Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear that may include palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, numbness, or a feeling that something really bad is going to happen.The maximum degree of symptoms occurs within minutes. There may be ongoing worries about having further attacks and avoidance of places where attacks have occurred in the past.
The DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for panic disorder require unexpected, recurrent panic attacks, followed in at least one instance by at least a month of a significant and related behavior change, a persistent concern of more attacks, or a worry about the attack's consequences. There are two types, one with and one without agoraphobia. The ICD-10 diagnostic criteria:
The essential feature is recurrent attacks of severe anxiety (panic), which are not restricted to any particular situation or set of circumstances and are therefore unpredictable.
The dominant symptoms include:
- sudden onset of palpitations
- chest pain
- choking sensations
- feelings of unreality (depersonalization or derealization)
- secondary fear of dying, losing control, or going mad
Cognitive behavioral therapy encourages patients to confront the triggers that induce arouse their anxiety. By facing the very cause of the anxiety, it is thought to help diminish the irrational fears that are causing the issues to begin with. The therapy begins with calming breathing exercises, followed by noting the changes in physical sensations felt as soon as anxiety begins to enter the body. Many clients are encouraged to keep journals. In other cases, therapists may try and induce feelings of anxiety so that the root of the fear can be identified.
What causes panic disorder? Panic disorder sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure why some family members have it while others don’t. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain, as well as biological processes, play a key role in fear and anxiety. Some researchers think that people with panic disorder misinterpret harmless bodily sensations as threats. By learning more about how the brain and body functions in people with panic disorder, scientists may be able to create better treatments. Researchers are also looking for ways in which stress and environmental factors may play a role.