What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is a common mental disorder that affects 5% of the population at some point in life. Especially when it is accompanied with agoraphobia, it causes a decreased quality of life in patients. The current diagnosis of panic attacks requires the presence of recurrent panic attacks and the development of anxiety, phobic avoidance, about the possibility of future attacks. These include avoiding places or situations where individual fears may trigger a panic attack, or any behavioral changes associated with the attacks (for example, visits to the emergency room or doctor visits for concerns about an undiagnosed medical illness). Panic attacks are sudden, sometimes unexpected bursts of severe anxiety accompanied by a variety of physical symptoms (eg, cardiorespiratory, autoneurological, gastrointestinal, or autonomic). Panic attack; It is an attack of severe anxiety, fear, or tension, in which intense physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, increased pulse, feeling of suffocation, sweating and pallor, dry mouth, dizziness, slowed digestion, fainting sensation occur suddenly. A panic attack is actually a false alarm that our brain gives us. Our brain and nervous system have a system that allows us to survive in situations of danger, panic attacks actually occur as a result of this system working without real danger. It is the reaction of our body even though there is no life-threatening danger. So to summarize briefly; We can think of it as a house alarm, even though there is no burglar.

People who have panic attacks often think that there is a problem in their heart, which will result in a heart attack or even death. After the attack, people generally feel quite tired and exhausted. There may be situations such as constantly being on the alert with the thought that the attack will be renewed, avoiding the feared areas and increasing the feared areas. A sudden panic attack reaches its most severe level in 10 minutes. It lasts for 10-30 minutes on average, rarely for 1 hour, and the symptoms disappear spontaneously. Therefore, obtaining accurate information from the patient and his/her relatives and performing ECG, blood count and pulmonary function tests are very important in diagnosing panic disorder.

Not all panic attacks are indicative of panic disorder. The same cluster of physical and cognitive symptoms can occur in people with certain phobias when exposed to feared stimuli (for example, heights, snakes, spiders) or in people with social phobia when faced with situations in which they can be scrutinized. The difference in such situations is that the individual is acutely aware of the source of their fearful sensations, whereas in panic disorder these same types of sensations are uncaused, inexplicable and often appear out of nowhere. Panic attacks can also occur in people with post-traumatic stress disorder, when exposure to reminders of a traumatic event triggers the attacks.

Because panic disorder mimics many medical conditions, it has often increased the use of health visits, procedures, and laboratory tests in patients. Panic attacks can also be a symptom of common conditions such as hyperthyroidism, caffeine and stimulant use or abuse (eg, cocaine, methamphetamine), and sometimes conditions such as pheochromocytoma or partial complex seizures. It increases with panic disorder with comorbidity of cardiovascular (eg, paroxysmal atrial tachycardia, mitral valve prolapse), respiratory (eg, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and otological (eg, Meniere’s disease) disorders, although these conditions rarely occur as a direct cause of panic attacks. interest.

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