Panic disorder is typically diagnosed in people who experience panic attacks on a spontaneous basis. These attacks may seem to appear out of nowhere and can wake people from a deep sleep. Panic disorder typically begins after age 20, but some children are diagnosed with it as well. The disorder is twice as common in women than in men, with 2-3 percent of the population suffering from it.

It’s believed that women are a greater risk for panic disorder due to fluctuations in hormones. Some studies point to a greater panic response in women who have premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Also, premenstrual hormonal fluctuations may lead to respiratory-related symptoms in women with panic disorder, such as breathing difficulties.

Panic Disorder Interferes with a Normal Life. La Ventana Can Help.

As one can imagine, panic disorder can interfere with a normal, active lifestyle, causing people to miss work and school. People with panic disorder often see the doctor regularly and avoid situations that could bring on an attack. Sadly, many people with this disorder feel the fear is “in their head” and suffer in silence.

La Ventana works with individuals who have panic disorder. We have a number of effective treatment solutions, such as individual therapy, group therapy, medication management, stress management and neurofeedback. Our clients tend to be successful in our program and learn how to effectively manage their anxiety. The best gift of all is not having to live in fear of the next attack.

If you or a loved one is dealing with panic attacks, La Ventana’s mental health program can help. Below is more information on this debilitating condition and how we can help you live your life to the fullest.

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that causes panic attacks, sometimes out of the blue. You may feel like you are losing control of what’s happening around you. Physical symptoms are common and include a fast heartbeat, stomach pain, sweating, breathing difficulties and dizziness.

What makes panic disorder so troubling is that people don’t know when they are going to have an attack. These attacks can happen anytime, anywhere, and don’t necessarily need something stressful to provoke them. The fear of experiencing panic attacks can isolate people from friends, family and hobbies.

The good news is that panic disorder responds well to treatment. However, not everyone with panic attacks has panic disorder. According to the DSM-5, a person can only be diagnosed with panic disorder if they meet the following criteria:

  • Frequent, unexpected panic attacks
  • At least one of the attacks has been followed by a month or more of worrying about having another attack
  • Panic attacks are not caused by other factors, such as drug abuse or another mental health condition

Causes of Panic Disorder

Researchers aren’t sure exactly what causes panic disorder, but it’s believed that there are a number of factors at play. Your genetics, the stress in your life and your temperament all play a role in how you respond to stress and anxiety.

For example, researchers have found that several parts of the brain influence fear and anxiety. It’s possible that some people perceive harmless body sensations as being threats. This means that your body goes into fight-or-flight mode over normal stimuli. By learning more about how the brain and body functions in people with panic disorder, researchers can create more effective treatments.

Here are some risk factors that may increase the chances that a person develops panic disorder in early adulthood.

  • Family history of panic attacks
  • Major life stress, such as the death of a loved one
  • Big changes in life, such as divorce
  • Traumatic event, such as sexual assault
  • Smoking or excessive caffeine intake
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
When Panic Disorder Goes Untreated

When panic disorder is not treated, it can wreak havoc on a person’s life. They are often so afraid of their next attack, they live in a constant state of fear. This can cause them to pull away from friends, family and activities they once enjoyed.

There is also a stigma to anxiety disorders that deter some women from getting help. They worry that they will be perceived as “weak” or “over-emotional,” so they don’t seek help. Without treatment, panic disorder will not get better. In fact, the opposite will happen. Here are some complications of leaving panic disorder untreated.

  • Specific phobias are developed
  • More trips to the doctor for health concerns
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Problems at work or school
  • Depression and anxiety disorders
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Higher risk for substance abuse

Treating Panic Disorder at La Ventana

La Ventana offers outpatient services for individuals dealing with panic disorder. Our safe, supportive setting puts our clients’ minds at ease so they can focus on their symptoms and the triggers that influence their anxiety levels. The convenience of our outpatient programs allows our clients to work and go to school while receiving individualized support from counselors, psychologists, doctors and nurses.

Here are some of the treatments that work best for panic disorder.

  • Psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective at treating panic disorder. It teaches people new ways of thinking, behaving and reacting when they feel a panic attack coming on. Over time, they can recognize these emotions and deal with them head on.
  • Medication. Many people with panic disorder need medication to ease their symptoms. The most common medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), beta blockers and benzodiazepines.

We may also recommend other lifestyle changes that accommodate a low-stress life, such as joining a support group, avoiding caffeine, alcohol and smoking, practicing stress management techniques and being physically active.

If you or a loved one is struggling with panic disorder, reach out to La Ventana for help. We have a comprehensive treatment program that addresses panic attacks, how to cope with negative thoughts and feelings and how to avoid living in fear of another attack.