Panic attacks and panic disorder

What is a panic disorder?

Panic disorders are a form of anxiety disorder characterised by sudden, potentially unexpected and recurring panic attacks. As these attacks can be unpredictable, they can also exacerbate the intensity of their effect on the individual. 

People suffering from panic disorders may live in a state of intense fear, even when there’s no clear danger or trigger associated with the level of fear they’re experiencing, leading to a disruptive and degrading impact on their daily experiences and mental health quality.

Panic attack vs. Panic disorder

Panic attacks and panic disorders are often confused for each other, making it more challenging for those suffering from a panic disorder to receive the help they need. A panic attack is a symptom of a panic disorder, but not everyone who experiences a panic attack has a panic disorder. 

Panic attacks in isolation may also speak to the presence of other mental health conditions, or may occur in direct response to stressful or threatening situations.


Diagnosis

A panic disorder diagnosis can result from an evaluation process undertaken by a mental health professional (like a psychologist or psychiatrist). Throughout this process, your symptoms, medical history and physical health will be examined to identify any potential underlying medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms.

Panic disorder symptoms

While each individual’s experience with a panic disorder will be unique, there are a number of common symptoms that may point to the likelihood of a panic disorder. These include:

  • Sudden, intense fear or discomfort, particularly with no apparent reason for the fear
  • A racing heartbeat or heart palpitations
  • Sudden and intense sweating
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath and a choking sensation
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea 
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Sudden sensations of being chilled or overheated 
  • Numbness or tingling
  • A fear of losing control or dying

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, exploring whether you may have a diagnosable panic disorder can be the first step towards receiving transformational support for your recovery. 

Criteria for diagnosis of panic disorder

In order to receive a panic disorder diagnosis, an individual needs to have experienced recurrent panic attacks and have an ongoing fear about having another attack, or hold concern for the implications of the attack. 

If you’ve experienced a panic attack that’s been followed by at least a month of ongoing concern or worry about another, and the panic attack isn’t connected to the use of drugs or another underlying health condition, you may fit the criteria for a panic disorder diagnosis.


Treatment and panic disorder help

Whether you’ve recently received a panic disorder diagnosis or have been living with a diagnosis for some time, there is a wide range of treatments available that can provide hope and healing that enables panic disorder recovery.

Psychotherapy

Multiple forms of psychotherapy can play a pivotal role in supporting individuals in seeking panic attack or panic disorder treatments. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is one form of psychotherapy that can offer effective relief from the impacts of a panic disorder, empowering individuals to recognise and alter negative thought patterns and behaviours that can contribute to the likelihood of further panic attacks. Ongoing psychotherapy treatment can assist in building long-term healing and management strategies. 


How we can help with panic disorders

At Hope In Health, we’re intimately familiar with just how disruptive and debilitating a panic disorder can be. Our team of expert mental health practitioners offer holistic and integrated care that’s fundamental to successful panic disorder therapy, leading to healing, freedom and peace. 

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Find the compassionate, care-filled support you need to break free from the control of a panic disorder and move towards genuine healing with our welcoming team.

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