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Dr. Vijayakumar D.R MBBS, DPM, DNB (NIMHANS), CCST (UK)
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Panic Disorder

Panic disorder occurs in 1-3 % of the population. It is twice as more common in women as men. It can exist with other psychiatry disorders.

A. What are symptoms of panic attacks?

There are definite criteria for diagnosing panic disorder.

Some of the symptoms are

  1. Palpitations ( pounding heart)
  2. Sweating , tremors
  3. Shortness of breadth
  4. Feeling of choking
  5. Nausea, abdominal distress
  6. Light head, dizzy
  7. Fear that you are losing control
  8. Fear that you might die
  9. Tingling sensation in the limbs
  10. Anticipating another  attack

Each attack lasts for a few minutes and patient is worried that he might get another attack again.  Above symptoms come in episodes with patient avoiding situations which might trigger an episode and restricting their lifestyle.

Many patients fear that they may die and go to hospitals repeatedly.


B. Causes of panic attacks?

Panic disorder is caused by a number of factors

  1. Certain chemicals can trigger off panic attacks.
  2. Genetics: Panic disorder can run in families.
  3. Psychological reasons:   Patients with panic disorder tend to catastrophise normal body symptoms there by leading the body to trigger of chemicals which cause symptoms of panic attacks.       
  4. Panic attack like symptoms can also occur with physical problems like hyperthyroidism.
  5. Symptoms can also occur as side effects to medications taken for other conditions.

C. What is the treatment for Panic disorder?

Panic disorder can be treated with medications and Cognitive Behaviour therapy

  1. Medications are very effective in treating symptoms of Panic disorder. Numerous medications like SSRI, benzodiazepine and older antidepressants can be used to treat panic disorder.
  2. Cognitive Behaviour is very effective in treating panic disorder. It requires the patient to be motivated and brave to work through the problem. It is used along with medications and at times alone to treat panic disorder.

The response to medication and CBT is good for panic disorder and patients do well after treatment. It is advisable to seek treatment earlier rather than later.