If you have ever had a panic attack, you know that calling it awful doesn’t even begin to describe the experience. Having a panic attack does not automatically mean you have a Panic Disorder. According to Very Well Mind, the DSM-5’s criteria to be diagnosed with a Panic Disorder is:
- Having recurrent, often unexpected panic attacks.
- Having significant anxiety and worry about having another panic attack for at least a months time. The anxiety causes the individual to struggle performing in everyday life.
- The panic attacks are not caused by a substance and do not have a better diagnostic explanation (such as a phobia).
The example of a panic attack in the video below tells the experience of not just one person, but the sensations and fear that many with Panic Disorder can identify with.
There are treatments for Panic Disorder. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can be helpful by having the individual reframe their thoughts and respond differently to the physical sensations that may come with a panic attack. While having a panic attack is always an awful experience, being able to identify what is happening and engaging in calming behaviors and thoughts can help ease or even shorten a panic attack. This is not the case for everyone, and a treatment plan with your therapist and/or psychiatrist is always important.
Medication is another treatment for Panic Disorder. Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine inhibitors (SNRIs), beta blockers, and benzodiazepines can be used. As with all medications, side effects may occur and it is important to always be honest and upfront with your doctor. It is also important to be mindful of your use of benzodiazepines as they are habit forming.