensive treatment programs for panic disorder, including individual and group psychotherapy. Additionally, our state-of-the-art mental health rehab offers complementary alternative therapies that helps in the effective management of this debilitating mental disorder.

Upon admission, patients undergo a comprehensive assessment by professional staff, each expert in their particular discipline. They track down any underlying condition or conditions accompanying the panic disorder. A panic disorder residential treatment plan is then designed and implemented for that particular patient to reduce the risk of recurrence.

If you or a loved one suffer from panic disorder and is looking for help, get in touch with Invictus Health Group by calling our helpline 866-548-0190 and speaking with a member of our admissions team. They would be able to provide you with complete information about our mental health facilities we work with in California and would be happy to assist in your admission process. You can also chat online with a representative for further assistance.

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