Panic Disorder and Anxiety

girl dealing with panic disorder

What is panic disorder?

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Panic disorder is a form of anxiety disorder expressed through recurring panic attacks, which produce unexpected feelings of extreme alarm and apprehension. These internal fears may result in outward physical symptoms as well, such as chest pain and difficulty breathing.

Panic attacks manifest themselves unexpectedly. There is no predicting when they may occur, which can exacerbate the anxiety they produce. Symptoms of panic may initiate at startling times, possibly during relaxing vacations, amid peaceful times of rest, and even while sleeping.

The feelings of stress initiated by panic attacks often last long after the panic attack has ended. Additionally, many patients experience added anxiety as they begin to anticipate future panic attacks. Understandably, attempts to avoid further attacks generate increased worry.


Who suffers from panic disorder?

It is estimated that approximately 10 percent of U.S. adults suffer at least one panic attack each year. Be aware, though, that one panic attack does not necessarily indicate panic disorder. Panic disorder, characterized by repeated panic attacks, affects a lower percentage of the population – about 2 percent.

What risk factors contribute to panic disorder?

Panic disorder typically begins to present in patients in their late teens or as young adults, affecting women more frequently than men. Some circumstances that seem to increase the risk of panic disorder include:

  • Genetics – studies have revealed that panic disorders run in families, indicating a genetic component to the disorder.
  • Trauma – a serious accident or distressing event (e.g., abuse or other physical attack) often increases the likelihood of panic attacks.
  • Significant life event – divorce, death of a loved one, or significant illness may contribute to panic disorder.
  • Chemicals – disproportionate caffeine consumption, smoking, or illicit drug use can affect the brain and ultimately produce panic disorder.
girl running through a forest panicking

What causes panic disorder?

While the risk factors above may contribute toward panic disorder, it is also important to understand what is happening in the brain of any panic disorder patient.  Unfortunately, many patients do not receive a thorough examination and can be misdiagnosed.

Other factors need to be examined for a stronger diagnosis. Chemical imbalances resulting from toxins (e.g., mold), hormones, and infections (e.g., Lyme disease) also bring about panic disorder. A brain analysis to examine proper functioning will be prudent.

Unfortunately, an inaccurate diagnosis can lead to improper treatment, which can have catastrophic results. For example, some anxiety medications can have adverse effects on the brain (e.g., dementia) and should be used judiciously.  For your health and safety, all prescribed medications should conform to proper diagnosis and treatment standards.

We at Bridgepoint provide comprehensive care to accurately diagnose and appropriately treat panic disorder as well as any other condition that is negatively affecting your quality of life. Contact us to schedule a visit and get on the road to recovery today.


What are the long-term effects of panic disorder?

If panic attacks and panic disorder are left unaddressed, the repercussions can be severe. All areas of life may be affected as panic attacks and the fear of panic attacks generate a perpetual state of anxiety. Untreated, panic disorder may lead to:

  • Substance abuse
  • Decreased school or job performance
  • Financial issues
  • Depression and added anxiety disorders
  • Evolution of other phobias (e.g., OCD, fear of sleep, or withdrawal from social activity)
  • Suicidal tendencies

How do you treat panic disorder and anxiety?

Regardless of your specific symptoms and their severity, we will provide a specific plan tailored to your unique situation. The primary treatment options include psychotherapy and appropriate medication.

Psychotherapy – A great first step in treatment, psychotherapy helps patients understand their condition better as well as learn to cope with panic attacks. Specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy provides therapy that creates symptoms of a panic attack in a safe place while training the patient how to respond in a healthy manner. Over time, these treatments help the patient decrease the anxiety that panic attacks cause, and they can lead to a very normal lifestyle.

Medication – Depending on the patient’s specific situation, some medications can provide relief from panic disorder. Certain antidepressants and sedatives have proven effective in treating panic symptoms. Be sure your prescribing physician has an in-depth knowledge of these medications to avoid unnecessary risk.

Other treatment options include lifestyle choices, diet, and alternative medicines. A proper diagnosis and treatment plan will coordinate the appropriate combination of all these treatments to meet your unique needs.


What can I do if I think I suffer from panic disorder and panic attacks?

The sooner you can accurately identify your condition and its source, the sooner you can experience relief. We recommend you schedule a preliminary review with a licensed professional to complete a thorough assessment. At Bridgepoint, our team is ready to meet with you as soon as possible to initiate your healing. Contact us and book an appointment with our professionals.

In the meantime, here are some helpful tips to reduce anxiety before and between visits:

  • Relaxation – find music or another method of relaxation and set aside some time each day to incorporate your relaxation technique.
  • Thankfulness –make a list of at least five things you are grateful for each day. This focus on positive elements of your day will calm emotions in your brain.
  • Exaggerate – take your greatest fear and embellish it to the point of ridiculousness. Often humorous, this practice also trains your brain to lessen fear in these areas.
  • Share – talk with trusted friends about your anxiety. Fighting your fears in isolation is an uphill battle – your friends want to help, and there is strength in your partnerships.