What is Panic Disorder?

panic disorderPanic Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder in which the individual experiences sudden and repeated attacks of fear that last for several minutes. The individual will often experience many physical expressions of anxiety during these attacks, such as shortness of breath, a racing heart, tingling or numbness in the arms and legs, feeling weak, difficulty concentrating, trembling, chest pain, nausea, and lightheadedness.

Those with panic disorder have taught themselves to be hypersensitive to “normal” levels of anxiety. Everyone experiences a certain degree of anxiety—it is a normal feeling to experience, as it helps us to be alert and aware of potential danger in our environment. However, a person with panic disorder misconstrues this normal feeling of anxiety for a sign of something terrible that is about to happen, which intensifies the anxiety. Anxiety is expressed throughout the nervous system, as the individual will experience an increased heart and breathing rate, as well as gastrointestinal motility which can lead to diarrhea. The experience of a panic attack becomes a vicious cycle, as the person misperceives the physical sensations.

As anxiety causes a person to breath quicker and less deeply, the shallow breaths lead to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the blood, increasing anxiety. Therefore, helping someone suffering from a panic attack focus on their breathing to regulate it and take slower, deeper breaths is all it takes to decrease the anxiety at that moment.

How does Wellington Retreat treat panic disorder?

The combination of medicine and cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most effective way to treat panic disorder, although psychodynamic psychotherapy has also been found to be effective. Medicine, such as an antidepressant, will be given to allow the individual to feel a relief of symptoms in order to focus on therapy—the most effective way to overcome the disorder. The individual will learn how their thoughts are actually triggering and maintaining a panic attack, which often comes as a surprise. As therapy is attended on a regular basis, the individual will be able to completely regulate their anxiety and prevent future attacks. They will also explore the underlying issues that lead to these attacks and learn how to deal with them in a healthy way. It is important to remember that while therapy takes longer to achieve effects than medicine, it is ultimately the only way to cure the disorder

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