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Panic Disorder - Fight or Flight

Viewed: 3322

Posted by: Al Clinics
(334) 712-1170
Date: Nov 14 2018 8:38 AM

Panic disorder affects about 6 million American adults and is twice more likely in females than males. Panic disorder is characterized by episodes of extreme fear accompanied by various physical symptoms, often these happen unexpectedly and in the absence of any real threat. These episodes are called panic attacks, during which a patient might experience accelerated heart rate, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, tightness of the throat and chest, nausea, and chills. Due to the intense physical symptoms, a panic attack can be easily mistaken for a heart attack or a stroke. It is important to see a medical professional to accurately diagnose the panic attack.

Those who experience panic attacks will often avoid large crowds or public spaces to avoid having additional episodes. When the patient is unable to leave a familiar, safe place due to intense fear and anxiety about having a panic attack they are diagnosed with agoraphobia. Panic attacks often happen suddenly and can last anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes. The criteria for the diagnosis of panic disorder is:

  1. Recurrent unexpected panic attacks

  2. At least one of the attacks has led to constantly worrying about additional panic attacks and changes in social behavior

  3. The panic attack is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or another general medical condition

  4. The panic attack is not associated to the symptoms of another mental health disorder such as social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), etc.

There are many factors associated with the development of panic attacks. Stressors and interpersonal issues such as a death in the family or adverse life events tend to play a big role. In terms of personality, those who are more prone to anxiety are at a higher risk of experiencing a panic attack. However, evidence suggests that panic attacks are descriptively and functionally unique events when compared to anxiety. Panic attacks present differently from anxious apprehension and are experienced differently by individuals. To expand the knowledge of how panic disorder affects the brain, researchers have practiced the pharmacological provocation of panic attacks in the laboratory. During these studies, researchers have examined neurotransmitter action and patterns of cerebral blood flow.

Treatment of panic attacks focuses on psychotherapy and medications. Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, can help you understand the source of your panic attacks and teach you how to cope with them. Often the therapist will recreate the symptoms of a panic attack in a safe, controlled manner. This can help you see that panic attacks are not dangerous. Medications can also help reduce symptoms associated with panic attacks. Some types of medications include:

  1. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – include Prozac, Paxil, Pexeva, or Zoloft

  2. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) – Effexor XR

  3. Benzodiazepines – These should be used on a short-term basis since they are habit-forming and often cause mental or physical dependence. Xanax and Klonopin are some examples.

In addition to medical treatment, you may also want to find a pleasurable and relaxing habit to incorporate into your everyday life. This can include yoga, exercise, staying away from alcohol, caffeine and smoking and get plenty of sleep.

If you or a loved one experience some or all of the symptoms described above, consult your physician or come visit us at Alabama Clinics Department of Psychiatry led by Dr. Meghani. We are open 7 days a week and walk-ins are welcome.

Alabama Clinics

2812 Hartford Hwy, Suite 1

Dothan AL, 36305


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