Here, you can find out everything you wanted to know about panic disorder (or at least we hope so!). You can click (or touch) each of the headings below to find out more about specific aspects of the condition.
We hope you find the information useful and if you do, please feel free to share it.
The term 'panic attack' has become so over used in recent years that it has almost lost the impact this debilitating illness can have. A panic attack often occurs quite suddenly, makes you feel anxious and can be quite frightening. The severity of the attack can vary, from just feeling breathless to the belief that you're having a full-blown heart attack!
Now most people will, at some point in their lives, have a panic attack or two. If you are presented with an incredibly stressful moment, it would be strange if you didn't. However, those who live with panic disorder will have recurrent, unexpected panic attacks over long periods, seemingly for no reason. If that wasn't bad enough, they will live in constant fear of their next attack. The number of attacks a person can have will also vary, from one or two a month to numerous attacks each and every week.
Whilst the worst panic attack may seem life-threatening, it won't be, but that's not to say it doesn't affect your quality of life or is any easier to manage. Those with panic disorder can experience panic attacks in many different situations. They can't control these symptoms, but the good news is that treatment for panic disorder can be very effective.
A panic attack, as we mentioned above, is often a sudden experience. It often occurs in unexpected situations and can arise very quickly. As such, your body will experience a rush of intense psychological and physical symptoms.
The psychological symptoms are an overwhelming sense of fear, anxiety and apprehension, but they also have physical manifestations which include:
- Feeling hot and sweaty.
- Trembling or shaking uncontrollably.
- Feeling that their heart is palpitating.
- Shortness of breath.
If you've read our pages on many other mental conditions (and if not, why not! ;-), you won't be surprised to learn that the cause of panic disorder (like many other illnesses) isn't fully understood.
Most people think it is a combination of some psychological and some physical factors. Psychologically, some believe that an imbalance in your brain chemistry is to blame, whilst others believe people can be genetically predisposed to developing the condition.
Some researchers think that panic disorder develops more in those who have an increased sensitivity to carbon dioxide. Meaning that people who breathe in air with a high carbon dioxide level can bring on more attacks.
Another theory states that those who experience panic attacks tend to catastropise situations, i.e, believing minor physical symptoms are actually much, much worse than they actually are. This thinking triggers their nervous system to respond, resulting in a panic attack. As is often the case with mental illness, we may never know the true cause.
If you suffer with Panic Disorder, there may be some organisations on our Where To Turn pages that can help you. If not, and you know of one, please let us know and we'll look into it.
If you'd like to share your experiences of living with panic disorder with our community so they can better understand how it feels, please take a look at our 'Men Tell' section.