Panic disorder is considered a psychological anxiety disorder in which a patient experiences an inexplicable surge of terror in out-of-the-blue situations like driving, during sleep or in otherwise everyday situations. Many experts believe panic disorder develops in early adulthood, and because the symptoms of a panic attack (heart palpitations, giddiness, shortness of breath, hot flushes and chills, nausea, increased rate of heartbeat, tingling in the arms and legs, irritable bowel, etc) are similar to those of conditions such as heart attacks, thyroid and breathing problems, correct diagnosis of the problem may take months or years.
It is essential to understand that having a panic attack once or twice does not label a person as a panic disorder patient. People who experience frequent panic attacks and constantly fear future attacks are said to suffer from panic disorder. Panic disorder treatments are intended to alleviate the fear of recurrent attacks in a patient. Eliminating the terror of having another panic attack and experiencing all the symptoms that follow is the key symptom to treating panic disorder.
Most panic disorder treatments are based on understanding the factors that cause a panic attack to begin with. Studies have zeroed in on three main factors:
Some researchers suspect that panic disorder may be hereditary, although there is no definitive evidence to support this assumption at present. However, there is reason to believe that panic disorder can be caused by biological malfunction in some cases. Statistically, panic disorder is twice as common in women as it is in men — researchers are not sure why women are more prone to PI than men.
Stressful life experiences and traumas can also lead to regular panic attacks. Situations like a recent separation, divorce of parents or death of a loved one, can lower our resistance to negative thoughts and we gradually succumb to feelings of depression and anxiety which in turn lead to panic attacks and resurgence of fear.
In this case the physical and psychological causes of the disorder compliment each other to cause an attack. For example, a patient experiences an increased rate of heartbeat after exercising and perceives this as a symptom of another attack and starts worrying about it, then the patient due to all of her/his terror may actually trigger an avoidable attack (the self-fulfilling prophecy).
Panic disorder treatments, therefore, consider all three aspects of a panic attack – physical, psychological and physiological. It is essential to administer panic disorder treatments to patients as soon as possible and in the right manner. If left untreated, panic disorder may lead to other phobias. This essentially happens because it the panic attacks themselves that patients come to fear more than any particular situation.