What Is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder was not a commonly recognized condition just a few years ago. But in the last couple of decades, medical personnel and others have come to see this as a serious health condition that affects a large number of people in every population. Most of the time this occurs in the teenage years or in early adulthood though even the experts in this field still have questions about causes of panic disorder.

Some have tied panic attacks or disorder to such life-changing events as college stress, marriage and children or buying a first home. Doctors and researchers have also made some connection to family history, with genetic tendencies possibly contributing to panic disorder.

panic-disorder1Most of the medical information and public information separate panic attacks from panic disorder. A panic attack can come on suddenly, with fear and for no apparent reason. This intense feeling might include related conditions such as a fast heartbeat, feelings of helplessness, choking, even tingling feelings in the extremities.

Panic disorder is usually looked at in a more general way, as something that a person is known to have over a longer period of time. But panic disorder is a real concern because intermittent panic attacks are associated with the overall condition.

Doctors and psychiatrists emphasize that one of the keys to managing this condition is realizing that the fear and helplessness one feels during an attack is out of proportion to any actual threat or problem the person may have. The attack passes in a matter of minutes. The body simply cannot sustain this for a longer time.

Some experts also introduced the animal behavior of “fight or flight” in a dangerous situation, which a panic attack mimics in important ways. The odd thing about panic disorder and the associated panic attack is that the attack can even occur during sleep, with the person waking up and having difficulty relaxing or going back to sleep for quite some time.

Some have also started to find significant connection between clear cases of panic disorder and conditions that follow it: thoughts of suicide, alcohol or drug abuse, depression etc. The panic attack is also a point along what some term the vicious cycle, as one panic attack might be triggered precisely because the person fears having an attack.

As mentioned earlier there may be a family connection (genetic predisposition) in the panic disorder. Those who feel they may have this serious health condition should consult a physician and also medical personnel who are experienced in the diagnosis and management of panic disorder.

During the time that the individual and trusted medical personnel are working with this condition, they should consider the body/physical causes that might be present as well as the mental and emotional factors. Stress, upcoming major events and other factors may be there to trigger a panic attack.

People who have panic disorder and suffer through panic attacks can have a more normal lifestyle, with the right attitude and medical assistance. Panic disorder is considered treatable.

Written by Lucas Beaumont

Generalist. Wikipedia contributor. Elementary school teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada.

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