Information Source on Panic Anxiety Disorder

Mental health problems are health conditions involving changes in thinking, mood, and/or behavior, and they are associated with distress or impaired functioning. When they are more severe, they are called mental illnesses. These include anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depressive and other mood disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and others. When these occur in children under 18, they are referred to as serious emotional disturbances or SEDs.

Panic disorder affects about 2-1/2 million adult Americans and is at least twice as common in women vs men. A panic attack is a feeling of sudden terror and may also feel physical symptoms that often occurs with a pounding heart, sweating, nausea, chest pain or smothering sensations and feelings of faintness or dizziness. Panic disorder frequently occurs in addition to other serious conditions like depression, drug abuse, or alcoholism.

If left untreated, it may lead to a pattern of avoidance of places or situations where panic attacks have occurred. In about a third of cases, the threat of a panic attack becomes so overwhelming that a person may become isolated or housebound which is a condition known as agoraphobia. Panic disorder is one of the most treatable of the anxiety disorders through medications or psychotherapy. Early treatment of panic disorder can help prevent agoraphobia.

Panic attacks can happen anytime, anywhere and without warning. You may live in fear of another attack and may avoid places where you have had an attack. For some people, fear takes over their lives and they cannot leave their homes.

Panic disorder is more common in women than men. It usually starts when people are young adults. Sometimes it starts when a person is under a lot of stress. Most people get better with treatment. Therapy can show you how to recognize and change your thinking patterns before they lead to panic. Medicines can also help.

Panic Disorder / Panic Attack

Panic disorder is diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous, seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack. Panic attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even during sleep.

A panic attack is defined as the abrupt onset of intense fear that reaches a peak within a few minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms:

Since many of the symptoms of panic anxiety disorder mimic those of illnesses such as heart disease, thyroid problems, and breathing disorders, people with panic disorder often make many visits to emergency rooms or doctors' offices, convinced they have a life-threatening illness. It often takes months or years and a great deal of frustration before receiving the correct diagnosis. Many people suffering from panic attacks don't know they have a real and treatable disorder.

Panic anxiety disorder typically develops in early adulthood. It is three times more common in women than in men. Many people don't know that their disorder is real and highly responsive to treatment. Some are afraid or embarrassed to tell anyone, including their doctors and loved ones, about what they experience for fear of being considered a hypochondriac. Instead they suffer in silence, distancing themselves from friends, family, and others who could be helpful or supportive.

The deficit disorder often occurs with other mental and physical disorders, including other anxiety disorders, depression, fear phobias, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, or substance abuse. This may complicate of getting a correct diagnosis.

Agoraphobia - Some people stop going into situations or places in which they've previously had a panic attack in anticipation of it happening again. These people have agoraphobia, and they typically avoid public places where they feel immediate escape might be difficult, such as shopping malls, public transportation, or large sports arenas.

Their world may become smaller as they are constantly on guard, waiting for the next "panic anxiety attack" to set-in. Some people develop a fixed route or territory, and it may become impossible for them to travel beyond their safety zones without suffering severe anxiety. About 1 in 3 people with Panic Anxiety Disorder also develops agoraphobia.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder - GAD

GAD affects about 4 million adult Americans and twice as many women as men. GAD is more than day-to-day anxiety. It fills an individual with an overwhelming sense of worry and tension. A person with GAD might always expect disaster to occur or worry a lot about health, money, family, or work. These worries may bring physical symptoms, especially fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, trouble swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, and hot flashes.

People with GAD may feel light headed,out of breath, or nauseous, or might need to go to the bathroom often. When people have mild GAD, they may be able to function normally in social settings or on the job. If GAD is severe, however, it can be very debilitating. GAD is commonly treated with medications.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social phobia affects about 5.3 million adult Americans. Women and men are equally likely to develop social phobia, which is characterized by an intense feeling of anxiety and dread about social situations. These individuals suffer a persistent fear of being watched and judged by others and being humiliated or embarrassed by their own actions.

Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation — fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, eating, drinking, or writing in front of others—or a person may experience symptoms any time they are around people. It may even keep people from going to work or school on some days, as physical symptoms such as blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty talking often accompany the intense anxiety. Social phobia can be treated successfully with medications or psychotherapy.

Depressive disorders affect about 20-million U.S. adults who experience a depressive illness involves the body, mood, and thoughts. Depression affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way he or she feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. People with a depressive illness cannot just "pull themselves together" and get better. Without treatment the depression symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even many years.

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