Healthy Living

5 Signs You Have Developed Panic Disorder

08/30/2016 04:14pm ET | Updated September 2, 2016

Panic launches relentless attacks on both mind and body. Anyone who has ever experienced such an assault is familiar with shallow breathing, nausea, sweating, rapid heart rate, and lesser known symptoms like derealization and depersonalization.

Once symptoms subside, sufferers are exhausted, and require significant recovery time. Such is the result of our own bodies poisoning us with adrenaline for reasons known only to itself.

Some people might experience an attack or maybe even two, and then never again feel consumed by dread and imminence of death, but others are not so fortunate. Those people whose brains are tattooed by panic attack experience life altering effects.

If you or someone about whom you care is exhibiting any of the following behaviors, mental health treatment is needed. Treatment initiated sooner rather than later creates increased hope for mental wellness.

1. Fear And Preoccupation With Future Attacks

Fearing subsequent bouts of panic is the most telltale sign of panic disorder. Prior to the impressionable, we would have never believed we could be subdued by perceived, but unreal danger. But panic attacks have a way of convincing us it WILL happen again wherever we are, and at any time. The occurrence of anticipatory anxiety creates recurring thoughts panic is imminent, and the unpredictability of panic attack can cripple us. It is an intense preoccupation the direct result of which is this next behavior.

2. Avoidance/Agoraphobia

Once paralyzed by fear of panic attacks, we keep ourselves safe by avoiding triggers such as location of our last attack, or even the company we were keeping when it happened. For some, avoidance confines us to home where we feel immune to panic’s pursuit. Those even less fortunate experience panic at home, or even in their sleep, which further reduces hope relief can ever be attained.

At its most severe, avoidance mutates into agoraphobia, the crippling effects of which can lead to social isolation, academic failure, or even job loss. Part of what we most fear is public mortification for having experienced such a complete, public, loss of control. Such intense fear is enough to keep us locked away, and safe from public humiliation.

3. Reliance On Safe Objects

Safe objects are used by sufferers of panic disorder as a means of managing attacks. We use them in the same way children use a transitional object without which emotional distress and discomfort are sure to occur. Safe objects range from religious artifacts and medications to bottles of water and snacks. While safe objects are a useful stop gap, in the long term it is ideal to not feel reliant on an object to keep us safe from a condition which poses no real danger.

4. Claustrophobia

We all know what this debilitating condition is, but many are not aware it has its place within panic disorder. Any feeling of suffocation in an enclosed place can lead to the shallow breathing which could easily result in a panic attack. When our fight/flight response initiates, and we feel as though we cannot escape perceived threats of harm, and panic attack is the result.

5. Possible Self-Medication

Some people who suffer from panic disorder rely on alcoholic beverages. While self-medication is common, and initially effective, the rebound effect from alcohol consumption can lead to more severe and increased attacks. We learn the hard way alcohol is the worst possible remedy for panic attack/disorder, but by then it is possible our drinking is out of control. The safest and most effective way to medicate is through our physician or psychiatrist.

Approximately 2.4 million people suffer from panic disorder, and the percentage of those people who do not seek treatment is unfortunate. The best approach to treatment includes a combination of therapy, medication, good health practices, and a strong support system.

Perhaps the most positive aspect of panic attack/disorder is the prognosis for relief is strong once treatment is initiated. There is hope to be had in the battle against these powerful anxiety disorders. Remember, panic attacks are the flu of the mental health world. The symptoms are miserable, but treatable, and the road to treatment is understanding what we are experiencing.