Panic Attacks & Panic Disorder
Most people experience a panic attack once or twice in their lives. Others experience panic attacks more regularly, sometimes with no clear cause. More than 3 million Americans will suffer from panic disorders at some time in their lives, most of them women. Fortunately, between 70% and 90% of people can find relief through therapy, often noting improvement in as little as 6 to 8 weeks after starting treatment.
What is a Panic Attack?
Psychology Today defines a panic attack as "a sudden rush of fear and anxiety that causes both physical and psychological symptoms."
Panic attacks can happen anytime, anywhere, and without warning. You may live in fear of another attack and may avoid places where you have had an attack.
Panic Attack Symptoms Can Include:
- Racing heart rate or palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling like you're choking
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Sweating or chills
- Shaking or trembling
- Change in your mental state
- Numbness or tingling in hands feet, or face
- Chest pain or tightness
- Fear you might die
What is Panic Disorder?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) defines Panic Disorder as “an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes.”
Panic Disorder is when you’ve had at least two panic attacks (you feel terrified and overwhelmed, even though you’re not in any danger) and constantly worry and change your routine to keep from having another one.
Treatment For Panic Attacks & Panic Disorder:
Psychotherapy, medications, or a combination are very effective at stopping panic attacks.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common treatment. It aims to help the person recognize and change negative thoughts or beliefs about social situations. It also aims to change people’s behaviors or reactions to situations that trigger anxiety.