Panic disorder is a terrifying condition. Sufferers have sudden and repeated episodes of intense fear and anxiety (panic attacks) for no apparent reason.
Attacks are accompanied by physical symptoms such as a pounding heart, sweating, weakness, chest pain, hot flushes, shortness of breath and dizziness.
Although the attacks are simply due to anxiety, people having panic attacks believe they are about to lose control, have a heart attack, die or go crazy. Many develop intense anxiety between attacks, worrying when and where the next one will occur.
Panic disorder typically begins between the ages of 20 and 40 years. The condition is often inherited and is more common in people who are already anxious.
Effective treatment is available
Firstly, see your GP for a check-up to rule out any underlying physical cause. Many people find relaxation strategies, regular exercise and avoiding caffeine helpful. Slow breathing techniques or breathing into a paper bag can ease the symptoms.
Two effective treatments are available and work best when used together:
1. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a type of counselling which helps you identify and challenge the anxious and unrealistic thoughts you have when you panic. CBT helps you understand that your symptoms are not harmful and teaches you to overcome your fear of panicking in certain situations.
2. A number of antidepressants are commonly used to relieve the symptoms of panic disorder, even in people who do not have depression. These medications are effective and generally well tolerated but can cause side effects. They are not addictive.
Ask your GP for help. For more information, visit http://www.crufad.com/ or http://www.mentalhealth.com/.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.