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Do You Have An Anxiety/Panic Disorder?

 Having lived with this disorder for years before being diagnosed, I write this article in the hopes that it may help others.  People that may have the symptoms, but do not understand what may be at the root of it all.  If you find yourself with four more of the symptoms listed here, talk with your doctor about it.
I am not an expert in this area. But having this disorder myself, have done extensive research on the subject. Something I tend to do whenever having a medical issue.
While the exact cause of anxiety/panic disorder is currently unknown, there are many, yet unproven myths, regarding this condition.  If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of anxiety/panic disorder, this list may help you sort out fact from fiction.
  • Myth: Panic attacks can make you go "crazy" and lose control of yourself.  Panic attacks are the hallmark symptom of a panic disorder.
  • Myth: Panic attacks will cause extreme harm to your body.  Even though scary at the time, shortness of breath or hyperventilation caused by an anxiety attack is not life threatening.
  • Myth: Panic disorder is a sign of weakness or an inability to control emotions.  Not true, no one would chose to suffer with this condition.  This is a real and diagnosable health disorder.
  • Myth: Panic disorder is caused by a bad childhood.  As stated above, the cause of panic disorder is still unknown.
  • Myth: There is no help for panic disorder.  You can in fact manage your symptoms through one or more treatment options.  Some of the most common treatment are, Psychotherapy, Antidepressant Medication, and Bensodiazepines.  These treatment can be accompanied by self-help techniques also, such as, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, desensitization.  Your doctor will help you decide what treatment is best for you.
  • Myth: People with panic disorder must be medicated for the rest of their lives.  Not always true, medication can often be prescribed for a limited amount of time, until the panic sufferer learns effective ways to cope with the disorder. 
Do You Have Panic Disorder?
Recognizing the symptoms are key.  Panic disorder is characterized by recurrent panic attacks.  Panic attacks are sudden feelings of fear and anxiety, accompanied by intense physical symptoms, such as a rapid heartbeat, chest pain, shaking, a feeling of passing out.  Only a qualified health care provider can diagnose panic disorder.
Panic attacks are experienced as four or more of the following symptoms.
  • Heart palpitations or accelerated heart rate.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Trembling or shaking.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • A feeling of choking.
  • Chest pain or lower back pain.
  • Nausea or abdominal pain.
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or feeling faint.
  • Fear of dying, losing control or going crazy.
  • Feelings of numbness or tingling sensations.
  • Chills or hot flashes.
To help you understand better, before treated with medication, a panic attack for me when they occurred, included these symptoms all at once.  I had no clue what was happening to me.
  • Heart palpitations
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lower back pain
  • Feeling faint
  • Tingling sensations
  • Fear of dying...thought I was having a heart attack.
The attacks took over my life, often showing up when I drove to work.  When I thought I could no longer drive because of the attacks, that is when I sought help from my doctor.  I now take medication and have been panic attack free for 9 years.
Symptoms of panic attacks typically occur spontaneously and peak within the first 10 minutes before gradually subsiding.  But they can have the potential to last longer.