What is Panic Disorder?
Panic disorder is a serious condition that strikes without reason or warning. Symptoms of panic disorder include sudden attacks of fear and nervousness, as well as physical symptoms such as sweating and a racing heart.
What are the symptoms of Panic Disorder?
At its most extreme end, phobic avoidance turns into agoraphobia, according to Helpguide.org. One example of phobic avoidance is when a person stays home unless she can venture out with a person she deems safe. Another example is bypassing places such as shopping malls where large crowds are likely. With anticipatory anxiety, a person cannot relax for fear of having panic attacks.
Causes of panic disorders include stressors such as graduation, marriage, death or divorce, says Helpguide.org. Medical issues, such as hyperthyroidism, stimulant use and withdrawing from medications, are connected to some cases of panic disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one treatment, and it entails a focus on triggering and sustaining thinking patterns to make fears more realistic and easier to handle. In exposure therapy, a patient experiences the panic in a safe environment to learn better coping methods. Antidepressants and other medications may be used in severe cases, but they should never be used as the sole course of treatment.
How is Panic Disorder treated?
Psychotherapy. A type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially useful for treating panic disorder. Your doctor should do an exam to make sure that an unrelated physical problem isn’t causing the symptoms.
Medication. Doctors also may prescribe medication to help treat panic disorder. The most commonly prescribed medications for panic disorder are anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants. Anti-anxiety medications are powerful and there are different types. Many types begin working right away, but they generally should not be taken for long periods.
Antidepressants are used to treat depression, but they also are helpful for panic disorder. They may take several weeks to start working. Some of these medications may cause side effects such as headache, nausea, or difficulty sleeping. These side effects are usually not a problem for most people, especially if the dose starts off low and is increased slowly over time. Talk to your doctor about any side effects you may have.
It’s important to know that although antidepressants can be safe and effective for many people, they may be risky for some, especially children, teens, and young adults. A “black box”—the most serious type of warning that a prescription drug can have—has been added to the labels of antidepressant medications. These labels warn people that antidepressants may cause some people to have suicidal thoughts or make suicide attempts. Anyone taking antidepressants should be monitored closely, especially when they first start treatment with medications.
If you, or someone you know, suffers from depression, or any other mental health issues, and needs help, please contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. SADAG is Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group. On this website you will find comprehensive mental health information and resources to help you, a family member or loved one.
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