What is a panic disorder?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Julia Murphy
19th January, 20140 Comments
What is a panic disorder?
A panic disorder is where you have regular panic or anxiety attacks, often without knowing why, or what has caused it.
This can mean you feel very anxious of everyday situations, and can mean you feel uneasy and worried a lot of the time, making everyday tasks and a normal life hard to achieve.
The symptoms of a panic attack can include;
- Feelings of dread and worry including concern about dying.
- Feeling sick.
- Feeling short of breath or having trouble breathing.
- Hot or cold sensations.
- Trembling, shaking or shivering.
- Chest pains.
- Feeling that your heart is beating irregularly or very fast.
- Needing the loo.
- A choking sensation.
- Feeling dizzy.
- Fainting or feeling faint or unable to stand.
What causes a panic disorder?
A panic disorder can be caused by number of things including:
- Family history – Panic disorders can run in families, if a family member has panic disorder you may be more likely to get it. This can be genetic link or because of similar circumstances.
- Major life event – The anxiety caused by a sudden death in the family or accident can mean you have difficulty coping and can feel very vulnerable and can trigger panic disorders.
- Alcohol or drug abuse – excess use of alcohol or drugs can contribute to symptoms of a panic disorder, and are also a symptom of being unable to cope with life.
- Accidents and brain injury can affect your ability to cope with life and can cause Panic Disorder.
Treatments for panic disorders
There are several treatments for panic disorders, and they usually work best when used together, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Psychological therapy like counselling can be either talking therapies or CBT, both help by exploring the negative thoughts and beliefs which cause of the panic attacks, and helping you notice and react when you feel an attack coming on.
Medications like antidepressants which can calm you down, helping you cope with the symptoms of panic disorders. Unfortunately some of the side effects of antidepressants can mirror the symptoms of panic disorders, causing considerable anxiety themselves. Careful monitoring by the G.P is needed.
Relaxation and meditation can also help you gain control of your life again and offers techniques, which helps when you feel anxious and can help avoid anxiety attacks from happening.
It’s important that if you think you have a panic disorder, you visit your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Related articles from our experts
- Panic attack or is it your mind playing games?
Nargis Sharif MBACP24th January, 2017
- The what, how and why of anxiety
Dr Alexander Hektorsson (Chartered Psychologist)16th January, 2017
- Relief from the grip of anxiety, stress and panic
Greg Savva, Counselling in Twickenham & Whitton, Masters Degree, UKCP,21st July, 2016
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