Panic (attack) disorder

Panic disorder is a mental disorder characterized by frequent or episodic paroxysmal, paroxysmal anxiety with the spontaneous onset of a panic attack or extreme anxiety.

Panic attacks are short-term autonomic, affective (emotional) crises, accompanied by excruciating anxiety, fear, emotional disturbances, and autonomic disorders.

Panic disorders are more common among young people and the working-age population, less often in childhood and adolescence, in women – 2-3 times more often than in men. More often in patients, with adequate therapy, there is an improvement, sometimes even significant. But such patients are at risk. Frequent traumatic situations, socially unfavorable factors contribute to the re-manifestation of panic disorders and its relapses.

Such patients are characterized by unexplained, unpredictable severe anxiety, and panic, not limited to a specific situation. With a thorough acquaintance with the patient, it is possible to identify a direct connection between panic disorder and the traumatic factors that provoked this pathology.

Suddenly arising fears may be accompanied by an increase in blood pressure, severe tachycardia, lack of air-breathing, pain in the chest, gastrointestinal tract, to complete “loss of consciousness”, madness, death, loss of self-control.

In the absence of timely assistance to patients, their condition may deteriorate sharply even from insignificant socially unfavorable factors, there may be “fear of death”, “fear of insanity” (lysophobia – lyssophobia, Greek lyssa – rabies, insanity), in which patients are disoriented, including derealization, depersonalization is observed. Such patients, due to the “complexity”, can be hospitalized in neurological, somatic clinics or in the intensive care unit.

Previously, doctors diagnosed such patients with a vegetative sympathoadrenal crisis, cardioneurosis, vascular neurosis, vegetative-vascular dystonia with a crisis course.

Panic attacks can be a manifestation of various disorders, in particular, diseases of the cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal tract, endocrine diseases.

Diagnosing panic disorder

  • Repeated, more often unpredictable, unreasonable, unforeseen attacks of anxiety combined with severe panic or anxiety.
  • Panic and anxiety are more often combined with autonomic disorders, including painful sensations – derealization and depersonalization.
  • Having a negative experience of repeating a situation, for example, repeated avoidance of familiar or similar situations in which the patient has previously suffered panic attacks.
  • Panic anxiety — fear of being alone or in a group of people and, in connection with this, a panic attack.

To accurately diagnose the presence of panic disorder, several repeated attacks over a period of 20-30 days without any reason, situation, etc. are typical.

In practice, with panic attacks, there are attacks of fear, anxiety, panic with a feeling of internal overexertion, palpitations, cold sweat, chills, shortness of breath, choking and shortness of breath, confusion of thoughts. In rare cases, patients have impaired motility, difficulty walking, sensory visual and hearing impairment, frequent urination, and rarely stools.

The duration of the attack can last from a minute to several hours and more than 1-2 times a day, week, or month. In the future, patients themselves adapt to seizures and carry constantly necessary medications with them.

In most cases, panic attacks leave a negative mark in the subconscious of patients, which leads to the emergence of a syndrome of “waiting” for a second attack and patients limit their social contacts, their ability to work decreases and the fear of visiting public places may appear — agoraphobia.

Traditionally, such patients often turn to various specialists, but only timely help from psychiatrists and psychotherapists will be the most effective way to help them.

In medical practice, panic attacks are considered in the composition and manifestation of other anxiety disorders. Panic attacks are subsequently the precursors of complex panic disorders and transform into severe generalized anxiety disorders, which can lead to disability.