Panic Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms and Treatment

PTSD Mental health concept. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Panic Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms and Treatment

Feeling increased levels of anxiety and having moments of panic happen to everyone at some point. When these feelings become more frequent and intense, they can become full-blown panic attacks. While it’s estimated around 1 in 10 adults have one or more panic attacks every year and roughly 30% have experienced one over their whole lifetime, it’s unlikely these people actually have panic disorder. 

What is panic disorder?

Panic disorder is quite rare, affecting only roughly about 3% of the adult population in the United States. It typically is a chronic condition that is tough to treat, as some people don’t respond well to the treatment or the symptoms may disappear for periods of time and when they return are much more intense.

Panic disorder happens when a person experiences recurring and sudden anxiety attacks without any warning. A panic attack can be classified as an intense and abrupt surge of fear or discomfort that can peak after a few minutes. They can be spurred on by a specific event, but often bring feelings of a sudden and overwhelming fear that has no obvious cause. Physical symptoms from anxiety attacks and panic disorder can include sweating, difficulty breathing, and a rapid heartbeat. 

When you have panic attacks more often—to the tune of at least one per month—you can start living with an intense fear of having another one or of losing control. This is what characterizes panic disorder: you have at least one panic attack a month and have a persistent worry of having more, as well as the consequences they bring. 

What are the symptoms?

Panic disorder symptoms will start to appear in teenagers and young adults who are under 25 years old. If by this age you have had four or more panic attacks and are constantly scared of having another one, you could have panic disorder. A major symptom of panic disorder is triggering a panic attack over the fear of having another one or recalling a past panic attack.

A panic attack is an event that can be described as feeling as though your whole world is falling apart, even if the cause of it is over something minor or completely unknown. More often than not, there is no real reason for the attack to occur, and the symptoms that are present are usually not proportionate to the amount of danger in the environment the person is in. These attacks can therefore drastically affect the person experiencing them, and can significantly alter how they function on a day-to-day basis. 

Panic attack symptoms can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Choking feeling
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Chest pains or chest tightness
  • Dizziness and feeling lightheaded
  • Numbness in the extremities
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Chills
  • Excessive shaking 
  • A rapid change in mental state, like feeling detached from yourself or reality
  • Fear of dying

What causes panic disorder?

Unfortunately, the causes of panic anxiety disorder aren’t fully understood. There is research and evidence to show that it may be genetically linked, as well as triggered by major life transitions like moving away for school or work, getting married and having a child for the first time. However, there is data to show that some people are more at risk of developing a panic disorder. Statistically, panic disorder is more common in women than in men, and women are twice as likely to develop it. 

The Stellate Ganglion Block for Anxiety: Panic Disorder Treatment

The stellate ganglion block is an injection that has been found to be effective in treating the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Similarly, the symptoms of PTSD coincide with that of panic disorder. The SGB injection is a mixture of local anesthetics that are injected near the stellate ganglion, which are a bundle of nerve fibers that are involved in the ‘fight or flight’ response.

The SGB shot can help to decrease anxiety. People with panic disorder should highly consider seeing an experienced SGB doctor to see if they are eligible to receive the SGB injection for panic disorder. 

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