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What are Panic Attacks and Anxiety Disorders by Melissa Ziegler

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Anxiety and Panic Disorders have been on the rise in the past decade. Many people who suffer from these disorders often aren’t aware of the effects on their life or have no knowledge that could have the disorder. Anxiety and panic disorders are also the most common disorders; more than 18 percent of adults suffer from anxiety alone in the U.S. And panic disorders affect about 2.4 million people in the U.S. as well. Panic and anxiety are often confused with one another and while they are similar, their symptoms and long-term risks are different.

The first step to knowing about an anxiety disorder is to look at the triggers. Depression, anxiety, panic, and traumatic experiences could all be the root of any anxiety disorder. Consistent, irrational worrying and fear that interferes with one’s normal functioning is a big indicator of suffering from an anxiety disorder as well. Other indicators could be as follows: fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, personality changes such as becoming less social, and irritability. Not everyone with anxiety disorders suffers from all of these symptoms but to be considered to have G.A.D. (generalized anxiety disorder); a person would be prone to at least three of the symptoms.

A misconception about anxiety disorder is that it is a single field of disorders. Anxiety disorders can be broken down into many sub-fields such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Phobias, Generalized Anxiety disorder, Performance Anxiety, Social Anxiety Disorder, and more complicated disorders like Trichotillomania (impulse-control behavior of pulling one’s hair). Where the lines between having a panic or anxiety attack blurs is directly related to the stressor or trigger of the attack. Anxiety attacks often don’t last long and involve the person feeling very fearful or apprehensive. Symptoms could range from a racing heart or shortness of breath. Once the stressor or trigger is absent, so is the anxiety attack.

Panic disorder is similar trigger wise with anxiety disorder. The difference is having no indication of a panic attack occurring. Anyone could have one to two panic attacks in their lifetime, even during sleep. However having multiple, recurrent attacks is a clear sign of having a panic disorder. Having a sudden feeling of terror without any previous warning is an indicator of a panic attack; much like having intense fear is associated with having an anxiety attack. It’s easy to confuse the two but panic attacks leave different symptoms behind such as sweating, chills, hot flashes, headache, dizziness, trouble swallowing and/ or tightness of the throat, chest pain, hyperventilation, trembling, sense of impending doom, nausea, and faintness. The attacks usually last no longer than 10 minutes, unlike anxiety attacks which could last minutes less. Panic attacks or disorders could lead someone to avoid any triggering situations altogether. It could include any environment like a classroom or simply socializing with strangers. It could lead to the person not wanting to leave their home or any safe place.

Panic and anxiety disorders can be resolved with multiple solutions, medication, and therapy being the most popular solutions. Therapies can range from psychotherapy to hypnotic therapy. Therapists are often the ones to prescribe medications alongside anyone’s general physician or doctor. Most common medications like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Cymbalta, etc., are used universally for many mental disorders. Anxiety medication is most commonly associated with SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) because of the effectiveness shown by many recipients. Warnings are also attached to these medications with side effects. Depending on the medication, side effects can vary but it is highly recommended that continuous usage of the medication is adhered to or symptoms of the disorder or withdrawal symptoms could occur.

If someone doesn’t want to resort to medication, many often turn to therapy. Psychotherapy is one of the therapies used with people who have anxiety and panic disorders. These therapists help the patient understand what contributors could be feeding their disorder and help further understanding and identification of said contributors become recognizable. They also help patients regain control and confidence in their affected lifestyles. Different types of therapy could be Interpersonal Therapy where the therapy is focused on the behaviors and interactions the patient has socially or Psychodynamic Therapy where the patient is having unresolved, unconscious emotional conflicts and learning to understand those conflicts throughout therapy.

Anxiety and panic disorders are common but often misunderstood. Anyone could suffer from panic attacks and most time it is normal to feel anxiety in some situations. It is also recommended that anyone will first consult their overseeing doctor before diagnosing themselves. Support and openness between family and friends can also help lessen the stress of having an anxiety or panic disorder is important in any sufferer’s situation.



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“Drug Options for Treating Depression and Anxiety Disorders.” WebMD. WebMD, 17 Feb. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

Frank, Cathy, M.d., Director, Outpatient Behavioral Health Services, and Henry Ford Hospital. “What Is The Difference Between A Panic Attack And An Anxiety Attack?” ABC News. ABC News Network, 16 Apr. 2008. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

“Panic Attack Symptoms: Shortness of Breath, Racing Heart, & More.” WebMD. WebMD, 26 Apr. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

“Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder.” Symptoms. Mayo Clinic, 31 May 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

“Types of Psychotherapy for Mental Illnesses.” WebMD. WebMD, 03 Jan. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.


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