Panic Disorder

What is Panic & Panic Disorder?

It is easy to assume the worst about our emotions. Few adults enjoy feeling out of control of our reactions. However, emotions are a natural way for our mind to help to protect our entire body. When you are feeling tightness in your chest, accelerated breathing, or discomfort in your below-the-waist gut area, each of these conditions is a normal reaction to fear.

This type of unplanned behavior is a safety-seeking measure that occurs in your best interest. Nevertheless, when that behavior is not triggered by a known factor, like a car headed into your body, a dog about to bite your leg, or the roof of your home caving in, then a panic disorder may exist.1 At the very least, that type of reaction is a signal to be aware of your emotional reciprocation without a stimuli. Keeping a diary of the number of times that anomaly occurs without provocation will enable a monitoring of the events in case the behavior continues. If it does frequently replay without visible trigger, then there is a definite reason to seek a medical evaluation and appropriate care.

However, if the behavior is actually triggering the panic attack, instead of a panic attack occurring as a result of the anticipation of eminent harm from a known danger, seeking professional help is also advisable. In other words, if a person is walking uphill and begins to breath rapidly, a typical safety-seeking measure that often accompanies a panic attack, the breathing from heavy walking is likely to bring on a panic attack, if a panic disorder exists when no objective danger is present. 1

Anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks are inter-correlated in those people who have a panic disorder; one feeds the other is like a domino effect.2 Although the costs of care may be a stress on the family budget, if there is no care, the outcome for the majority of patients is even more harmful.3 There are many progressive behavioral changes that may occur, from depression to sleeplessness, from agoraphobia to substance abuses, from fearful spells to intense fearful spells,4 and more. Appropriate care in the form of behavioral modifications or drug therapy is vital to overcoming panic attacks or panic disorders.5

Statistics inform us that 2-5% of the public has what is considered a common panic disorder. These are recurrent anxiety attacks in spite of a lack of the presence of a frightening stimulus. However, when we consider those with cardiology issues, the numbers increase to 10-14%. They are living with a known threat. Nevertheless, there is no direct action and yet the patient is know to have an unprovoked panic-type reaction. There appears to be a slight brain abnormality in patients with an extreme anxiety reactions.6

Rest assured that many researchers are looking for appropriate drug therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or a combination of the two as a means to ease the discomfort of this affectation. The most exciting news is that CBT without drug additives appears to have a lasting ability to help those who continue to participate in a therapy program.7 That fact is very encouraging for those on a limited income who might otherwise not seek to necessary care as drug therapy may be cost prohibitive. Knowing that help is available, in several forms, will ease overall concerns in victims of panic attacks or panic disorders.

1. Gangemi, Amelia; Mancini, Francesco; van den Hout, Marcel. Behavior as information: “If I avoid, then there must be a danger”. Journal of Behavior Therapy & Experimental Psychiatry. Dec 2012, Vol. 53 Issue 4, p1032-1038. 7p.

2. Helig-Lang, Sylvia; Lang, Thomas; Petermann, Franz; Hoyer, Jürgen. Anticipatory Anxiety as a Function of Panic Attacks and Panic-Related Self-Efficacy: An Ambulatory Assessment Study in Panic Disorder. Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapy. Oct 2012, Vol. 40 Issue 5, p590-604. 15p.

3. Revicki, Dennis A.; Travers, Karin; Wyrwich, Kathleen W.; Svedsäter, Henrik; Locklear, Julie; Mattera, Maria Stoeckl; Sheehan, David V.; Montgomery, Stuart.
Humanistic and economic burden of generalized anxiety disorder in North America and Europe. Journal of Affective Disorders. Oct 2012, Vol. 140 Issue 2, p103-112. 10p.

4. Eaton, William W., Kessler, Ronald C. Panic and panic disorder in the United States. American Journal of Psychiatry; Mar94, Vol. 151 Issue 3, p413, 8p, 3 Charts.

5. Carlbring, Per; Ekselius, Lisa; Andersson, Gerhard. Treatment of panic disorder via the Internet: a randomized trial of CBT vs. applied relaxation. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Vol 34(2), Jun 2003, 129-140.

6. Eric m. Reiman, Marcus e. Raichle, f. Kevin Butler, Peter Herscovitch, & Eli Robins. A focal brain abnormality in panic disorder, a severe form of anxiety. Nature 310, 683 – 685 (23 August 1984); doi:10.1038/310683a0.

7. David H. Barlow, PhD; Jack M. Gorman, MD; M. Katherine Shear, MD; Scott W. Woods, MD. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Imipramine, or Their Combination for Panic Disorder. JAMA. 2000;283(19):2529-2536. doi:10.1001/jama.283.19.2529.