Frequently asked questions about panic disorder
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety condition in which an individual experiences recurring and unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear or discomfort that peak within minutes and can include physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, and difficulty breathing. Panic attacks can be triggered by specific situations, such as driving or being in a crowded space, or can occur unexpectedly.
In panic disorder, panic attacks often come out of nowhere, and the fear of experiencing another panic attack may be just as distressing as the panic attack itself. People may begin avoiding situations where they think a panic attack might happen, such as social gatherings, work, or school. These avoidance behaviors can significantly impact someone’s everyday life and make it difficult to engage in normal activities.
Though it may feel overwhelming, panic disorder is a treatable condition. Through a combination of therapy, medication management, and behavioral interventions, individuals experiencing recurrent panic attacks can find ways to manage their symptoms and lead confident, fulfilling lives.
The primary symptom of panic disorder is recurrent, unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are characterized by sudden, intense fear or discomfort that can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as:
- Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath or feelings of suffocation
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or stomach upset
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Chills or hot flashes
After a panic attack, individuals with panic disorder often experience persistent worry about the possibility of having another attack. They may also avoid situations they fear could trigger a panic attack.
Experiencing a panic attack does not necessarily mean you have panic disorder. Panic attacks can occur in response to stressful situations, and many people may have a panic attack at some point in their lives. Panic attacks can also be part of other mental health conditions. For example, people with social anxiety disorder may experience panic attacks related to social situations, and those with specific phobias may experience panic attacks triggered by certain feared objects. In panic disorder, panic attacks often occur without warning, and the fear of having another panic attack can significantly impact everyday life.
If you are not sure how to tell if you’re having a panic attack, or if severe anxiety is affecting your everyday life, it is always best to consult with your healthcare provider or counselor. A qualified mental health professional can help evaluate your symptoms and recommend treatment when needed.
Panic disorder is diagnosed through a clinical assessment by a mental health professional. Your Geode provider will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and personal circumstances to determine if you meet the criteria for the condition. These criteria include:
- Recurrent, unexpected panic attacks
- Persistent worry about having another panic attack
- Avoidance of situations where panic attacks may occur or where escape may be difficult
- Significant distress or impairment in daily functioning
Like most mental health conditions, panic disorder can co-occur with other mental health conditions, such as depression or substance use disorder. Your provider will work with you to determine an accurate diagnosis and develop a personalized treatment plan.
Treatment for panic disorder
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that has been shown to be effective in treating panic disorder. CBT for panic disorder typically involves identifying and challenging negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to panic attacks. Many treatment plans will include exposure therapy, in which someone is gradually exposed to feared situations in a safe and supportive environment. Your therapist can also teach you strategies for managing symptoms, such as relaxation techniques and mindfulness.
In a group therapy setting, individuals with similar experiences can come together to discuss their struggles with panic attacks, share coping strategies, and receive support from each other. Group therapy can provide community and belonging, as well as the opportunity to practice social skills and build relationships. Trained therapists can facilitate the group sessions and offer guidance and feedback as needed. Group therapy for panic disorder can be especially effective when combined with other treatment options, such as medication and individual therapy.
Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can be effective in treating panic disorder. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a commonly prescribed type of antidepressant, are generally the first line of medication treatment in panic disorder. If SSRIs are not effective, other medications such as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) can be used. Benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed to manage acute panic attacks, but they can be habit-forming and should be used with caution. It is important to work closely with your healthcare provider to determine the best medication and dosage for your specific needs.
Overcome panic disorder with effective treatment
If you are experiencing symptoms of panic disorder, you do not have to face them alone. Seeking help from a mental health professional can provide you with effective strategies to manage recurrent panic attacks and help you regain control over your life.
At Geode Health, we have a team of experienced providers who specialize in treating panic disorder and are dedicated to helping you overcome this challenging condition. The right treatment and support can reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks, improve your quality of life, and help you feel more confident in facing life’s challenges. Don’t let panic disorder control your life any longer – take the first step towards healing by finding a provider in your area today.
If you are in crisis and in need of immediate support
Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or text the Crisis Text Line by texting HELLO to 741741