psychology: Panic Disorder

Do you have sudden moments of intense fear accompanied by palpitations, breathlessness, dizziness and other physical symptoms?

Do you have Panic Disorder ?

A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that can come without warning and without any obvious reason. It is also accompanied by some or all of the following symptoms:

1. heart beating fast

2. difficulty breathing

3. dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea

4. trembling, sweating, shaking

5. choking, chest discomfort

6. fear that you're going to go crazy or are about to die

7. tingling sensation in fingers or toes ("pins and needles"), numbness

Panic attacks can occur without warning and can also precipitated by situations and thoughts that are anxiety provoking. Because it is associated with many physical symptoms such as palpitations and breathlessness, many sufferers think that they have a medical condition such as a heart attack.

Do you need assessment and treatment? 

If you have the above symptoms and they are causing distress and affecting your life, it is time to consult a doctor. Panic disorder is a chronic condition and as it progresses, the sufferer may become very fearful of having another panic attack in a public place. This may lead to refusal to leave his or her house, a condition known as agoraphobia. Hence Panic Disorder can impair the social and occupational function of the sufferer and can lower the quality of life of the sufferer. 

What happens in a psychiatric consultation?

An in-depth interview by a psychiatrist will include asking questions on the symptoms, your background history and medical history. Further investigations may be done if needed to ensure that a physical illness is not a cause of the panic attacks. After the diagnosis is made, the psychiatrist decides on the treatment for you. All information shared during the consultations is strictly confidential.

How is Panic Disorder treated?

Panic disorder is treated using medications and/or psychological therapy. Medications effectively help to reduce anxiety. These act on the serotonin receptors in the brain to reduce the level of anxiety and do not result in addiction. Other short-term medicines such as sedatives and sleeping pills may also be given to abort the panic attacks, improve sleep and allow you to relax . This is usually combined with cognitive behavorial therapy (CBT) and relaxation therapy. 

Remember: Panic Disorder can be treated and you can feel better. Do not postpone treatment and suffer needlessly.

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