by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Panic disorder, a member of the family of anxiety disorders, is a condition in which a person has regular, recurring panic attacks. Panic attacks occur when you are over come by sudden feelings of intense fear or terror. In the US panic attacks are a serious health issue with approximately 60 million people suffering from them.
Approximately 3 million people have full blown panic disorder. women are affected twice as often as men. However, in children that suffer from panic disorder it affects boys and girls equally. The average age of onset for a person to start experiencing panic attack is 15-19 years of age.
the exact cause of panic disorder is unknown, however scientists believe that genetics may play a role in determining who develops the disorder. Some Drs feel that there are other factors that can lead to panic disorder including major stress events, like the death of a loved one, or changes in the way certain parts of the brain functions. There is also research that indicates our body’s natural fight or flight response that kicks in when we’re in danger is also involved during a panic attack. However, they don’t know why panic attacks occur when there is no apparent danger present.
Drs believe that there are certain risk factors that increase a persons chances of developing panic disorder including family history of either panic attacks or panic disorder as well as a history of physical or sexual abuse during childhood. Other factors that can affect a persons chances of developing panic disorder are a high stress lifestyle or high stress events like the death of a loved one or the addition of a new baby. Traumatic events like a serious accident, getting robbed or mugged as well as sexual assault can lead to panic disorder.
Panic attacks are usually sudden, striking without warning. They can occur at anytime, anywhere including while you’re driving your car down the road, they can even occur when you’re asleep. panic attacks usually last from 10-15 minutes leaving you feeling drained and exhausted. Not everyone experiences the smae symptoms during a panic attack, however many describe feeling like they are having a “heart attack”. Symptoms that you may experience include a rapid or “racing” heart beat, difficulty breathing, pressure or pain in your chest as well as hyperventilating. Some people become dizzy and feel faint, others complain of nausea, sweaty palms and hot flashes. The one thing all people having panic attacks experience is intense fear, then once the attack subsides many develop an intense fear of having another attack so much so that they begin to avoid any and all situations that may cause an attack. Some people become so fearful of having a panic attack that they are afraid to leave their home.
The most effect treatment currently available is a combination of psychotherapy and medications. The main goal of treatment is to eliminate all of the panic attack symptoms. The type of treatment your Dr recommends depends on your history and the severity and frequency of the panic attacks as well as your personal preference.
There isn’t anyway to prevent panic attacks however, there some things you can do to limit them including seeking treatment and following the treatment plan laid out by your Dr and exercise. Regular exercise can help you manage stress and anxiety before they turn into panic disorder. Nutrition also always plays a role in how well our body’s function so eating a diet high in nutritional value and low in fats and refined sugars can only benefit you.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.