Counseling & Psychotherapy - Southampton, NJ 08088
Counseling & Psychotherapy - Southampton, NJ 08088
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Anxiety Attack - Panic Disorder - Panic Attack

Information About Treating Anxiety Disorders

Information About Treating Panic Disorder

Most people feel anxious at times, but a panic attack involves a very intense level of physical arousal. A panic attack is usually activated initially by a stressful situation, such as leaving home, a relationship conflict, taking an important exam, surgery, new roles or responsibilities, or a physical illness or condition.

During an anxiety attack people experience physical symptoms, such as pounding heart, numbness or tingling sensations, shortness of breath, a sense of impending doom, trembling, chest pain, sweating, and choking sensations. The sensations of physical arousal may be misinterpreted as catastrophic danger--that is, people might feel as if they are going to die, lose control, have a heart attack or stroke, or "go crazy." Consequently, the person may become hyperalert and begin to focus excessively on physical sensations, which can further increase arousal. This arousal triggers more catastrophic misinterpretations that signal impending danger when there is really none.

A full-blown panic attack can result from such arousal and misinterpretations. When a person has frequent, unexpected panic attacks, is afraid of having more panic attacks or is worried about their meaning, and makes changes in his/her behavior, the person is said to have panic disorder.

Many people with panic disorder begin avoiding situations that might cause a panic attack, especially if escape from these situations is difficult or embarrassing. When avoidance and escape become the primary ways of coping to handle anxiety, the person has developed agoraphobia.

Panic disorder has some genetic links, but it is not entirely hereditary. There are many other factors that cause and maintain the problem. In any given year, approximately 40% of the general population will have a panic attack, but most of these people will not interpret their symptoms as catastrophic danger and thus will not go on to develop panic disorder or agoraphobia.