What is Panic Disorder?
Panic disorder manifests through repeated attacks of intense and unexplainable fear and a persistent feeling that something terrible will happen when you less expect it. It is not fully known what the main cause of this condition is, but scientists think that this frightening ailment has environmental as well as genetic roots as it’s occurrence seems to be strongly influenced by the patient’s family history.
The symptoms of panic disorder appear generally during early adulthood and they are often mistaken for regular feelings of anxiety and fear by teenagers. Although the intensity of these distressing feelings and worries is higher in people suffering from pathological forms of panic, understanding what is anxiety and getting familiar with the most effective self-help methods may be useful for coping with the manifestations and effects of panic disorder.
Are all forms of anxiety considered panic disorders?
The answer is no, although there are lots of similarities between regular anxiety episodes and pathological panic symptoms. Both of these conditions may manifest through hot flashes, chills, sweating, trembling, shaking, palpitations, shortness of breath and fear of losing control. Numbness, nausea, dizziness, chest pain and a feeling of detachment may also be present in people who suffer from panic and anxiety attacks. However, not everyone who experiences these manifestations in isolated episodes will develop the mental disorder defined through exaggerated and irrational fear and worries. People diagnosed with panic disorder have an extremely tough time controlling their negative thoughts and coping with the overwhelming sensations that they can’t do anything about or to prevent it.
Panic attacks in these cases begin suddenly and last for 10-20 minutes, although the patient may still feel scared and terrified hours after the crisis. This happens because most sufferers dealing with this ailment are convinced they are going to go crazy or die from a heart attack during a panic episode and they live with the permanent fear that the next crisis will be fatal.
While regular anxiety is experienced by almost everyone at a certain moment in their lifetime, panic disorder is only present in 3.5% of the total population. Long-lasting and hard to treat without the patient’s active participation and complete involvement, this mental ailment may require more than medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions to go away.
Self-Help Strategies for Coping with Panic Disorder
Medical treatments are without any doubt essential in coping with the symptoms of this health condition, but what is the success rate of treatment in cases where the patient refuses to cooperate and to apply self-help techniques between therapy sessions?
The more conscious a person is about the available self-help strategies, the greater are his chances of reducing the overall anxiety feeling and achieving a better control over the symptoms accompanying recurring panic attacks.
So here are the most common and easiest to apply techniques for overcoming pathological panic:
- Breathing exercises – anxious people tend to breathe more rapidly than normal and this alters the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide levels inside their bodies, resulting in accelerated heart beats, dizziness, muscle aches and tension as well as other similar physical reactions. By controlling their breathing depth and rhythm, patients with anxiety disorders can keep their symptoms under control.
- Relaxation techniques – massage and aromatherapy, Yoga, Pilates or other similar activities may be very helpful in relieving stress and reducing anxiety levels between cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions.
- Physical activities – vigorous physical exercise performed for at least 30 minutes a day are strongly recommended to panic disorder sufferers because these exercise sessions can restore the balance between body and mind, strengthen the immune system and contribute to a positive attitude towards problems in general.
Together with a healthy diet and enough hours of rest daily, these techniques can have a strong impact on the symptoms’ frequency and severity and on the patient’s overall evolution during the treatment for panic disorder.