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What is Panic Disorder?
Panic attacks are periods of extreme fear that cause physical symptoms such as a racing heart rate, sweating, or trembling. Panic attacks are often also accompanied by a feeling of an impending threat of harm or even death, but usually, there is no actual danger or any clear trigger for the panic.
Panic disorder is diagnosed when someone experiences recurrent panic attacks over a period of time, the attacks occur unexpectedly without apparent cause, and anxiety over the possibility of an attack interferes with the sufferer’s daily life.
Symptoms of Panic Attacks
Symptoms of panic attacks are typically not harmful in themselves, but they can cause such profound emotional strain and anxiety that the fear of them has long-term, debilitating effects.
The most common symptoms of panic attacks include:
- Rapid heart rate or heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath or a feeling of choking
- Chest pain
- Numbness or tingling
- Fear of an impending, non-specific threat
- Feeling of a loss of control
- Feeling of emotional detachment
Panic attacks may vary in intensity and duration, but most often they come on suddenly and reach their peak intensity quickly.
Related Anxiety Disorders
Panic disorder is closely related to several other anxiety disorders, and sometimes it occurs in conjunction with these disorders. Other anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder. In this disorder, sufferers experience anxiety beyond the typical levels of worry, and their anxiety persists for at least six months without relief. The anxiety can have effects that result in significant impairment.
- Social anxiety disorder. This disorder causes severe anxiety surrounding social situations and situations in which the sufferer is required to perform in public. As a result of the fear, sufferers often withdraw from social situations, and the anxiety can have detrimental effects at work or school.
- Phobia disorders. The anxiety in this disorder comes from an extreme fear of specific situations or objects. A phobia that often occurs along with panic attacks is agoraphobia, an intense fear of being away from home, in open spaces, in crowded places, or in other specific situations.
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