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panic disorder

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. Panic disorder is not the same as agoraphobia (fear of public places), although many with panic disorder also suffer from agoraphobia. Panic attacks cannot be predicted, therefore an individual may become stressed, anxious or worried wondering when the next panic attack will occur. There are other schools of thought that Panic disorder is differentiated as a medical condition, or chemical imbalance.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes Panic disorder and Anxiety differently. Panic attacks have a sudden or out-of-blue cause that lasts shorter with more intense symptoms, as opposed to Anxiety attacks having stressors that build to less severe reactions and can last for weeks or months. Panic attacks can occur in children, as well as adults. Panic in young people may be particularly distressing because the child has less insight about what is happening, and his/her parent is also likely to experience distress when attacks occur.

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 (some are called Anticipatory Attacks). People 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. Nonetheless, Coryell 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. This 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%. There are three types of panic attacks: unexpected, situationally bounded and situationally predisposed (American psychiatric association 2000).