By Wajiha Ahmed Ali
It was a sunny breezy morning and Kate was lazing around on the cozy sofa of her lounge with a mug of hot brewing coffee and was watching her favorite series on amazon prime when all of a sudden she started sweating abnormally even though it was a chilled room. Her heart started to pound very quickly and her throat went dry. She started gasping for air and wanted to scream for help but she was all numb to even move the slightest of her being. She was sure it was a massive heart attack. But it was a major episode of a panic attack, and she later discovered it. She explained to her consultant that it was so massive and was quite similar to the symptoms of cardiac arrest that can make any person go crazy with the fear of death. In this way, there’s a need to develop an understanding of Panic Disorder.
Panic attacks can happen to anyone at any time without any trigger or warning. They may occur even in your sleep. For some people, it may be a once in a lifetime but there are many people who have experienced repeated episodes of panic attacks. If the occurrence is more often it is important to find out the cause that triggered the specific situation such as some people may get triggered by traveling or some may get chills by the idea of speaking in public. The recurring of these episodes may lead to the development of the panic disorder. People who are going through panic disorders are often surrounded by the fear and discomfort of having a panic attack. These are not life-threatening but can severely damage your quality of life with constant fearfulness.
A panic attack can occur at any time with or without any warning signs or any apparent cause. According to the reports by the American Psychological Association, it is stated that 1 out of every 75 people might experience a panic disorder. The symptoms might begin to show as early as in the teen years. If you have experienced more than 4 episodes of panic attacks or you have a fear of experiencing one, I’m afraid to inform you that you might have developed a panic disorder. Some of the typical symptoms are fear of loss of control or death, increases heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath or tightness in your throat, headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness, and others.
These attacks may last 15 to 20 minutes but in some extreme cases, the symptoms may last for one hour or so. It’s not necessary that the intensity of symptoms has to be proportionate with the ongoing situation of the person. Because these attacks can’t be predicted, they can occur anytime and can significantly affect your body function.
Causes of Panic Disorder
As we have discussed earlier the initial episodes of a panic attack can strike a person without any prior symptoms but if it comes on a regular basis then it might get triggered by certain situations. It appears more in women than men. The three significant factors that cause panic disorder in any individual are psychological, pharmacological, and environmental.
Psychological causes of panic disorder
If you have a family history of panic attacks and anxiety issues then you might have a high probability of inheriting them through genetics. Existing mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, or low self-esteem.
Pharmacological causes of panic disorder
Excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs or a sudden abruption of any psychological medicine.
Environmental causes of panic disorder
Major stress- a setback such as a death or an illness of a loved one is also a major cause of building major stress in one’s body.
A temperament that is more sensitive to stress or prone to negative emotions.
Certain changes in the way of living. This is also quite triggering in people who find it difficult to accept transitions in life. Leaving your university, getting married, migrating to another country, or having a first child are all major life transformations that can cause stress and if left untreated, can be developed into a panic disorder.
Treatment to cure Panic Disorder
Just like any other chronic illness that needs proper treatment by a specialist, the panic disorder should also be taken care of in an equal manner and should get treated by a proper psychotherapist. The two main options are psychological therapies and medications to treat panic disorder. The treatment may include any one or both modes, totally depending on the condition, the severity of the panic disorder, history, and personal preferences.
The psychotherapy method to treat panic disorder is called cognitive-behavioral therapy. It helps you learn about your condition through your experiences and make you understand that these are not life-threatening for you by discussing your symptoms repeatedly in a safe and secure environment in front of you until you overcome your fears it is no longer making you anxious and uncomfortable.
Treatment through medicine includes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of antidepressants. SSRIs prescribed for panic disorder may include fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline
The other medications that are also used to treat the panic disorder are serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), another class of antidepressants, antiseizure drugs, benzodiazepines (commonly used as tranquilizers), including diazepam or clonazepam, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), another type of antidepressant that is used infrequently because of rare but serious side effects.
In addition to these treatments, there are also some other steps that you can take at home to reduce your symptoms. A change in lifestyle can also be helpful in treating or overcoming your condition. Lifestyle modifications can be made by being regular to any sort of exercise regime, getting enough sleep, and avoiding the excessive use of stimulants such as caffeine. Hence, a complete understanding of Panic Disorder can give you a clear idea of tackling the situation at your pace at the initial level.