Understanding panic disorder


Lord of Penmai
Jul 5, 2011
Understanding panic disorder

One of the most debated symptoms of anxiety disorder, panic attacks are a serious mental health problem.

Unprovoked, totally sudden and unexpected, panic attacks are triggered by a fear of disaster or losing control. Over time, if left unchecked, these panic attacks can lead to a panic disorder, a more serious disorder that may affect life and work. Today with expert inputs from Dr. Pulkit Sharma - Clinical Psychologist and Psychoanalytical Therapist, VIMHANS - let's have a close look at the symptoms and causes behind panic disorders.

Mentioned below are the top 5 symptoms of panic disorder:

-Bodily symptoms of panic disorder can be palpitations, difficulty in breathing, chest pain, dizziness and nausea along with a feeling of numbness.

-Psychological symptoms of panic disorder may include, anxiety around losing control, fear of death, experience of terror and low confidence.

-Relational symptoms of panic disorder may include, fear of being alone, anxiety that something wrong may happen to the self or the loved person and becoming child-like in relationships.

-Behavioral symptoms of panic disorder may include avoidance of perceived threat, a wish to escape from the undesirable situation, irritability and aggression and crying spells.

-Perceptual symptoms of panic disorder may include, vivid daydreams, illusions and hallucinations and flashbacks.

Now, let us have a look at the top 5 causes of panic disorder

Disturbed Attachment: Many people with panic disorder have had disturbed early attachments. Due to this they suffer from intense separation anxiety. They fear that there would be no one available during a crisis and it will be catastrophic. This gives rise to feelings of anxiety and panic.

Neurotransmitter imbalance: Some experts feel that biological factors play an important role in etiology of this condition. Our brain contains several neurotransmitters, which help in complex communication. An imbalance in some neurotransmitters has been observed in cases of panic disorder. The neurotransmitters that play a crucial role include- GABA, norepinephrine and serotonin.

Cognitive factors: People suffering from panic disorder have a biased way of seeing the reality as a result of which they exaggerate the threat. They also have low self-esteem due to which they feel that they may not be able to defend themselves in adverse circumstances. Some start avoiding feared situation and this paradoxically intensifies the perceived threat.

Genetic causes: Correlational researches point towards the possibility that genetic factors also have a role to play. However, the exact mechanism through which genetic factors cause panic disorder is not yet known. The prevalence is high in identical twins and first-degree relatives of a person with panic disorder.

Evolutionary reasons: Panic disorder may have evolutionary roots. As a result of our evolutionary conditioning, we all have an inner alarm reaction during perceived threat. Some individuals continue to fear the objects and situations, which our forefathers did, leading to feelings of panic.

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