The panic attack can leave people feeling helpless and vulnerable, and it is also one of the major symptoms of panic disorder, a medical condition where the afflicted experiences frequent and often serious panic attacks or feelings of intense fear. The fear typically resonates from the expectation of having another attack.
Doctors are still unsure of the precise cause of panic disorder, but they do know a number of treatment options that are effective at reduce the frequency and severity of panic and anxiety attacks. Doctors currently believe that panic disorder is either caused by genetics, environmental factors, or psychological issues.
There are certain symptoms of panic disorder, but the main symptoms are the panic attacks themselves and the fear that stems from them.
Symptoms of a Panic Attack
A panic attack is the main symptom of panic disorder, and it consists of the sudden and abrupt onset of certain symptoms leading to a potentially debilitating feeling of intense apprehension and fear. Panic attacks are actually described in the DSM-IV, the main reference books used in the field of psychology which details the symptoms of mental disorders and issues, and most medical doctors go by the DSM-IV symptoms list for panic disorder when diagnosing the condition. Panic disorders can greatly range in both length and severity, with some only lasting a minute, and others lasting for hours. Panic attacks may have little effect on the person’s regular activities, or it may be so debilitating that they can no longer function and need medical attention to return to a normal state of being. There are 13 symptoms of panic attacks described in the DSM-IV, and for a panic attack to be classified as such, the person must develop four of them in under 10 minutes. The symptoms include;
- Hot flashes or chills
- Numbness or tingling of the limbs
- Fear of death, thoughts that you are dying
- Feeling of insanity, loss of control
- Feeling of detachment, loss of reality
- Lightheaded, dizziness, feeling like you might faint
- Abdominal pain and nausea
- Pain in the chest, around the heart
- Choking sensation
- Loss of breath, shortness of breath, feeling smothered
- Shaking and trembling
- Sudden sweating
- Accelerated pulse and heartbeat, palpitations
With panic disorder, these attacks are typically very sudden and typically do not have an outside trigger. Most panic attacks will have some type of external trigger or conditional facts that leads the person to have the attack itself. With the panic attacks connected to panic disorder, these attacks typically come on suddenly and for little to no reason. This differentiate panic disorder from many of the other anxiety attack-based disorder acknowledged by the medical community. The panic attacks often connected to panic disorder are also more severe than your standard panic attack, leading to the development of a greater fear of them occurring.
There is also a special classification of panic attack exclusively created for and associated with panic disorder. The limited symptoms attacks are highly similar to panic attacks as described by the DSM-IV, but instead of having four present symptoms, they have less, but the major feeling and fear the person experiences is still there and the present symptoms are more severe than they would be with a common panic attack. Due to the severity or certain aspects of a limited symptom attack, they can easily be confused with serious medical conditions like a heart attack.
If four of these symptoms develop in a ten minutes period, it is very likely that you are experiencing a panic attack. As this the the main symptoms of panic disorder, the second of the symptoms of panic disorder is the fear of repeated attacks. This fear can make a person stay constantly in or completely avoid crowds, stay near medical treatment areas, refuse to engage in activities, or generally alter their life out of fear of having another panic attack. Panic disorder’s second symptoms is then agoraphobia. While many people believe this to be the fear of people or public places, agoraphobia is actually the fear of being in public because you may have a panic attack. If both of these symptoms are present, then panic disorder is commonly diagnosed.
Luckily, the symptoms of panic disorder can be treated an managed to prevent the condition from altering the person’s life to a certain degree. Many of those who suffer from panic disorder have serious issues with social situations and public places, completely taking away their normal life or preventing them from having one. If you recognize the symptoms of panic disorder in yourself, treatment options provide from a medical professional can greatly help reduce the severity of the condition.