During a panic attack, a person experiences sudden extreme terror and a strong bodily response. Anyone can have a panic attack in a highly stressful situation, but people with a panic disorder typically have them more often, and between panic attacks experience fear and anxiety about when the next one will occur. Panic disorder is a class of anxiety disorder that often causes sufferers to withdraw from normal activities in an attempt to avoid places or situations in which a panic attack has previously occurred or out of fear of having a panic attack in a setting where it could be embarrassing or dangerous.
A panic attack is characterized by a feeling of intense terror and may also include symptoms such as racing heart, difficulty breathing, sweating, dizziness, and blurred vision. The key symptom of panic disorder is the constant fear of having another panic attack in the future and the avoidance of places or situations due to this fear.
Like other anxiety disorders, the exact cause of panic disorder is not known and causes may vary between individuals. Researchers believe that there are many factors that can contribute to the development of a panic disorder, including family history and heredity, brain abnormalities, substance abuse, and extreme stress.
To diagnose panic disorder, mental health professionals use a specialized interview that assesses the frequency of panic attacks, duration of symptoms, and anxiety related to the attacks.
It is important to note that not everyone that has a panic attack has a panic disorder, many people will experience an occasional panic attack without hindrance to their daily lives. Panic attacks only become a disorder when the fear of the next panic attack begins to interfere with everyday life.
There are several treatments available for panic disorder, including medication, therapy, relaxation techniques, and lifestyle changes. Dr. Kamal works with patients to develop a treatment plan that suits their individual lifestyle and needs.
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