The purpose of this material is to explain Panic Disorder. It may help you to decide if you have this disorder. If there is reason to suspect Panic Disorder, the brochure suggests a reasonable approach to take so that a proper diagnosis can be made and, if necessary, treatment begun.
This is intended for educational information only. Treatment for appendicitis is not a 'do it yourself' project. Neither is treatment for Panic Disorder. If you believe, after reading this, that you might have Panic Disorder, you should see your physician who can either diagnose and treat you, or refer you to a specialist.
Ann was watching television after a typical workday. She suddenly developed a peculiar and very strong feeling of being lightheaded and a smothering sensation as if there were no oxygen in the air she was breathing. Then a surge of pounding rapid heartbeat began. It came on so quickly and was so severe that she became panicked that she might be dying of a heart attack! Then she felt very shaky, sweaty, and unsteady. This whole experience reached peak intensity within 60 seconds. This was the eighth such attack this month.
"Panic" was hardly the word to describe how terrified she was feeling. It went beyond any feeling of fear that she had ever experienced. Although she had gone to the emergency room several times, nothing seemed to be found by the doctors to explain why she kept having the attacks.
She frantically searched for her car keys so that she could get to the hospital immediately. She thought desperately, "What's wrong with me?"
The main symptom of a Panic Disorder is the panic attack itself. Panic Disorder is a medical disorder characterized by severe and sudden episodes or "attacks" with several of the following symptoms:
Panic, Fear of Losing Control or Dying
Chest Pain or Discomfort
Tingling Numbness of The Skin
Lump In Throat
Hot or Cold Feeling
Feelings of Unreality (Familiar Things Feel Odd)
It is important to mention that sudden episodes of the above symptoms caused by another reasonable cause are not panic attacks. Two such reasonable causes would be (1) a certain medical ailment that might mimic a panic attack, or (2) a life threatening experience immediately preceding the attack. If these reasonable causes are found not be the cause of the problem then there is the possibility of a Panic Disorder.
Panic attacks reach maximum intensity within a minute or two once they begin. They diminish slowly-over the next 30 minutes or the next several hours. It is common for the first attack to cause a person to go to an emergency medical facility. Subsequent attacks occur several times a month and are often as severe as the initial attack.
About three fourths of Panic Disorder patients are women. Panic Disorder begins most often when people are 20-30 years old. It begins less often in teenagers or persons in their forties. It is uncommon for the disorder to appear in the elderly for the first time.
It is important to note that although a few experts say it is more common in persons who experienced a separation experience as a child, many of experts feel that Panic Disorder afflicts emotionally healthy people. Persons with Panic Disorder are no more likely than the average American to have suffered from emotional problems at the time the disorder begins.
Stephen Cox, MD
President - NAF
Linda Vernon Blair
C. Todd Strecker
Board of Directors:
Father Edward Bradley
Sarah Wood Cox
Keith Hartman MD
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