A panic disorder is characterized by panic attacks that are sudden episodes of overwhelming dread and anxiety that trigger severe physical reactions, despite there being no imminent danger. It can feel like losing control or having a heart attack. Many people may experience a panic attack in their lifetime — especially during stressful or emotionally charged situations. But for some people panic attacks occur so frequently that the fear of experiencing them may result in a panic disorder.
Panic disorder develops when a person is consistently worried about having additional panic attacks, or changes their behavior in an attempt to not experience them. While a panic attack may only last for a short while the episode can be extremely distressing. Someone suffering from panic disorder may avoid situations, places, or people that trigger panic attacks, severely disrupting their quality of life.
Common Signs of Panic Attacks
Panic attacks generally begin without any warning. But for individuals who have recurrent panic attacks, at least four of the following symptoms often show up with no advanced notice:
- Feeling of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Sense of impending doom
- Fear of losing control or dying
- Shortness of breath
- Trembling or shaking
- Abdominal cramping
- Sensations of chilling or heat
Causes of Panic Disorder
The average age of onset for panic disorder in the United States is between 20 and 24 year, though children and older adults may also experience panic attacks. It’s not clear what causes panic attacks or panic disorder to develop. There is some evidence that certain factors may play a role:
- A family history of mental health disorders
- Changes to brain function
- Stress from major life events, such as a death in the family or sudden job loss
- A general temperament that is generally more negative or sensitive to stress
Panic attacks develop suddenly and may be in response to certain stressful situations. There is some evidence to suggest that the body’s fight-or-flight response is involved in panic attacks, but it is still not known why they occur when there is no obvious danger present.
Risk Factors for Panic Disorders
While it is not known what causes panic disorder, certain risk factors can lead to its onset:
- History of childhood physical or sexual abuse
- Traumatic events, such as a serious accident or physical assault
- Excessive caffeine intake
- Major life changes (e.g. divorce or having a baby)
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately 2-3% of Americans experience panic disorder in a given year, and panic attacks are more than twice as common in women than in men.
- An estimated 4.7% of U.S. adults experience panic disorder at some time in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
- NIMH also puts the past-year prevalence of panic disorder among adults at 3.8% for women as opposed to just 1.6% for men.
- Nearly half of U.S. adults showed a serious degree of impairment for panic disorder (44.8%), compared to 29.5% with moderate impairment and 25.7% with mild impairment.
Why Seek Panic Disorder Treatment
If you are worried about when your next panic attack might occur, you may actively avoid places, situations, or behaviors that you associate with panic attacks. That element of panic disorder can lead to agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder in which an individual feels trapped, helpless, or embarrassed by particular settings.
Without receiving professional treatment, you may be putting yourself at risk for a variety of negative outcomes, including:
- Social isolation
- Physical health problems
- Abuse of alcohol or other drugs
- Financial distress
- Damaged personal relationships
- Failure in school
- Onset or worsening of co-occurring disorders
- A pervasive sense of hopelessness or helplessness
Residential Treatment for Panic Disorder in Florida
It’s important to remember that both the frequency and severity of panic attacks are different for everyone. That means you need to find a treatment that considers your individual needs rather than one that specifically treats symptoms. By making the decision to pursue treatment, you are choosing to get the help you need to stop these overwhelming events from getting worse or becoming more frequent.
At Neuroscience Institute, we take a whole-person approach to treatment. Your experiences with panic attacks and panic disorder are unique to you, which means your recovery journey will also be distinct. Our panic disorder treatment consists of evidence-based methods and therapeutic interventions that may include:
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- 12-Step recovery principles
- Medication management
- Group therapy
- Experiential therapy
- Family therapy
- Individual therapy
We offer both residential treatment for panic disorders or a partial hospitalization program (PHP). Our residential program offers therapeutic interventions and care from an expert team of licensed therapists and other mental health specialists. You will benefit from comprehensive therapeutic programming and round-the clock support while being able to fully focus on your health. Patients who receive treatment for panic disorder and panic attacks in our PHP participate in full days of structured care with the option to return home at night and on the weekends.
At Neuroscience Institute our panic attack treatment consists of evidence-based methods and therapeutic interventions that can help women and men return to the satisfying lives they once knew. Your treatment journey is unique, but you are never alone. Neuroscience Institute is here to help.