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Panic Disorder and Panic Attacks

Updated: Jul 30, 2022


Written by Abeey Yonas

Panic Disorder: An Overview

Panic Disorder is a form of Anxiety Disorder, a mental health disorder in which generalized anxiety and fear is present. Panic Disorder is characterized by periods of intense, irrational fear called panic attacks. These are usually triggered by situations of extreme stress. Panic disorder is more common in females than males in both adolescents and adults. Although some may think only those diagnosed with panic disorder can experience panic attacks, anyone can experience panic attacks regardless of a diagnosis, and only 2-3% of individuals who experience a panic attack will go on to develop panic disorder.

Causes of Panic Disorder

A number of factors can contribute to an individual developing panic disorder.

Some include:

  • Genetic predisposition

  • Childhood environment

  • Stress in life

  • Traumatic experience(s)

  • An abnormality in the balance of chemicals in the brain

Panic Attacks

Panic Attacks are a collection of symptoms of fear and anxiety usually caused by stressful situations. Among the most common symptoms of panic attacks are fast breathing, a racing heart, chest pain, nausea, sweating, shaking, and an internal feeling of fear. Other underlying health problems can also be root for panic attacks. Thyroid disease, a general term for diseases that affect a small gland in the neck, can cause panic attacks due to the chemical imbalance this disease can create in the body. Panic attacks are always unexpected and cannot be predicted; fortunately, a number of treatments have been devised to combat the devastating consequences of a panic attack and panic disorder.

Treatment and Prevention of Panic Disorder

One common treatment of Panic Disorder and Panic Attacks is psychotherapy, or therapy involving talking focused on treating the underlying anxiety of panic disorder diagnoses. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a type of psychotherapy that incorporates different ways of thinking and behaving to change how an individual can react to certain situations, is often used.

Medication has also been looked up to as an efficient way of treating panic disorder. Antidepressants, medicines that restore the chemical balance panic disorder damages in the brain, and anti-anxiety medications, medications that relieve symptoms that appear during a panic attack, are two examples of common medications used to treat panic disorder.

Although panic attacks are unpredictable, they can be prevented. Here are examples of steps you can take to prevent a panic attack:

  • Learn breathing techniques

  • Regularly exercise

  • Try not to consume foods and drinks high in sugar, caffeine, and alcohol

  • Expose yourself to complementary therapies, like massages

  • Participate in movement therapies such as yoga and pilates


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