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While panic attacks are not life-threatening and can not truly cause physical damage, they can be incredibly traumatic to experience. Even someone who experiences panic attacks regularly and knows they will pass may feel helpless or that their life is in danger still when the attacks are happening.

Panic disorder may not be physically dangerous, but it can be incredibly disruptive to a person’s life and cause mental distress. Fearing when their next attack may occur, a person with panic disorder may avoid going out to unfamiliar areas or social gatherings. If you or a loved one are suffering from chronic panic attacks, it is important to realize that treatment options are available.

What are the Symptoms of Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is defined by chronic, somewhat frequent panic attacks. Depending on the severity of the condition, a person may experience panic attacks regularly or just on occasion. Most people may experience one or two panic attacks throughout their entire life, but a person with a panic disorder will live in constant worry about their next upcoming attack.

Panic attacks can affect people differently and for different amounts of time, although most last for a few minutes. During a panic attack, a person may experience sweating, shaking, and chills. It is common for panic attacks to cause some level of physical discomfort or pain, usually in the head, chest, or abdomen. The pain often leads people to feel that they may be experiencing a life-threatening condition.

In some cases, the trauma of a panic attack can leave a person feeling detached from reality or that they are in an “out-of-body” experience. Some people may experience the inability to speak or communicate during a panic attack and numbness over their entire body.

One of the most significant symptoms of panic disorder is the fear of the next attack. The fear of having a panic attack while driving or in a crowd of people can severely limit how a person suffering from panic disorder goes about their daily activities.

What Causes Panic Disorder?

The causes of panic disorder or panic attacks are not fully understood. Like most mental health conditions and anxiety disorders, it is most likely caused by various biological, environmental, and psychological factors. A person who suffers from other anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety, may be more likely to experience chronic panic attacks as a result.

While panic attacks can be caused by significant life events or circumstances that can cause immense stress, most people will not be concerned about panic attacks after these situations have passed. Panic disorder, on the other hand, will cause episodes of fear and panic even in the absence of major stress events.

Panic disorder is more likely to occur in women than men, and symptoms will usually first present themselves in adolescence or early adulthood. However, anyone can experience a panic attack at any time. Even at older ages, a sudden traumatic event can cause the development of a panic disorder.

Research shows that panic attacks could be the body’s natural response to imminent danger. When a person’s life may be put in peril, the body naturally reacts to it as a defense mechanism. Possibly, panic disorder is caused by a disconnect in which the body reacts as if it is in danger even when no threat is present.

Can Panic Disorder be Cured?

While there is no cure for panic disorder, it is considered to be a treatable condition. Medications may be used to treat the symptoms associated with panic disorder. There is no single drug approved for the exclusive treatment of panic attacks. However, a variety of different medications may be used to help lessen symptoms associated with the disorder.

It may take time to find the best medication that will work for each individual. Certain antidepressants, specifically SSRIs, can be helpful in limiting the severity of panic attacks. Drugs such as sertraline and fluoxetine may be the first things that are prescribed to help treat panic attacks.

If the antidepressants are found ineffective, other medications may be prescribed. SNRIs, which are a different class of antidepressant, and anti-anxiety medication such as benzodiazepine can also be useful treatment options.

Although medication can help reduce the symptoms associated with panic disorder, it should not be considered to be a cure. Most medications are designed to be taken in short-term use and as one aspect of a broader treatment plan.

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