Unravelling the Mystery of Panic Disorders
In today’s fast-paced world, anxiety has become a common occurrence in many people’s lives. For some, anxiety can escalate into something more severe, leading to panic disorders. These conditions can be debilitating, impacting various aspects of life, but with the right understanding and management, individuals can regain control. In this blog, we will delve into the realm of panic disorders, exploring their symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and management.
Anxiety is a natural response to stress, alerting us to potential threats and keeping us safe. In moderate amounts, it can be a motivating factor, urging us to perform better or avoid dangerous situations. However, when anxiety becomes overwhelming and disproportionate to the situation at hand, it may lead to a range of anxiety disorders, including panic disorders.
What is a panic disorder?
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are intense episodes of fear and discomfort, which can reach their peak within minutes. Individuals experiencing panic attacks might feel an impending sense of doom, along with physical symptoms such as a pounding heart, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, and a feeling of detachment from reality.
Symptoms of Panic Disorder
In addition to the symptoms during panic attacks, individuals with panic disorder may also experience persistent worry about having future attacks. They might change their behaviours to avoid triggering situations or places where panic attacks have occurred before. This avoidance behaviour can significantly impact their daily life and lead to social isolation.
What Causes Panic Disorders?
The exact cause of panic disorders is not entirely understood. However, research suggests that a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors play a role. Family history of anxiety disorders, major life changes, trauma, and chronic stress are some potential contributing factors. Neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain, specifically involving serotonin and norepinephrine, may also influence the development of panic disorders.
When Should I See My Doctor?
If you or someone you know is experiencing recurrent and unexpected panic attacks or chronic anxiety that interferes with daily life, it is essential to seek professional help. A licensed mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, can conduct a comprehensive evaluation to determine if panic disorder or another anxiety disorder is present.
How Are Panic Disorders Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of panic disorder is primarily clinical, based on a thorough evaluation of symptoms, medical history, and any underlying medical conditions. The mental health professional will also assess the presence of any other co-occurring mental health disorders. It is crucial to be honest and open during the assessment to receive an accurate diagnosis.
How Are Panic Disorders Managed?
Fortunately, panic disorder is treatable, and various effective approaches can help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. The treatment plan may include:
- Therapy: Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is often the first-line treatment for panic disorder. CBT helps individuals identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to panic attacks. Exposure therapy, a type of CBT, can gradually desensitize individuals to triggering situations, reducing avoidance behaviours.
- Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage panic disorder symptoms. Antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), are commonly used.
- Relaxation Techniques: Learning and practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and progressive muscle relaxation, can help individuals cope with anxiety and reduce the intensity of panic attacks.
- Lifestyle Changes: Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, and limiting alcohol and caffeine intake can positively impact anxiety levels.
- Support Groups: Engaging in support groups or talking with others who have experienced similar challenges can provide emotional support and a sense of understanding.
Panic disorders can be overwhelming and distressing, but they are not insurmountable. Understanding anxiety and recognizing the symptoms of panic disorders are vital steps toward seeking help and effective management. With the right combination of therapies, medications, and lifestyle changes, individuals can regain control of their lives and overcome panic disorders, allowing them to embrace a future free from the shackles of anxiety. Remember, it’s okay to seek help, and reaching out is the first step toward healing and recovery.
Get A Referral To See A Psychologist
To be able to claim a Medicare rebate you will need to speak to your GP to refer you to a psychologist. Once you have initiated your Mental Health Treatment Plan you can claim a rebate from Medicare for up to 10 appointments with a clinical psychologist. Mention this in your initial call and we can guide you in this process.