Panic Disorder is a very common condition, affecting about 3-5% of the US population at any given time. Panic Disorder is characterized by having had two or more panic attacks, followed by at least one month or apprehension or anxiety about having another attack. Most people with Panic Disorder, however, have more than two panic attacks and have been apprehensive about the attacks for much more than one month. Individuals with Panic Disorder often worry that a panic attack is:
1) actually a serious medical problem (e.g., heart attack)
2) that it might have negative physical consequence (e.g., lose control while driving)
3) that it might have negative psychological consequences (e.g., going "crazy")
4) that it might have negative social consequences (e.g., embarrassment)
Apprehension about having panic attacks can lead to people avoiding places or situations in which they have previously had panic attacks, or believe they might have panic attacks. This is known as Agoraphobia.
Panic attacks are rushes of intense fear, terror, or anxiety, that are accompanied by symptoms such as:
- Racing or pounding heart
- Shortness of breath
- Choking sensations
- Shaking or trembling
- Dizziness or lightheaded feelings
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Tight or painful chest
- Fears that you may be dying, losing control, or going crazy
People with other anxiety disorders may also experience panic attacks when in feared situations, but individuals with Panic Disorder also experience panic attacks at times or in places where they wouldn't expect to have a panic attack.
Panic Disorder is a very treatable condition. Both specific medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy have been shown to be help people overcome their panic and anxiety, although cognitive-behavioral therapy appears to have better long-term effects than medications. If you believe that you have Panic Disorder or any other problem with anxiety, and you want help with these difficulties, please contact the Anxiety Disorder Clinic at 713-743-8609 to schedule an assessment.