According to the American Psychiatric Association, clinical panic disorder is the presence of recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. Recurrent means that the individual experiences more than one panic attack. Unexpected refers to the panic attack being seemingly unprovoked, that is, not as a result of a predictable time, place, or set of circumstances the individual knows to be particularly anxiety-provoking for them, such as driving on high mountain roads. Another type of unexpected panic attack is one that wakes an individual from sleep, called a nocturnal panic attack. Half of the people with a panic disorder experience expected panic attacks in addition to unexpected panic attacks. Fortunately, there are mental health treatment options available. Contact the panic disorder treatment center in Los Angeles at Silicon Beach Treatment Center today at 213.460.1706.
What Happens When You Have a Panic Disorder?
What complicates living with this disorder is that panic increases in anticipation of yet another panic attack. Individuals with a panic disorder generally accumulate concern about future panic attacks because of the physical implications, social implications, and cognitive implications. Individuals may worry that the physiological symptoms of their panic attack may indicate a dangerous medical issue, such as a heart attack. They may also be concerned about others’ perceptions of them in a social situation because of the outwardly noticeable physical signs of the panic attack. They may also worry about their own inability to regulate using their rational mind. Self-imposed restrictions and constrictions are common as the individual with panic disorder attempts to forestall the onset of a panic attack by avoiding places, circumstances, and situations they fear may provoke a panic attack.
A panic attack often begins as an abrupt experience of mounting fear or an inexplicable sense of discomfort. Due to this stress, particular areas in the human brain become hyperactive. The brain begins to experience fear and pain. These instances happen simultaneously as the body’s sympathetic nervous system arms the body to defend itself, signaling the need for fight or flight.
Signs and Symptoms of Panic Disorder
There are a distinct set of physiological and psychological symptoms experienced by individuals suffering from a panic disorder. A panic attack caused by panic disorder must meet the four of the following symptoms:
- Accelerated heart rate
- A feeling of shortness of breath
- A feeling of being dizzy or light-headed
- Feeling the temperature at extremes (hot or cold)
- A feeling of numbness or tingling
- A feeling that things around you are not real or feeling detached from yourself
Panic Attack vs. Anxiety AttackAnxiety can be a symptom of a panic attack. However, panic attacks and anxiety attacks differ from each other. Some specific differences that can distinguish a panic attack from an attack linked to anxiety are: An attack of anxiety:
- Can develop slowly but increase as a person begins to feel anxious
- Frequently can occur from a specific trigger, such as a health-related event, a problem in a relationship, or a situation in a work-based role
- May be related to other mental illnesses, such as OCD, PTSD, phobias or other anxiety disorders
- May or may not exhibit physical responses (tightening in the chest or belly, shortness of breath, or extreme discomfort).
- Has a lesser volatility or severity than an attack of panic
- Develops as a surge of fear that reaches its peak within minutes
- May happen independently of when an individual is calm or anxious
- Does not occur from a specific stressor (pressure from an event, likelihood, or worry) or trigger
- Don’t arise as a symptom of another diagnosable mental illness, physical condition, or use of a medication or substance
- Can demonstrate as physical experiences and emotions of fear or terror so pronounced there is a feeling of unconquerable loss or death
- Symptoms may range from intense to increasingly severe