Understanding Panic Disorder Symptoms

By: Chris St. Pierre

Panic disorder sufferers regularly experience panic attacks, or a sudden and intense feeling of fear. Panic attacks typically last for 1 to ten minutes and are experienced by millions of people every year.
Dr. Gerald Klerman, author of "Panic Anxiety and Its Treatments", explains that there are several conditions that must be met in order for a person to be diagnosed with panic disorder, as stated in DSM-III-R (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). These diagnostic conditions involve the following:
First, one or more of the panic attacks must have occurred when the person was exposed to a situation that doesn't typically cause anxiety. This could be anything from going to the grocery store, watching a movie they've already seen, or washing the dishes. The panic attack must also not be triggered by a situation where the person was the center of attention, such as a public speaking event, a birthday party, or other situation where they were the focus of a crowd.
The next criterion is about the frequency of the attacks. Four panic attacks should have occurred within a four-week timeframe. The person should have also experienced a constant fear or symptoms of fear after an attack. Symptoms may include paranoia, restlessness and difficulty sleeping.
Third, during a panic attack the person must also have experienced at least four of the following symptoms: trembling or shaking; sweating; shortness of breath; dizziness; depersonalization; numbness or tingling; hot flashes; fear of dying; chest pain or discomfort; accelerated heart rate; nausea; choking; and fear of going crazy.
The person should also experienced four of the symptoms above in growing intensity within 10 minutes after the first symptom surfaced. This causes many sufferers to feel unbalanced and confused.
The last criterion seeks to clarify the underlying cause of the panic attacks. If the attack was triggered by caffeine, amphetamines or hyper-thyroidism, the attack cannot be classified as the effect of panic disorder. Panic attacks can also be caused by stimulant-drugs or other unattended medical condition, and not necessarily by panic disorder.
Panic disorder is more than likely to be disruptive to a person's social life, work and relationships. No one has to deal with panic disorders for a long time as there are several options available for treating panic disorders.
The effectiveness of treatment options will vary on a case to case basis. Medical intervention is only needed in a few, extreme cases. Typical treatments may involve a change in lifestyle or behavior, formulating and following a nutritional plan, getting enough sleep and rest, and learning healthy ways to handle stress.

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