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Anxiety Disorders

Panic Disorder

Individuals who have a panic disorder suffer from an anxiety disorder resulting in unpredictable panic attacks. This can cause a person to experience significant distress, which can interfere with daily activities. This is an acute, triggered response which can be severe but is treatable through a variety of means. The presence of this disorder can be detected through the careful observation of your own or another person`s symptoms. These are listed below. In order to assess the existence and severity of the disorder, the ‘Panic Disorder Severity Scale’ is used by medical professionals. One effective treatment is cognitive behavioural therapy.


Panic attacks involve a feeling of great anxiety which is distressing to the individual. Panic disorder can be identified by paying close attention to symptoms. This can also provide the warning necessary to curtail further attacks. Immediately preceding an attack, the person may seem ‘off’ or irrational. The person may lose control over their breathing (shortness of breath) and have an increased heart rate. They may become temporarily immobilized due to feeling faint, being overwhelmed, feeling intense confusion or fear, or may experience excessive sweating. In certain severe cases, panic attacks can last over an hour. Usually though, they last under ten minutes. However, this can also exasperate into a cycle of repeating attacks which may increase in intensity depending on the amount of stressors at any given time.


Onset of the disorder often begins as a response to exceptionally stressful or trying times in a person’s life. For instance, this can be a response due to rapid changes in one’s life, such as tragedy, sickness and sometimes medication. Another factor which is thought to contribute to the disorder is the improper functioning of a person’s limbic system, involving the process of production of GABA-A in the brain. Furthermore, the medical model attributes this condition to hereditary factors. Environmental factors, such as substance abuse or even drinking too much coffee, can also aggravate the disorder.

Certain stressors which recur in the sufferer’s environment can be seen as signs of an increasing likelihood of an attack. This is also true about internal stressors. For instance, if someone is already severely asthmatic, this experience can regularly provoke anxiety attacks, which in turn affects the individual’s ability to adequately manage their health.


Having a good knowledge of the condition is essential in its management and treatment. People must research ways to implement harm-reduction strategies that work for them.

This can be achieved through speaking to medical professionals and by being open with people who are part of your support network. Seeking treatment and having a support network play pivotal roles in the management of a panic disorder. Common treatment includes psychotherapy in the form of cognitive behavioural therapy. This can include addressing personal stressors, visualizations, and talking yourself through the situation in a positive way. Pharmaceuticals such as SSRIs or other antidepressants are also available and used in treatment. Other pharmaceuticals prescribed for anxiety are in the benzodiazepine family. In either case, developing a dependency is possible, and this should be considered and discussed with a medical professional before beginning treatment. The development of the disorder is greatly influenced by the treatment of other mental or physical stressors which have been identified to exacerbate panic attacks.


The time it will take to properly address a panic disorder will depend on its severity and on the aggravating factors which are systematically present. It may take longer if the affected person has many deeply-rooted issues to resolve which are also highly aggravating to their panic disorder. Continuing cognitive behavioural therapy in the long-term which often includes tactics of positive self-talk and visualization, is advisable as a preventative measure for people who have suffered from this anxiety disorder in the past. There is no guarantee that all facets of the disorder will disappear indefinitely after pharmaceutically mediated therapy, as unexpected stressors may always occur later on in a person’s life. Therefore, it is impossible to fully rule out future panic attacks due to unexpected triggers in particularly vulnerable individuals.




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