Panic disorder is a form of anxiety disorder in which severe anxiety attacks and the various accompanying physical symptoms suddenly occur without notice. In the past, panic disorder was not widely known to the public, but it has become known these days as many celebrities have revealed their panic disorder. More people are suffering from panic disorder than I thought and are maintaining a healthy life through treatment.
Most panic disorder shows great improvement in symptoms due to treatment, and in many cases, complete recovery is possible. It’s a disease that can be cured with just a simple medication if you get an accurate diagnosis and start treatment at the beginning of a panic attack. Besides, there is another effective treatment called cognitive behavioural therapy.
What is panic disorder?
Even if it’s not a medical condition, when we’re suddenly surprised or in a state of extreme anxiety, we’re often called ‘fantasy.’ But the panic attack that we’re going to talk about is a little different than the sudden surprise.
Panic is a sudden fear that comes from a life-threatening situation. Therefore, panic is the body’s response that can appear normally in anyone under life-threatening conditions. However, panic attacks are a morbid symptom that causes the body’s alarm system to malfunction and feel threatened, even though they are not particularly threatening.
In fact, anxiety in dangerous situations has an important function that helps us protect ourselves. If we don’t feel any anxiety in extreme situations, it will be difficult to maintain our lives or are likely to be seriously injured. Therefore, the primary purpose of anxiety is to protect oneself from danger. However, if you are not in a situation where you have to feel dangerous or anxious, you will find it difficult to keep up with your daily life. This is the state of panic disorder!
Can I get panic disorder, too?
Many people experience panic attacks in their lifetime. According to some studies, about 30 percent of the adult population experienced panic attacks more than once. But this common panic attack is usually not repeated at one time and is not diagnosed as panic disorder. So just because you’ve experienced a panic attack, you don’t have to think that I’m also a panic disorder.
But if panic attacks occur repeatedly and they are not caused by special stress or physical causes, you can be diagnosed with panic disorder.
Many panic disorder patients don’t know that they’re panic disorder and misunderstand that they have a heart or other body problem, and they go from one department to another and run tests over and over again. This is not just happening in Korea. The symptoms of panic disorder are so severe that many people often take a long time to get proper treatment or help because they don’t think of it as a mental cause.
Cause of panic disorder
Because of the treatment of panic disorder in psychiatry, many people often think that panic disorder is caused by weakness and fear. So many people think, “I’m not that weak, but I can’t get panic disorder.” Therefore, it is often said that there is nothing wrong with the body and that it seems to be a neurological symptom.
Cognitive-behavioural theory suggests that anxiety is caused by learning or by conditioning responses. For example, in the case of Mr A, panic attacks first appeared while driving, so if you drive, you will be reminded of the panic attacks you experienced before and easily become anxious.
Also, panic disorder patients often become more anxious because they are overly sensitive to minor changes in their physical senses. For example, if your heart beats faster or if you have any symptoms of chest frustration, you might die of a heart attack.
• Feel like out of breath or suffocating.
• Feel dizzy, staggering, or drowsy.
• Faster pulse or beating heart.
• Shaking hands and feet or body.
• Feel as if someone is strangling me.
• Feels like nausea or vomiting.
• Feel like I’m in a different world or I feel like I’m not myself.
• Feels numb or numb.
• Feels hot or chills.
• Pain or discomfort in the chest area.
• Fears of death.
• Fears of going crazy or being out of control.
If you have experienced more than four of the above-listed symptoms suddenly and become worse and peak within 10 minutes, you have experienced a panic attack. The frequency of the symptoms varies greatly depending on the individual, but in severe cases, they experience panic attacks several times a day.
Diagnosis of panic disorder
• Panic disorder must have repeated and unexpected panic attacks. There should also be a clear change in behaviour related to panic attacks, such as continuing to worry about panic attacks and the implications of panic attacks or their consequences (e.g., loss of control over themselves or heart attacks). It should not be a direct symptom of habitual substances or drugs, general physical conditions (such as thyroid dysfunction), or other mental disorders such as social fear, specific fear, obsessive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or separation anxiety disorder.
Treatment of panic disorder
Panic disorder requires early diagnosis and early treatment. Panic disorder is a disease that can be cured most of the time with proper treatment. But if you don’t get treatment, it’s a disease that can progress.
At first, panic disorder starts with no major difficulties in life except for occasional panic attacks, and it can also be caused by repeated physical symptoms and tests. And as this situation repeats itself, we avoid places or situations where panic attacks are likely to occur, and then we fear all the usual social activities so that we have widespread phobias almost every day and almost every place in our lives. When this happens, patients feel no hope, become depressed, rely on alcohol or tranquillizers, or attempt suicide.
1) Medication treatment
Selective serotonin reabsorption inhibitors, a type of antidepressant, are recommended for treatment in panic disorder. Selective serotonin reabsorbent is a good and safe drug, but it usually takes more than two to three weeks to treat panic attacks, so early treatment is often accompanied by anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepine.
Benzodiazepine drugs are used to treat acute periods because the effects of reducing panic attacks are very fast. But because it’s a drug that can be resistant, it’s necessary to use it carefully for a short period of time, depending on the prescription of a psychiatrist.
2) Cognitive behavioural therapy
Cognitive behaviour therapy is a treatment that focuses on correcting distorted thoughts and avoiding behaviours by uncovering a close link between thought, emotion, and behaviour. Eventually, it corrects distorted thoughts and behaviours to reduce anxiety, fear, and panic attacks.
Along with active treatment, some efforts are helpful in everyday life. High levels of caffeine can worsen panic disorder, so avoid excessive consumption of caffeine-containing foods such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks. Also, alcohol seems to relieve anxiety when drinking, but it is better to avoid alcohol as much as possible because it can cause panic.