Have you ever felt a sudden rush of overwhelming fear or dread with no obvious cause, accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating, trouble breathing and a racing heart? These sensations can be frightening and are often the first signs of a panic attack.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most people have at least one or two panic attacks in their lifetimes, and the problem goes away without recurring. However, if you’re experiencing panic attacks that appear more frequently, it could be a sign of panic disorder.
At Achieve Concierge, we know how distressing panic disorder can be. Panic attacks can strike anywhere and often occur suddenly, without warning, making it difficult to function normally. Fortunately, the symptoms can be managed with the right treatment.
What Is Panic Disorder?
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden, intense episodes of fear or discomfort that peak quickly and then subside. However, in some cases, they may last for more than an hour.
Panic disorder can be debilitating and disruptive to daily life. Sometimes, panic attacks are triggered by a specific event or stimulus, while other times, they occur without a clear reason. This can lead to anticipatory anxiety and cause you to avoid certain situations or places for fear of experiencing another panic attack, interfering with your daily life.
Symptoms of Panic Disorder
When a panic attack occurs, it can be a frightening experience. It might feel like you’re on the verge of collapsing, losing control or even dying. The physical symptoms can also mimic those of a heart attack. What’s even worse is that a panic attack can strike at any moment — whether you’re at home, driving a car, fast asleep or in the middle of a conference call.
Panic attacks begin suddenly and typically last for 5 to 20 minutes. However, the experience is different for everyone and the symptoms can vary. The most common symptoms of an unexpected panic attack include intense feelings of fear or dread, often accompanied by:
- Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
- Trouble breathing
- Choking sensations
- Sweating or chills
- Trembling or shaking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Feeling dizzy, lightheaded or faint
- Changes in mental state
If you have panic disorder, you might also experience persistent worry about having another panic attack and change your behavior to avoid potentially triggering situations. For example, if you’ve had a panic attack while driving, you might start to avoid driving altogether.
Diagnosing Panic Disorder
Panic disorder always includes recurring panic attacks. However, having a panic attack doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a panic disorder. In order to diagnose panic disorder, mental health professionals look at the number and frequency of your panic attacks.
According to the DSM-5, to be diagnosed with panic disorder, you must experience panic attacks that are recurring and often unexpected. In addition to this, at least one panic attack needs to be accompanied by a month of ongoing fear that another can happen at any minute. Doctors will also rule out underlying causes and ensure that your panic attacks are not caused by substance use, a medical condition or other mental health concerns.
Based on your symptoms, panic attacks and panic disorder can be diagnosed by your primary healthcare provider or a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.
How Panic Disorder is Treated
Panic disorder can be difficult to live with, but it is treatable. At Achieve Concierge, treatment focuses on reducing or eliminating your symptoms to improve your daily functioning and free you from the constant worry that another panic attack is waiting just around the corner.
To accomplish this, our team of highly-trained psychiatrists and clinicians use a variety of techniques to help you cope, such as therapy, medication and lifestyle changes.
- Therapy: A type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a highly effective treatment option for panic disorder. It involves identifying and changing negative thoughts and unhealthy behaviors that contribute to feelings of anxiety. Exposure therapy, which gradually exposes people to situations that trigger panic attacks in a safe and supportive way, can also be helpful. Other evidence-based therapies that we may recommend include neurofeedback therapy, psychodynamic therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.
- Medication: Medication can help reduce the frequency and severity of your panic attacks. They can also help to treat co-occurring disorders such as depression. Medications that are commonly used to manage panic disorder include antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that help to reduce anxiety and improve mood, and benzodiazepines, which slow down the central nervous system to induce relaxation. In some cases, more than one medication might be used to help control your symptoms.
- Lifestyle Changes: In addition to trying therapy and medication, lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol and caffeine, getting regular exercise and practicing relaxation techniques can help manage your symptoms. Some people also find joining a support group and connecting with others who face similar problems to be beneficial.
In addition to traditional treatments, you might find relief from less conventional methods such as acupuncture, yoga or massage therapy. Our licensed clinicians will discuss the pros and cons of each technique, including the potential side effects of medication, and work with you to develop a customized panic disorder treatment plan that meets your needs and preferences.
Panic Disorder Treatment at Achieve Concierge
At Achieve Concierge, we understand that panic disorder is a complex and individualized condition, so we provide personalized treatment plans tailored to each individual’s unique needs. Our team of mental health professionals, including licensed therapists and psychiatrists, work together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that includes evidence-based therapies, medication management and holistic approaches.
Our personalized treatment plans are designed to help individuals better manage their anxiety symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. We strongly believe that everyone deserves access to high-quality mental health care and we are committed to providing compassionate, patient-centered care that helps our clients achieve their goals.
Schedule a Consultation at Achieve Concierge Today
If you’re struggling with panic disorder, we’re here to help. At Achieve Concierge, we provide personalized treatment plans designed to help you manage your mental health symptoms and live a calmer, happier life. If you have questions or want to set up an appointment, please contact us online or call us today at 619-393-5871. We look forward to helping you on your journey toward renewed mental wellness.