What is panic disorder?
People with panic disorder have sudden and repeated attacks of fear that last for several minutes or longer. These are called panic attacks. Panic attacks are characterized by a fear of disaster or of losing control even when there is no real danger. A person may also have a strong physical reaction during a panic attack. It may feel like having a heart attack.
Panic disorder often begins in late teens or early adulthood. More women than men have panic disorders. But not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop panic disorder.
What are the signs and symptoms of panic disorder and panic attacks?
People with panic disorder may have:
- Sudden and repeated attacks of fear – panic attacks
- A feeling of being out of control during a panic attack
- A fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past
The signs and symptoms of a panic attack develop abruptly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. A full-blown panic attack includes a combination of the following signs and symptoms:
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Heart palpitations or a racing heart
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Trembling or shaking
- Choking feeling
- Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Hot or cold flashes
How is panic disorder treated?
Panic disorder is generally treated with psychotherapy, medication or both.
Self-help tips for panic attacks and panic disorder
When it comes to panic attacks, professional treatment and therapy can make a big difference. But there are many things you can do to help yourself, too:
- Learn about panic. Simply knowing more about panic can go a long way toward relieving your distress.
- Avoid smoking and caffeine. Smoking and caffeine can provoke panic attacks in people who are susceptible.
- Learn how to control your breathing. Hyperventilation brings on many sensations (such as lightheadedness and tightness of the chest) that occur during a panic attack. Deep breathing, on the other hand, can relieve the symptoms of panic.
- Practice relaxation techniques. When practiced regularly, activities such as yoga, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation strengthen the body’s relaxation response—the opposite of the stress response involved in anxiety and panic.
Information from the NAMI website (for more information please visit it here).