Panic attacks are defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM) as “an abrupt surge of intense fear or discomfort” reaching a peak within minutes. Four or more of a specific set of physical symptoms accompany a panic attack.
- Palpitations / pounding heart / accelerated heart rate
- Trembling / shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath / smothering
- Feelings of choking
- Chest pain / discomfort
- Nausea / abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy / unsteady / light-headedness / faint
- Chills / heat sensations
- Paresthesia (numbness / tingling sensations)
- Derealization / depersonalization
- Fear of losing control / ‘going crazy’
- Fear of dying
According to DSM 5, panic disorder can be diagnosed if recurrent unexpected panic attacks are happening followed by one month or more of persistent concern over having more attacks, along with a change in the behavior of the individual to avoid a situation in which they attribute the attack to.
Panic disorder is not diagnosed when the symptoms are attributable to another disorder. For example, when panic attacks occur in the presence of a social anxiety disorder in which the attacks are triggered by social situations like public speaking, it cannot be considered a part of panic disorder. A distinctive finding in patients with panic disorder is related to the fear and anxiety that they experience in a physical manner as opposed to a cognitive one.
Panic disorder may affect your daily function such as school or work performance. Early intervention is needed to fasten the recovery period and to avoid further deterioration in function.
Treatment aims to reduce the number of panic attacks you have and ease your symptoms and to make you get back to your premorbid functioning.
Panic disorder require holistic approach which include psychological therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy), medication (antidepressant) and establishing social support. Many times, spiritual approach also play a role in treating panic disorder.
Dr. Norizan Othman
MBBS (MMMC), MRCPsych (UK)
Full-Time Consultant3rd Floor
+606 – 315 8812