Anxiety is not just something you experience before making a big presentation at work or attending a high-profile social event. Some people experience anxiety when they are not at great risk of injury or embarrassment, and it can cause them to change the way they live their lives. When anxiety or panic attacks become frequent, debilitating and life-altering, there could be an underlying mental health disorder.
What Is Panic Disorder?
Panic Disorder is a form of anxiety that manifests in the acute onset of physical and emotional symptoms. An overwhelming sense of anxiety or panic can come on at any time, even when there is no danger. Sometimes Panic Disorder begins with the experience of a trauma. After that, any time you are faced with the potential of repeating that trauma, a panic attack occurs. It is part of your brain’s way of protecting you from a potentially bad experience.
The symptoms of fear or anxiety are a natural way for your body to prepare to fight off danger or flee from a dangerous situation. Anxiety turns to panic and becomes a disorder when it happens frequently and takes control of your life. Avoiding daily activities or social situations because they will spark a panic attack can keep you from fully enjoying your life.
Symptoms of a Panic Disorder
A Panic Disorder is more than just excessive nervousness. It can be very uncomfortable both physically and emotionally. The overwhelming sense of fear tends to extend beyond the current situation and can encompass your entire self-concept.
These are some of the common symptoms of a panic attack:
- Dizziness or fainting
- Chest pain
- Racing heartbeat
- Fear of dying
- Hot flashes
- Shallow breathing
- Fear of going crazy
- Excessive sweating
The emotional ramifications of a panic attack can be related to a trigger incident, like an accident or abuse. A panic attack may be part of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in which you are unable to process the emotions resulting from a trauma in the past. Certain sounds or locations may trigger a panic attack even years after the trauma is over.
A panic attack can also remind you that your life was forever changed by what you experienced. You may not be able to walk in the park or enjoy dinner with friends because of the fear you still feel. Panic Disorder can have limiting affects on the way you live your life and how you think about yourself. Some people are ashamed to admit they suffer from a Panic Disorder, and this further erodes their self-esteem.
Panic Disorder Treatment
There are different treatment options for Panic Disorder. In some cases, the underlying trauma must be understood and addressed. You may not know why you experience panic attacks, but a mental health practitioner can help you figure it out.
Ultimately, Panic Disorder is the result of erroneous thought patterns. You believe that if you go to a certain place or participate in a certain activity, something bad will happen to you, either physically or emotionally. Your brain associates a trigger with an outcome that is often unlikely.
Treatment for Panic Disorder involves changing those thought patterns, so you will not experience the fear and anxiety that keeps you from enjoying your life. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one form of psychotherapy that works to change thoughts and behaviors.
What Causes Panic Disorder
The exact cause of Panic Disorder is unknown. There are a few reasons why your fight or flight response may kick in when it is not necessary. Panic Disorder can run in families, making subsequent generations more susceptible to experiencing extreme anxiety.
Environment also plays a part in developing Panic Disorder. When the circumstances of your life are tenuous and frequently changing without warning, you are more likely to develop Panic Disorder. People who experience trauma, especially in childhood may be more likely to suffer from Panic Disorder as well. Also, if you are in a relationship with someone addicted to alcohol or drugs, or you have an addiction yourself, Panic Disorder can develop.
Panic Disorder Treatment for Women
You can be predisposed to Panic Disorder as a result of physical or sexual abuse. These types of traumas can make you feel weak and vulnerable. One way your brain has to protect you from dangerous situations in the future is to activate your fight or flight response to keep you from trying new things or reaching out to form new relationships.
Healing the emotions of a past trauma is often the place to start in treating Panic Disorder. The women-only environment at Brookhaven Retreat facilitates this type of healing. We understand the unique experience of trauma and how difficult it can be for women to talk about their feelings of anger and vulnerability. Our safe, comfortable residential treatment facility provides the professional and peer support you need to change your life.
If you experience anxiety attacks and think you may have Panic Disorder, contact Brookhaven Retreat today for a professional diagnosis and individualized treatment plan.