Defining Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by frequent and recurring panic attacks. It may also entail ongoing behavioral changes that continue for months after the disorder has been treated. Patients who are diagnosed with panic disorder are also known to have a lingering fear of the implications and repeated occurrences of panic attacks. This fear may lead to attacks called “anticipatory attacks” (DSM-IVR). In most cases, these attacks are unpredictable and the patients become worried and concerned about the occurrence of the next panic attack. Other forms of anxiety disorders are Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder,Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Social Phobia Anxiety Disorder.
People with panic disorders are often diagnosed with a reduced activity of GABA-A regulators, which, in turn sends false information to the brain about perceived threats. This triggers the human body’s “flight or fight” mechanism and triggers anxiety in the patient.
Signs and Symptoms of Panic Disorder
- Rapid heartbeat
- Uncontrollable fear
- Chest pain
- Escaping from situations causing attacks
Causes and Risk Factors
There are a number of theories regarding the psychological impact of panic attacks. Most doctors believe that these are brought about by a chemical imbalance in the limbic system that reduces the activity of GABA receptors. Some research studies also suggest that anxiety disorders might be inherited. In most cases of hereditary, the condition is passed on co-morbidly along with other conditions such as alcoholism.
Some patients face panic attacks because of psychological factors such as stressful living, generally hostile environment (like an ongoing war or terrorism), and major life transitions such as moving to another city, getting married or getting fired from a job. Substance abuse is the second most prevalent reason after chemical imbalance. Caffeine consumption and smoking can trigger the disorders in people by reducing the GABA receptor activity. Nicotine and caffeine both act on the central nervous system of the human brain, the region responsible for maintaining the limbic chemical balance. Alcohol and other sedatives also tend to heighten anxiety related disorders.
If left untreated, these disorders can severely impact daily functioning and may lead to long-term health risks such as tension and depression. Some of the most common risks of panic attacks include:
- Women are more susceptible to these attacks
- Patients in late adolescence are more susceptible to panic attacks
- Upbringing and environment
- Family history
- Stressful life events
- Substance abuse
There are a number of ways in which panic attacks can be addressed, all of which may be found at a rehabilitation facility. Psychodynamic psychotherapy has been found to be extremely helpful in treating panic attacks as it helps individuals discover the underlying cause of disorder. Meditation and Yoga can also help, especially those that spring up due to stress. Cognitive behavior therapy is also known to be successful in treating this disorder. CBT involves changing the way a person perceives his anxiety, thereby triggering a change in the way the person reacts to external stimulus.
Rehabilitation facilities can help individuals overcome these disorders so they can lead a healthy, worry-free lifestyle.