Panic Disorder

Symptoms and Treatment Options for Panic Disorder

The Causes and Symptoms of Panic Disorder

There is currently a heated debate as to what role our environment serves in developing panic disorder. While there has been research that has shown that levels of certain transmitters in the brain such as serotonin play a factor, other studies have concluded that our environment and psychological conditioning are defining variables. In addition, certain ailments such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been known to trigger a panic attack while major life changes are also important to take into account.

Primary causal factors of panic disorder include:
  • A chemical balance within the brain.
  • Environmental and psychological stress.
  • Post traumatic stress disorder.
  • Major life events and changes.

Indicators of a Panic Disorder

It is said that panic disorders can produce some of the most dreaded physical and emotional symptoms one can experience. Different individuals may feel different sensations. Some may elicit emotions such as dread, impending doom, overall malaise, severe feelings of anxiousness or depression; often these sensations are felt in combination. Others can develop specific fears, such as agoraphobia, the fear of leaving the home or a familiar place or claustrophobia, the fear of tight, enclosed spaces. All are indicative of an underlying panic disorder, with some becoming chemically dependent in hopes to mitigate such feelings. Some may become chemically dependent in hopes to mitigate these feelings.

Emotional indicators of a panic disorder:
  • Feelings of dread, anxiousness, malaise or depression.
  • The development of specific fears.
  • The use of alcohol or narcotics as a coping mechanism.

Physical indicators can be just as severe. Increased heart rate, sweating, shortness of breath or a choking sensation may be nearly crippling in their nature and can occur suddenly and seemingly without any warning. A lowered immune system and irregular sleep patterns are frequently observed. Elevated blood pressure and the risk of stroke can be present in older individuals while children may have difficulty adapting socially and develop relationships.

Physical indicators include:
  • An increased heart rate.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing.
  • An impeded immune system.
  • Interrupted and irregular sleep patterns.

Available Treatment

Those who suffer from this ailment are often reluctant to seek advice as many will fear change. However, statistics prove that there have been many advances in the field of panic disorder treatment in recent years. The first step is a test to understand where the illness stems from, as mentioned in the prior section, a chemical imbalance may play a significant role. Should a test confirm this, tricyclic antidepressants or substances known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be prescribed.

This will often be done in conjunction with psychological counselling and intensive therapy. The therapist will attempt to understand the patient-specific facts behind each case and thereafter develop a regimen designed to help him or her confront and overcome these fears. Treatment frequently encourages the sufferer to confront these fears in stages until their impact is negligible. These coping mechanisms take time to become habits and statistics show that recidivism rates can be high.

Treatment options:
  • Determining whether a chemical imbalance may be responsible for the problem.
  • The administration of drugs designed to counteract this imbalance.
  • The use of client-centred therapy.
  • Addressing and slowly abating specific fears.
  • Teaching the client coping mechanisms to lessen the impact of each symptom.