A Description of Panic Disorder

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Andrew McClarren
November 17, 2014
HPA 057, Section 001
Panic Disorder Essay

Panic Disorder is classified as a heightened version of anxiety. With this disorder, a person will have severe episodes in which they feel a sense of being threatened and lose control of their thoughts and extreme bodily responses take over. An attack could occur at any time without a trigger and without warning. In most cases, the situation the person experiencing the attack is in does not in any way call for a response so intense. Due to lack of warning and fear of reoccurrence, panic disorder often takes over the person’s life and effects everyday activities (Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center).

This disorder affects roughly six million Americans each year with women having a higher likelihood of experiencing attacks than men. In most cases, people experiencing panic attacks will not seek any form of medical intervention or turn to others for support considering the stigma that comes with any mental disorder. It’s important for these individuals to know that the attacks they are experiencing are legitimate issues that can be treated by medication and other treatment (Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia). Like many mental diseases and disorders, panic disorder usually occurs alongside another disorder such as depression or anxiety and in extreme cases may be linked to things such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other traumas from earlier life. Because this disorder is often associated with issues from prior life experiences, attacks usually happen to young adults but may still occur in children and elderly individuals.

In a number of situations, the panic attacks may be further diagnosed as Agoraphobia. This happens because the individuals feel an extreme sense of fear when they are exposed to the same or similar situations they were in beforehand in which they had once experienced an attack. Due to the fear and anxiety, these people often will avoid the situations altogether in anticipation that the same sort of attack will occur. This is exactly what Agoraphobia is defined as, intentionally avoiding places or situations due to fear of being trapped or embarrassed because of another attack. Agoraphobia, like all serious phobias, is difficult to treat because in order to begin to overcome the fear, it is necessary to face the situation head on, which is the exact opposite of an Agoraphobic’s intensions. In the most severe cases, Agoraphobics will refuse to leave the house due to lack of support or overwhelming fear (Agoraphobia).

Treatment for mild cases of panic disorder as well as for Agoraphobia depends on the severity of the case. Both can be addressed through medications and therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common and effective form of therapy in which the anxiety will be faced in time given the patient is willing, and various methods of relaxation to prevent attacks as well as to ease oneself out of an episode. These skills can help reduce the symptoms and build the individuals’ confidence that they can maintain the disorder. For Agoraphobics, therapists/counselors are aware of the issues associated with leaving home and a number are willing to accommodate the patient by meeting with them at their home or in an area in which the individual feels safe. If travelling to the person’s home is not an option, they may offer to make phone calls, email back and forth or do video calls. Professionals understand the disorder and will often try to best accommodate someone with the phobia to the greatest of their ability. As far as medications go, sedatives such as antidepressants and antianxiety drugs are often administered. Medications such as Paxil and Prozac are given to treat depression and Xanax and Klonopin are for the treatment of anxiety just to name a few of the more well-known drugs. Though anxiety and depression are not exactly what panic disorder is caused by, these factors often worsen the symptoms so...
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