Al Soor Specialist Clinic

Panic Disorder – Intermittent Anxiety Attacks

Panic Disorder is a common mental health condition characterized by recurrent, unexpected panic attacks.

These episodes can be overwhelming and debilitating, often leading individuals to fear future attacks and alter their behaviour to avoid triggering them.

  1. Definition and Background:
  • Panic Disorder falls under the umbrella of anxiety disorders, affecting approximately 2-3% of adults.
  • It typically manifests in late adolescence or early adulthood, although it can develop at any age.
  • The core feature of Panic Disorder is the occurrence of recurrent panic attacks, which are sudden and intense periods of fear or discomfort.
  1. Symptoms of Panic Attacks:
  • Panic attacks often peak within minutes and include a combination of physical and psychological symptoms.
  • Physical symptoms may include:
    • Heart palpitations or accelerated heart rate
    • Sweating
    • Trembling or shaking
    • Shortness of breath or feelings of suffocation
    • Chest pain or discomfort
    • Nausea or abdominal distress
    • Dizziness or light-headedness
    • Chills or heat sensations
  • Psychological symptoms may include:
    • Feelings of impending doom or a sense of losing control
    • Fear of dying
    • Derealization or depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself or surroundings)
    • Numbness or tingling sensations
    • Choking sensations
  1. Diagnostic Criteria for Panic Disorder:
  • According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the diagnostic criteria for Panic Disorder include:
    • Recurrent unexpected panic attacks.
    • At least one of the attacks has been followed by one month (or more) of one or both of the following:
      • Persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences.
      • Significant maladaptive change in behaviour related to the attacks (e.g., avoidance of situations).
  1. Patterns and Presentations:
  • Panic Disorder can present in various patterns, including:
    • With or without agoraphobia: Agoraphobia is often comorbid with Panic Disorder and involves a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or help might not be available.
    • Nocturnal Panic Attacks: Some individuals experience panic attacks predominantly during sleep, waking up in a state of intense fear.
    • Situationally Bound Panic Attacks: Panic attacks may be triggered by specific situations or phobias, such as flying, driving, or being in crowded places.
    • Situationally Predisposed Panic Attacks: While panic attacks may occur in certain situations, they are not exclusively linked to those situations.
  1. Impact on Daily Life:
  • Panic Disorder can significantly impact various aspects of an individual’s life, including:
    • Occupational functioning: Fear of having panic attacks at work can lead to reduced productivity or avoidance of work-related activities.
    • Social relationships: Avoidance of social situations or gatherings can strain interpersonal relationships and lead to feelings of isolation.
    • Physical health: Chronic stress and anxiety associated with Panic Disorder may contribute to physical health problems such as cardiovascular issues or gastrointestinal disorders.
    • Quality of life: Constant worry about panic attacks and their consequences can diminish overall quality of life and wellbeing.
  1. Co-occurring Conditions:
  • Panic Disorder often coexists with other mental health conditions, such as:
    • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
    • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
    • Specific Phobias
    • Substance Use Disorders
  • Addressing these comorbid conditions is essential for comprehensive treatment and symptom management.
  1. Treatment Approaches:
  • Psychotherapy: Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective psychotherapeutic approach for Panic Disorder. It helps individuals understand and challenge their thoughts and behaviours related to panic attacks.
  • Medication: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), are commonly used to reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Strategies such as stress management techniques, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and avoiding caffeine or other stimulants can complement other treatment modalities.
  1. Prognosis and Recovery:
  • With appropriate treatment and support, many individuals with Panic Disorder experience significant improvement in their symptoms and quality of life.
  • Early intervention and a multidisciplinary approach to treatment are key factors in achieving favourable outcomes.
  • While Panic Disorder may be a chronic condition for some individuals, learning to manage symptoms effectively can lead to long-term recovery and resilience.
  1. Conclusion:
  • Panic Disorder is a debilitating mental health condition characterized by recurrent, unexpected panic attacks.
  • Understanding the symptoms and presentations of Panic Disorder is crucial for early identification and intervention.
  • Through a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle modifications, individuals with Panic Disorder can achieve symptom relief and improve their overall wellbeing.

In summary, Panic Disorder is a complex and challenging condition, but with the right support and treatment, individuals can learn to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.