Understanding a Panic Disorder

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Panic disorders are more common than most people realize. A study from Harvard Medical School estimated that 4.7% of adults in the United States experience a panic disorder at some point in their lives. The commonality of panic disorders, although unfortunate, is one of the reasons they are so well-treated.

There is a lot of research regarding panic disorders, so they are often well understood by the psychiatric community. If you or a loved one experiences panic attacks or has a panic disorder, education on the subject can help you gain clarity and even enhance the impact of your treatment.

What Is a Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder distinguished by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear manifested with physical symptoms like chest pain, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath. These attacks can happen without a trigger or known cause, making them difficult to pinpoint or expect.

During a panic attack, the sufferer may experience a loss of control or feelings they find similar to that of a heart attack or death. Panic attacks are common for people even without panic disorders and often arrive during stressful moments like losing a loved one. Recurrent episodes at unexpected moments or living in fear of having another attack is considered a panic disorder.

Panic attacks may not be life-threatening on their own, but their impact can decrease one's quality of life immensely. Panic disorders can be described as an imbalance in your fight or flight response. It is natural for your body to react to danger, but most panic attacks occur when there is no obvious sign of danger. Some things that may lead to panic disorders are

  • Family history
  • Intense stress or trauma
  • Changes in brain function
  • Personal sensitivity to negativity or stress

Signs of a Panic Disorder

It can be increasingly frightening when someone has never experienced a panic attack or is unaware of the symptoms. The sensations you experience with a panic disorder are disorienting. When you don't know they are due to panic rather than actual bodily danger, you may struggle to recover.

Understanding the symptoms of a panic disorder can help you remain calm and recognize a panic attack for what it is. This allows you to rationalize the moment somewhat and come out of it. The most common signs of a panic disorder are:

  • A sense of impending doom or danger
  • Fear of loss of control or death
  • Rapid, pounding heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Feeling detached

These symptoms can be intense, and they often feel that way. Knowing that they are a sign of a panic attack and not a medical emergency can help you get through until the feeling relaxes.

The issue that often leads to panic disorders causing such chaos in someone's life is that they cannot always be expected. They come on suddenly. The fear of experiencing a panic attack can leave people avoiding certain situations or not going out at all due to the fear of having an attack. Naturally, that is no way to live a full and healthy lifestyle, so treatment is often necessary.

Treating a Panic Disorder

Panic disorders are one of the most treatable anxiety disorders, but many people do not seek treatment. People can often feel ashamed of having panic attacks and are worried about needing medication to subdue their symptoms. Seeking treatment from a professional does not mean you are crazy or need medication. A therapist will be able to diagnose you and go from there. They will discuss your goals and work with you to find a treatment you're comfortable with.

Counseling can be very effective in treating panic disorders. It allows you to adjust your thinking patterns and reframe your thoughts. It can also teach you breathing techniques and tools to use when a panic attack occurs. Often, simple treatments like talk therapy can help you overcome your panic.

In other cases, doctors will suggest medication in addition to counseling to help control symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. This can help you respond more positively to therapy and give you confidence in returning to tasks you may have avoided. In addition to therapy and medication, some lifestyle changes can help you manage panic disorders, such as:

  • Exercise. Physical activity can help you minimize stress and relieve built-up anxieties. It can also calm your mind and increase your feelings of joy and well-being.
  • Healthy diet. Moderating your intake of processed foods can improve your overall mood. Eating well also improves your confidence because it is a form of self-care.
  • Quality sleep. Getting enough solid sleep improves your ability to focus, stay alert, and be clear-minded.
  • Join a support group. Feeling like you are alone is a big part of panic, but having others around you who understand and can offer support offers you a sense of control and peace.

Having a panic disorder is not only unpleasant but can completely uproot your life. Experiencing panic unexpectedly can lead you to avoid some of the more important aspects of life. You don't have to live with constant or recurrent fear. At California Care Detox & Treatment, we help those struggling with a number of mental health issues. We will work with you to develop a plan of care that suits your needs. We want you to find comfort and safety at our facility and hope you can take that with you through the rest of your life. We use medication and several therapies to help you learn how to manage stress, address fears, and understand your disorder. We offer our clients unique experiences like hiking, art therapy, and yoga so they can prosper through physical activity. To learn more about how we can help, call us at (949) 281-0632.

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At California Care Recovery, we are here to be a positive force for mental health. We’re open 24/7 and offer same day admissions. If you or a loved one is seeking effective treatment for issues of mental health, call us now.
CALL (949) 281-0632

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