Panic attacks and anxiety disorders are a major way of presentation in psychiatric patients and most of the time these modalities are present simultaneously in one patient.
What is a Panic Attack?
A Panic Attack is an episode of intense fear about an event or a person, it starts abruptly and can last for several minutes to hours. It is usually associated with different psychiatric and systemic diseases.
What is Panic Disorder?
In Panic Disorder, patients suffer from recurrent untriggered panic attacks.
What is an Anxiety disorder?
An Anxiety Disorder is characterized by having immoderate fear and apprehension that are difficult to control.
What are the causes and risk factors?
These disorders are closely related to different psychiatric and systemic diseases e.g Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder, Cardiovascular Disorders, Migraine Attacks and Pulmonary Ailments.
Apart from these causes any stressful condition in life can trigger anxiety or a panic attack.
Certain personality types are more prone to get these attacks i.e. Type A personality. There is a positive correlation between risk of developing anxiety or panic attack and a positive family history.
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How does it present?
It can present with a variable combination of signs and symptoms like:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Choking or breathlessness
- Nausea or dizziness
How does it affect a patient’s life?
Panic attacks and Anxiety can have a macabre effect on a patient’s quality of life and his/her functionality. These disorders increase the chances of indulgence in drug abuse and risk of suicide or self harm.
How is it diagnosed?
The diagnosis depends on a thorough history and clinical examination. As the presenting symptoms are mostly somatic so it may require to conduct some laboratory tests to rule out a serious systemic illness e.g. ECG to rule out heart attack or angina.
How to treat panic anxiety disorder?
There are two main treatment options and both are used interchangeably or simultaneously according to the comfort and needs of the patient.
1- Pharmacological therapy:
It includes the use of various medications to stabilize the mood and decrease the severity of disabling signs and symptoms.
2- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT):
CBT is a well acknowledged and efficacious type of treatment, it includes psychological help for the patients to identify and change the troublesome thought patterns that have a cult influence on their behavior and emotions.
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