What Is Panic Attack Disorder? Not To Be Confused With A One Time Attack!

by Lincoln Broaders - Date: 2010-05-06 - Word Count: 502 Share This!

Everyone has an instinctive "fight or flight" reflex which is ingrained deeply in our brains. We started off with this instinct in our humble beginnings as cavemen and it was a protective response to dangers, such as predators. This basic instinct protected our species and it is still entrenched in our brains in modern times. The fight or flight reflex is basically a sudden fear triggered in your mind that tells you to get ready to protect yourself (fight) or to run like the wind (flight) to save yourself from a situation. Extreme reactions to this instinct are known as panic attack disorder.

Panic attack disorder is an unreasonable sense of terror that strikes suddenly and magnifies the fight or flight response. A person who suffers from a panic attack may have a myriad of symptoms ranging from a racing heartbeat to more worrisome symptoms such as choking or difficulty breathing. The condition affects a large number of the population and many of those people also suffer from debilitating phobias.

Sometimes the disorder can result from other conditions, such as depression, or they may be "fallout" from traumatic events that happen to a person. For reasons that are not known, women are twice as likely to suffer from this condition than men. This disorder has been known to be genetic; however, just because your mother suffered from panic attacks does not mean that you will. It only means that the likelihood is higher that you can at some point in your life experience these types of attacks.

There are both physical and mental causes of panic attacks and sometimes, one may cause the other. In other words, you may be drinking a cup of coffee and experience a racing heartbeat. You may interpret this as the onset of a panic attack and then, because you have elevated anxiety, a panic attack will set in. This is the most frustrating part of this disorder, because you never know what may trigger an attack.

The condition can cripple a person mentally. Many who suffer from this disorder feel trapped, unable to free themselves. This disorder is commonly linked to agoraphobia. The literal definition of agoraphobia is the fear of open spaces, but this is not an accurate description. A person who suffers from agoraphobia is afraid of situations which may bring on a panic attack. These include standing in a line up, traveling, shopping, driving, being alone, or being in a crowd. It really depends on the person, but these are the most common. The most severely affected people tend to stay home, away from other people and they are afraid to leave the house. Many cannot keep a job or support themselves. Some sufferers attempt to conceal their condition and in doing this, will not get the help that they need to treat their illness.

There are effective treatments available which include therapy, medications, exercise, yoga, and breathing exercises. It is important to treat the underlying conditions, if they exist, such as depression and drug or alcohol abuse.

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