Panic disorder is a common mental health problem. It often starts in the teens or early adulthood, but may also begin in childhood. Women are twice as likely as men to have it. There may be a genetic link. It tends to run in families.
Panic disorder may be an overreaction of the body’s normal survival instincts and behaviors. In people with panic disorder, the body may be more sensitive to hormones that trigger excited feelings in the body.
Panic attacks can occur in other types of anxiety disorders, too. Generally, if you have 4 or more panic attacks and if you always worry about having another, you have panic disorder. Symptoms of a panic attack may include:
Panic disorder can be upsetting and disabling. An attack can last from a few minutes to an hour or sometimes longer.
The symptoms of a panic attack may look like other mental health conditions. Always see your health care provider for a diagnosis.
Your doctor or a mental health professional may diagnose you with panic disorder based on your symptoms. Generally, if you have 4 or more panic attacks and if you are in constant fear of having another, you have panic disorder.
Treatment may include:
Treatment for panic disorders is usually quite effective. Treatment will help you learn to recognize that the symptoms are not life threatening. You will also learn coping skills and ways to relax to decrease the intensity and length of the panic attack.
As the panic gets worse and an attacks last longer, you may find it very tough to cope with everyday life, keep a job, or function in social settings. You may fear going into places where it may be hard to escape or you feel trapped. Some people can’t leave their home for fear that help is not available or that he or she will be forced into a situation that will trigger an attack.
People with this condition may also abuse alcohol or drugs to relieve stress.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider: