Everything You Need to Know About Diagnosing and Treating Panic Disorder

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Do you ever feel like you’re living in fear…of fear?

If you’re looking for an overview of panic attacks and the best panic disorder treatment, you’ve come to the right place. Learn more about diagnosing the panic disorder, its most common symptoms and your therapy and medication options below.

What is panic disorder?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (fifth edition), or DSM V, is the tool compiled by the American Psychiatric Association and used by medical and mental health professionals to recognize and treat conditions like panic disorder. The manual lists the following criteria to identify a patient with panic disorder:

  • Sudden and intense fear, resulting in a panic attack;
  • Peaks within ten minutes;
  • Recurrent panic attacks;
  • At least one month of anxiety and maladaptive behavior in an effort to avoid another panic attack.

If you’re experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, you might be encountering a panic attack:

  • Tightness of the chest;
  • Trouble breathing;
  • Increased heart rate;
  • Heart palpitations;
  • The sensation of choking or throat swelling;
  • Shaking;
  • Sweating;
  • Cold sweats;
  • Feeling of losing control.

If these symptoms resonate with you, you’ll want to get a professional opinion. Self-diagnosis is dangerous and can lead to improper treatment, as the panic disorder is often confused with heart or thyroid problems. Always consult a mental health or medical professional to get the services you deserve.

Panic attacks are different from anxiety attacks because they involve intense physical manifestations of fear, so much so that a person experiencing a panic attack will fear death as a result. A panic attack will often result in someone going to the hospital seeking emergency care for what appears to be respiratory issues, cardiac arrest or similar medical conditions.

A person cannot be diagnosed with panic disorder if the behavior is better explained by another condition or is the result of substance use.

What treatment do I need for panic disorder?

Treatment for panic disorder is unique for every individual. The intensity of treatment will largely depend on the intensity and frequency of panic attacks and will take into account any comorbid disorders like depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders and agoraphobia.

The first step in treatment is proper diagnosis. Various tests and assessments may be carried out to determine whether the panic disorder is the most appropriate diagnosis. Blood tests, psychological evaluations and a review of family history may be conducted.

The most common panic disorder treatments are psychotherapy (or talk therapy) and medication. Typically, the first line of defense is therapy, followed by medication if needed.

Therapy for panic disorders

Various types of therapy may be employed to combat panic disorder, potentially including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy (PFPP). CBT focuses on interrupting negative thought processes with soothing techniques and replacement behaviors. According to the Archives of General Psychiatry, CBT and medication have been shown effective in treating panic disorder.

 PFPP uses relaxation techniques and psychoanalytic therapy. The American Journal of Psychiatry has found PFPP to be an efficacious form of treatment in reducing panic disorder symptoms.

Medication for panic disorders

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a variety of medications can be prescribed to help in the treatment of the panic disorder. These medications can include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), beta-blockers and benzodiazepines.

SSRIs and SNRIs are both antidepressants, a class of medications that improve mood and increase concentration and sleep. Common antidepressants for panic disorder approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include Prozac, Pexeva, Zoloft and Effexor XR.

Beta-blockers can decrease the severity of panic attacks by reducing blood pressure, thereby inducing a calm state. Benzodiazepines are anti-anxiety drugs. Xanax and Klonopin are both benzodiazepines approved by the FDA.

These medications can cause uncomfortable side effects, so talk with your therapist and physician to find the right medications and dosages for you.

Where can I find treatment for panic disorder?

If you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, get in contact with High Focus Centers today. We can offer treatment to restore a sense of peace in your life. With teletherapy and in-person options, you’ll be set up with an outpatient treatment that fits your schedule. Call 877-716-7090 right now to get started!