Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurring severe panic attacks. It may also include significant behavioral change lasting at least a month and of ongoing worry about the implications or concern about having other attacks. The latter are called ''anticipatory attacks'' (DSM-IVR). Panic disorder is ''not'' the same as agoraphobia, although many with panic disorder also suffer from agoraphobia.
Panic disorder is a potentially disabling disorder, but can be
controlled and successfully treated. Because of the intense symptoms
that accompany panic disorder, it may be mistaken for a
life-threatening physical illness such as a heart attack. This
misconception often aggravates or triggers future attacks.
frequently go to hospital emergency rooms when they are having panic
attacks, and extensive medical tests may be performed to rule out these
other conditions, thus creating further anxiety.
et al. found death rates in panic disorder patients exceeded those in
the general population. In their study, 20% of deaths in 113 former
psychiatric inpatients with panic disorder followed 35 years later were
suicides; however, due to the co-morbidity of anxiety disorders, it is
unclear whether panic disorder was the main cause of suicide.
study also found that men with panic disorder had twice the risk of
cardiovascular mortality compared to men in the general population.
Effective treatment of panic disorder has been shown to offset costs of
medical care by as much as 94%.
Panic disorder is a serious health problem that in many cases can be successfully treated, although there is no known cure.
It typically strikes in early adulthood; roughly half of all people
who have panic disorder develop the condition before age 24, especially
if the person has been subjected to a traumatic experience.
However, some sources say that the majority of young people affected
for the first time are between the ages of 25 and 30. Women are twice
as likely as men to develop panic disorder.
Panic disorder can continue for months or even years,
depending on how and when treatment is sought. If left untreated, it
may worsen to the point where the person's life is seriously affected
by panic attacks and by attempts to avoid or conceal the condition.
In fact, many people have had problems with friends and family or employment while struggling to cope with panic disorder.
Some people with panic disorder may begin to lie to conceal
their condition, because of the stigma of mental illness. In some
individuals, symptoms may occur frequently for a period of months or
years, then many years may pass symptom-free.
In others, the symptoms persist at the same level
indefinitely. There is also some evidence that many individuals
(especially those who develop symptoms at an early age) may experience
a cessation of symptoms naturally later in life (i.e. past age 50).
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