What You Need to Know About Panic Disorder and Phobias
Symptoms of Panic Disorder
Most panic attacks last only a few minutes, but they occasionally go on for ten minutes, and, in rare cases, have been known to last for as long as an hour. They can occur at any time, even during sleep.
Common symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Pounding heart
- Chest pains
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Shaking or trembling
- Fear of dying
- Feelings of unreality
- Numbness or tingling
- A feeling of going out of control or going crazy.
Formal Diagnosis for Panic Disorder
To be diagnosed with panic disorder, a person must experience either four attacks within four weeks, or one or more attacks followed by at least a month of persistent fear of having another attack. A minimum of four of the symptoms listed previously must occur during at least one of the attacks.
Treatment for Panic Disorder
Panic attacks are treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and medications such as high-potency anti-anxiety drugs like alprazolam. Several classes of antidepressants (such as paroxetine, one of the newer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs) and the older tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are considered "gold standards" for treating panic disorder. Sometimes, a combination of therapy and medication is the most effective approach to helping people manage their symptoms. Proper treatment helps 70 to 90 percent of people with panic disorder, usually within six to eight weeks.
Most of us steer clear of certain hazardous things. Phobias, however, are irrational fears that lead people to completely avoid specific things or situations that trigger intense anxiety. Phobias occur in several forms. For example, agoraphobia is the fear of being in any situation that might trigger a panic attack and from which escape might be difficult. Social phobia is a fear of being extremely embarrassed in front of other people. The most common social phobia is fear of public speaking.