Panic and Agoraphobia: Panic Disorders

Unexpected surges of fear that trigger strong physical reactions.

Worries that create a vicious cycle of living “in fear of fear”

It is estimated that about one in 12 people in the U.S. have a lifetime diagnosis of panic disorder or agoraphobia. The number increases to around 14% of the population when including those who are not diagnosable but have experienced a number of panic attacks. The intensity and duration of the disorder may differ in people; however, most often, panic attacks seem to come “out of the blue” and not all panic attacks develop into a panic disorder.

The following are major characteristics of panic disorder:

 

  • Sudden episode(s) of overwhelming fear that may feel as if you are losing control or even dying
  • Consistent fear and worry of having another panic attack
  • Changes in behavior such as avoiding situations that might trigger an attack

 

The following are major symptoms of panic disorder:

 

  • Pounding or fast heartbeat
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Nausea or stomach pains
  • Feeling of unreality or detachment
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Fear of dying

 

Below are “ineffective” ways of dealing with panic attacks when they occur

 

  • Avoiding places or situations that might cause you to panic, taking drugs, drinking coffee, exercising, etc.
  • Listening to loud music, pinching oneself, falling asleep at night without turning off the TV, etc.
  • Performing superstitious rituals
  • Drinking alcohol: It is estimated that 50-60% of people who suffer from panic attacks start heavy drinking and develop drinking problems. Heavy drinking can often exacerbate anxiety and depressive symptoms; it is encouraged to visit a therapist as soon as possible instead of relying on drinking alcohol.

Those who suffer from repeated panic attacks experience intense fear and often visit the emergency room for evaluation without knowing that it may be due to psychological reasons. Panic attacks may make everyday living extremely uncomfortable and lead to isolation from other people if the individual starts to avoid situations or places that are thought to cause panic attacks.

Please contact us if you are currently experiencing any of the symptoms above.