Panic disorder (PD) is one of many types of anxiety disorders. Anxiety often contributes to panic attacks, which are episodes of feeling terrified without being in any immediate danger. You are not alone if you feel that you are experiencing PD: about 6 million people in the U.S. suffer from this condition.
People with PD live in constant fear of panic attacks as it is common for them to occur unexpectedly, without warning. Symptoms of an attack usually last for 10 to 20 minutes, but in extreme cases, they may last for more than an hour. The symptoms can also differ from person to person, and the experience can be unique.
A major symptom of PD, the DSM-5 defines panic attacks as surges of intense fear or discomfort that peak within minutes. There are two categories for panic attacks—expected and unexpected. Expected panic attacks are typically associated with a specific, known fear. In contrast, unexpected panic attacks often occur for no apparent reason and, in most cases, are not proportional to the danger that exists in the environment.
Panic attacks occur when a person experiences four or more of the following:
As a primary symptom of panic disorders, panic attacks are usually unexpected and recurrent. Further, at least one panic attack is generally followed by one month or more of anxiety that causes a change in behavior and the avoidance of situational triggers of attacks.
The symptoms of panic disorder are very similar to other anxiety disorders or medical conditions, which is why it is essential to have Talkiatry's medical professionals diagnose panic disorders based on symptoms, behaviors, and conditions defined by the DSM-5.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent panic attacks that can be achieved by using medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. The duration of treatment depends on the severity of the condition and the response to treatment. However, not everyone with panic disorder requires treatment unless their condition is severely hindering their lives.
Talkiatry has psychiatrists who specialize in treating Panic Disorder. Our PD specialists carefully assess your condition and needs then prescribe the right course of action.
To help make panic attacks less frequent or less severe, our psychiatrists will typically prescribe medication including serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), or tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). SSRIs target serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood. By balancing serotonin levels, SSRIs help regulate mood, decrease anxiety, and improve sleep.
The anxiety and fear caused by panic disorder can also be reduced by anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines. Medication like this can cause the central nervous system to slow down, which can make a person feel calmer and more relaxed. As useful as this may be for treating anxiety, such medications may also lead to dependence or abuse, which is why working with your psychiatrist is essential in limiting relapses and side effects.
Psychotherapy is also effective in treating panic disorder and is often combined with medication management. Our PD specialists will use an in-depth approach to explore your thoughts and feelings in order to help you identify the triggers of your panic attacks and change your thinking, behaviors, and reactions. As you begin to respond differently to stimuli, the attacks decrease and may ultimately stop.
Talkiatry is a psychiatric practice offering outpatient mental health services, including diagnosis, psychotherapy, and medication management to patients living with panic disorder.
We believe in providing accessible, affordable mental health-management solutions, which is why we provide personalized in-network healthcare services that are focused on helping you feel better, faster. In addition, to match our therapeutic and modern approach to psychiatric care, we offer flexible telemedicine and in-office appointment options.
Although they're not physically harmful, panic attacks can take a toll on your mental health and stop you from doing the things you love. If you believe you have PD or a variation of an anxiety disorder, we highly recommend you start by taking our free and easy assessment to receive a preliminary diagnosis. Not only will you get a better understanding of your current symptoms, but we'll also match you with the psychiatrists on staff that can provide you with the treatment you need to manage PD.
Talkiatry is a mental health practice, and our clinicians review everything we write. However, articles are never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may need mental health help, talk to a psychiatrist. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.