Learn about Panic Disorder

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic Disorder is an anxiety disorder and it occurs when you have a surge of intense fear that strikes suddenly and repeatedly without warning. These overwhelming feelings of anxiety and stress are often referred to as panic attacks.

Panic disorder symptoms are mostly centred around panic attacks.  A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. They are very intense, often occuring suddenly, without any warning and the level of fear is often out of proportion to the actual situation. They can in fact be seem completely unrelated.

A panic attack is not dangerous, but it can be terrifying, largely because it feels “crazy” and “out of control.” Panic disorder is frightening because of the panic attacks associated with it, and also because it often leads to other complications such as phobias, depression, substance abuse, medical complications, even suicide. Its effects can range from mild word or social impairment to a total inability to face the outside world.

In fact, the phobias that people with panic disorder develop do not come from fears of actual objects or events, but rather from fear of having another attack. In these cases, people will avoid certain objects or situations because they fear that these things will trigger another attack

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • racing heartbeat
  • difficulty breathing, feeling as though you “can’t get enough air”
  • terror that is almost paralyzing
  • dizziness, light-headedness or nausea
  • trembling, sweating, shaking
  • choking, chest pains
  • hot flashes, or sudden chills
  • tingling in fingers or toes (“pins and needles”)
  • fear that you’re going to go crazy or are about to die

This as the classic “flight or fight” response that human beings experience when we are in a situation of danger. But during a panic attack, these symptoms seem to rise from out of nowhere. They occur in seemingly harmless situations–they can even happen while you are asleep.

What causes Panic Attacks?

The exact causes are unclear; however both physical and psychological causes of panic disorder are expected to be at play here.

There is some evidence for a genetic predisposition; if a family member has suffered from panic disorder, you have an increased risk of suffering from it yourself, especially during a time in your life that is particularly stressful. Studies with twins have confirmed the possibility of “genetic inheritance” of the disorder although a specific biological marker has yet to be identified.

Stressful life events can trigger panic disorders. One association that has been noted is that of a recent loss or separation. Some researchers liken the “life stressor” to a thermostat; that is, when stresses lower your resistance, the underlying physical predisposition kicks in and triggers an attack.

What treatment is available?

Therapy for panic disorder should focus on all of the disorder: physical, psychological and physiological. A combination of cognitive and behavioral therapies (CBT) and also EMDR can help in the treatment for panic disorder. Medication might also be appropriate in some cases, so speak to your GP.

Many people are greatly helped by simply understanding exactly what panic disorder is, and how many others suffer from it. Many people who suffer from panic disorder are worried that their panic attacks mean they’re “going crazy” or that the panic might induce a heart attack. “Cognitive restructuring” (changing one’s way of thinking) helps people replace those thoughts with more realistic, positive ways of viewing the attacks.

If you suffer from panic disorder, then there are therapies that can help you. Get in touch.

Trusted & Private Therapy

Our therapy and counselling services extend to both adults and children. We can work on an individual one to one basis, with couples, families and also groups. We provide a safe space in which you can share your problems as you gain a greater understanding of them. We help you to find ways in which you can either resolve or manage these issues better.

Learn about our sessions

Glossary of Conditions

Anxiety

Anxiety refers to thoughts, feelings and physical sensations of worry or feeling under threat. Feeling like you are struggling to breathe or living your day-to-day life you may benefit from therapy.

Learn More

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge-eating disorder is a disorder where a person eats a large amount of food in a short space of time. They may not be hungry when doing this, often resulting in physical discomfort.

Learn More

Depression

Depression is a disorder involving a prolonged period of low mood and it affects people differently. Depression is more than just feeling sad it is a prolonged change in mood.

Learn More

OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterised by recurrent persistent thoughts that cause distress until the person performs ritualised behaviour.

Learn More

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is an anxiety disorder and it occurs when you have a surge of intense fear that strikes suddenly and repeatedly without warning.

Learn More

PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder develops after having or witnessing a traumatic experience. This could be an accident, an assault or some forms of abuse.

Learn More