by Barb Gombosi
Panic attack and panic disorder are not the same thing. Not everyone who has panic attacks has panic disorder.
However, everyone who has been diagnosed with panic disorder is experiencing panic attacks as a part of the panic disorder diagnosis.
For a diagnosis of panic disorder, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, lists these points:
If you are experiencing panic attacks but you do not have a diagnosed panic disorder, you can still benefit from treatment.
If panic attacks are not treated, they can get worse. As a result of being untreated, they can also develop into panic disorder - a type of anxiety disorder.
If panic disorder is left untreated, it can sometimes lead to agoraphobia, which is an intense fear of being outside or in enclosed spaces.
A panic attack can happen anywhere and anytime. If you are experiencing a panic attack, you may feel frightened and overwhelmed, even though you’re not in any actual danger.
According to the www.webmd.org
“One in 10 adults in the U.S. have panic attacks each year. About a third of people have one in their lifetime. But most of them don’t have panic disorder. Only about 3% of adults have it, and it’s more common in women than in men.”
A panic attack is a sudden sensation of fear. If you experience a panic attack, you will experience four or more of the symptoms mentioned bellow:
An attack usually passes in 5-10 minutes, but it can also last for hours.
People usually describe that a panic attack feels like they are having a heart attack or a stroke. Therefore, people who experience panic attacks frequently visit the emergency room for a medical evaluation.
Medical doctors will examine an individual and first rule out other medical health issues.
Then, if there are no medical issues, the doctors will a that assume that it is most likely a psychological issue. Therefore, they will refer the individual for a psychological evaluation to confirm the diagnosis of panic disorder.
Once the diagnosis of panic disorder is established, you might be referred to see a psychotherapist or psychologist for ongoing therapy, more specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy.
Through cognitive behavioral therapy you can learn how to change your thinking process and behavior from unrealistic and unhealthy to more realistic and healthier.
Besides psychotherapy, it is important that an individual works on making some changes in their lifestyle, which can have a beneficial effect on alleviating panic disorder symptoms.
Barb Gombosi, M.S., LMLP is a Licensed Masters Level Psychologist