Anxiety disorders are types of mental disorders that are characterized by intense feelings of fear, nervousness or uneasiness usually associated with specific conditions or experiences. Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by a sudden rush of fear, normally accompanied by an increased heart beat rate, shortness of breath, and chocking feeling among other physical symptoms. These symptoms normally occur in response to a situation that is causing tension or during a time of persistent emotional stress. The occurrence of panic attacks may differ, from numerous attacks within a single day to hardly any attacks in a year. It can also occur in other types of anxiety disorders, but this can happen without apparent expected symptoms evident in panic disorder (Berman, 2010, P.2).
Panic disorder has not always been considered exclusively one of the major types of psychiatric conditions. Research for this psychological has always been conducted along different medical and psychological axes until during the 1980, when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)-III came up with the idea of panic disorder. Panic disorders are a serious problem in the United States with at least 2.4 million adults Americans who suffer from it (NIMH, 2002). Panic disorder is considered two times more common in ladies than in men. It normally begins during the late adolescence stage or at the early adult stage. The possibility of developing a panic disorder, its relation with other conditions were investigated in an epidemiological study in Zurich and Switzerland, where by 591 indivi0duals were monitored for 15 years. Based on the study it was discovered that, the possibility of suffering from panic disorder is was associated with a family record of the disorder. It was discovered that panic disorder was hereditary. It is not always that individuals who experience panic attacks end up developing panic disorder. For instance, one may experience a panic attack once and never again in his/her entire life. This paper therefore outlines:
- The causes and risk factors of panic attacks.
- The diagnosis of panic attack.
- The complications that may result if panic disorder is not treated.
Since panic disorder affects many people in the society especially the women, it is significant to understand the possible causes, and the risks if left untreated (Berman, 2010).
Panic disorder is considered to result due to a mixture of biological weakness, ways of thinking and environmental factors such as social stressors. Based on a theory of panic disorder, the body’s normal “alarm system, “the mental and physical systems that enable an individual to respond to threat, tends to be triggered unnecessarily in the absence of a dangerous situation. Scientists have not yet found out exactly what happens or the reasons why some individuals are more vulnerable to the problem than others are. Panic disorders in most cases are genetic. This therefore implies that inheritance plays a role in determining who may get affected. However, there are individuals who have no history of panic disorder but still developmental. Panic attacks may be triggered by drug abuse or abnormalities in an individual’s brain. It can also be caused by severe stress, for instance losing a loved one. Psychologically individuals who develop panic disorders are considered more likely to have a history of what is referred to as anxiety sensitivity. From a social point of view, the possible risk of developing panic disorder includes a higher risk of alcohol abuse and suicidality as compared to other normal individuals. It can also result in significant hindrance in lifestyle. Such people are usually unable to travel by themselves or be in the midst of unfamiliar people (Berman, 2010, P. 21).
Individuals suspected to be suffering from panic disorder may be given a self-test of screening questions. This is done for the purpose of determining the possible symptoms of repeated panic disorders. The patient in this case is normally asked detailed questions about his/her history. Apart from looking for possible panic disorder symptoms and carrying out a mental status examination, the mental health doctors normally explore the possibility that an individual’s symptoms may be as a result of another emotional illness in addition to the diagnosis of a panic disorder. For instance, individuals with an addiction usually suffer from panic disorders, but these symptoms normally occur only when such an individual is intoxicated. The practitioners usually make sure that they conduct a proper physical examination on the patient and any other necessary tests to find out if the patient has any health problem that contributes to the occurrence of a panic disorder (Berman, 2010, P 35).
When not treated, panic disorder tends to occur repeatedly for a very long time. While they normally begin at a young age, the symptoms may arise later in life in some individuals. Complications that may develop as a result of untreated panic disorder may include particular irrational fears, especially the one known as agoraphobia, tendency of avoiding social situations (agoraphobia), depression, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse. Panic disorders also make the sufferers possible victims of heart illnesses. After numerous panic attacks, many individuals develop anticipatory anxiety. This is an anxiety that is normally triggered by having thoughts and fear of having another attack (Campbell, 2002, P. 14).
Since panic disorder affects many people in the society especially the women, it is significant to understand the possible causes, and the risks if left untreated. It is important to understand these factors in order to be able to clearly distinguish it from other possible psychological disorders. This way one will know how to avoid developing panic disorder and also know if he is likely to develop it or not. This can be determined by conducting a family background check concerning the disorder. Although studies have indicated that the cause of panic disorder is a mixture of biological and environmental factors such as family history, brain issues, substance abuse and a major life stress, research professionals are still conducting research for the purpose of identifying the exact cause of the disorder.
Berman, C. W. (2010). 100 questions & answers about panic disorder. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Campbell, N. M. (2002). Panic disorder. Mankato, Minn: Life Matters.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2002). Mental Illness Statistics.