What is panic disorder, is there a cure?

Panic disorder is a psychological disorder that impairs a person’s quality of life and has a very low rate of spontaneous recovery. There is no heart health problem based on a biological and medical origin. The person interprets bodily sensations for normal life with catastrophic thoughts, for example, feeling the heartbeat in the throat during palpitations, choking, I will die, I will lose my mind, I will have a heart attack, and experience attacks that cause physical symptoms with cognitive distortions accompanied by weak schemas (I am weak, weak). .

The person has persistent anxiety or worry about having another attack or the consequences of the attacks (having a heart attack, losing control, going crazy). Panic disorder patients experience withdrawal in social areas (not doing sports, not driving, not going to the movies, etc.) with the fear of having an attack. In addition to these, they serve to continue this disorder by taking safety measures (being close to the hospital, having blood pressure measured constantly, taking anti-anxiety medication).

According to the diagnostic criteria book DSM 5, the symptoms of panic disorder are as follows;

A. Recurrent unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is a state of sudden overwhelming fear or intense inner distress that culminates within minutes and during which time four (or more) of the following symptoms occur:

Note: Such a state can suddenly overwhelm a person in a calm or anxious state.

1. Palpitations, pounding heart or increased heart rate.

2. Sweating.

3. Shaking or shaking.

4. A feeling of being short of breath or suffocating.

5. Sensation of choking.

6. Chest pain or tightness in the chest.

7. Nausea or abdominal pain.

8. Dizziness, inability to stand, feeling light-headed or fainting.

9. Sensation of shivering, chills, chills or hot flashes.

10. Numbness (numbness or tingling sensations).

11. Unrealism (“derealization”, the feeling of being unreal) or self-alienation (“depersonalization”, sense of detachment from oneself).

12. Fear of losing control or “going crazy”.

13. Fear of death.

B. After at least one of the attacks, one or both of the following occur for one month (or longer):

1. Persistent worry or worry about other panic attacks or their possible consequences (eg losing control, having a heart attack, “going crazy”).

2. Demonstrating behavioral changes associated with the attacks (eg, behaviors designed to avoid having a panic attack, such as avoiding playing sports or familiar, unfamiliar situations).

Treatment of Panic Disorder

APA (American Psychological Association) recommends Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a scientifically proven therapy method in the treatment of panic disorder. The Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE guideline) recommends cognitive behavioral therapy as the first-line treatment for panic disorder. In the treatment of panic disorder, there is also the option of treatment with medication, depending on the severity of the symptoms, a combined treatment in the form of medication + CBT may be appropriate. Scientific studies have reported that patients who are treated only with medication have a 60% risk of re-experiencing panic attacks in the future, whereas 90% of people treated with cognitive behavioral therapy do not experience panic disorder again. Recurrence of panic attacks after CBT treatment is very low.

It is possible to treat this disorder with cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. I recommend those who have panic disorder to seek help from a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist working with cognitive behavioral methods.

Ali DEMIR

Specialist Clinical Psychologist

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