Panic Disorder: Overview:

Panic disorder is a condition characterized by sudden, unpredictable panic attacks that may cause feelings of impending death or doom, and heart attack-like symptoms.

Symptoms:

  • Palpitations, an acute shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, sweating
  • A sudden and overwhelming fear of death or losing control, a feeling that the world is unreal, and an intense desire to flee
  • Repeated occurrence of these symptoms, which generally peak after 10 minutes and leave victims with an intense fear of another attack
  • Avoidance of locations where previous episodes occurred, such as enclosed or crowded places where help is not available or escape is difficult

Treatment:

Behavioral:

Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to reduce negative, avoidance-based behavior patterns that actually reinforce the anxiety. Exposure with response prevention therapy, which alleviates anxiety through gradual exposure to situations associated with a patient’s attacks, has also yielded successful results.

Pharmaceutical:

Antidepressants have proven to counteract the onset of panic attacks. If antidepressants prove ineffective, benzodiazepines (such as Xanax) have been prescribed as an alternative. Though these drugs carry a risk of dependence, it is rare in children if the course is correctly monitored.

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