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What are Panic Disorders?

written by: Nicky LaMarco • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 1/20/2011

If you are wondering what are panic disorders you've come to the right place. This article provides an insight into these very real medical disorders.

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    Panic disorders vary from mild to severe and usually show signs during adolescence or early adulthood. However, children can suffer from panic disorders as well, but they may not have the tools to communicate what is happening to them so they go undetected. Panic disorders often stem from a traumatic or stressful experience such as a death in the family, an injury, moving house, going to college, and other potentially life-changing events. It is possible that panic disorders run in families as well.

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) panic disorder affects about six million American adults and is twice as common in women as men.

    Let's delve further into the question. "What are panic disorders?"

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    What are Panic Disorders? How Panic Disorders Evolve

    A panic disorder is an anxiety disorder and is characterised by panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden onset of varying symptoms, which may include racing heart, sweating, shaking, lightheadedness, dizziness, trembling, blurred vision, shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, chest pain, nausea, stomach pain, chills, hot flashes, and a feeling of impending doom like the sufferer is having a heart attack or is going to die. While some people may experience one panic attack and never have another, a person with a panic disorder may have several.

    A panic attack can strike at any time - they can even happen whilst someone is asleep. And once an individual has had their first attack they tend to be very concerned about when the next one will come. This worry is known as anticipatory anxiety. Now the sufferer is having anxiety about the next panic attack. That alone can bring about another panic attack. Think of it like this. As you go about your day you feel certain that you will be struck by paralysis. It won't kill you, but it will be the most frightening thing you have ever experienced. It would be safe to say you would be scared, right? This is how one with panic disorder feels. It's a cycle of anticipatory anxiety, worry and panic attacks.

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    What are Panic Disorders? Types of Panic Disorders

    There are two types of panic disorders. One is the general panic disorder in which the sufferer is often anxious about when the next panic attack will come and has panic attacks often. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you have spent a month or more in fear of having another panic attack and have had four or more panic attacks you have panic disorder. If this goes untreated it will get worse and turn into the second type of panic disorder: panic disorder with Agoraphobia.

    So how does this happen? To avoid another panic attack, the person will stay away from the places where they experienced an attack. For example, if they suffered a panic attack on a bus then they will avoid buses. However, without treatment, they will have another panic attack, and that could happen anywhere. Next time it might be at the supermarket. Then they avoid supermarkets. This goes on until the person with untreated panic disorder is eventually house ridden. They feel that the only safe place is their home. Everywhere they go they have panic attacks, and the fear of having another one is so severe that they will avoid going anywhere. Their day-to-day living has become extremely restricted. This is where the panic disorder turns into panic disorder with Agoraphobia.

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    Resources

    Panic Disorder published in the National Institute of Mental Health

    http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/panic-disorder.shtml

    What is Panic Disorder published in HealthyPlace

    http://www.healthyplace.com/anxiety-panic/main/what-is-panic-disorder/menu-id-69/

    Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder published by The Mayo Clinic

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/panic-attacks/DS00338