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 Anxiety  Holistic-online.com

Progression of Panic Disorder

People who suffer from panic disorder go through a number of stages.

1. Initial Panic Attack

Typically, a first panic attack seems to come "out of the blue." It occurs while a person is engaged in some ordinary activity like driving a car or walking to work. Suddenly, the person is struck by a barrage of frightening and uncomfortable symptoms. These symptoms often include:

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Terror

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A sense of unreality

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A fear of losing control

These symptoms typically lasts several seconds. But in some cases, it may continue for several minutes. The symptoms gradually disappear over the course of about an hour.

People who experience a panic attack suffer extreme discomfort. They fear that they had been stricken with some terrible, life-threatening disease. Some of the victims may feel that they are "going crazy." Many who are having a panic attack usually go the emergency room.

Initial panic attacks may occur when people are under severe stress. Some people experience panic attacks after a surgery, a serious accident, illness, or childbirth. Excessive consumption of caffeine or use of cocaine or other stimulant drugs or medicines, such as the stimulants used in treating asthma, can also trigger panic attacks.

Panic attacks usually take a person completely by surprise. This is one reason why they are so devastating. The feelings the victims experience are so overwhelming and terrifying that they really believe they are going to die, lose their minds, or be totally humiliated. For some people, the attacks continue and cause much disruption in their lives and suffering.

2. Panic Disorder

In panic disorder, panic attacks recur and the person develops an intense apprehension of having another attack. This fear can be present most of the time and seriously interfere with the person's life even when a panic attack is not in progress.

The person may develop irrational fears called phobias about situations where a panic attack has occurred. People who develop these panic-induced phobias will tend to avoid situations that they fear will trigger a panic attack, and their lives may be increasingly limited as a result. Their work may suffer, and relationships may be strained.

Also, sleep may be disturbed because of panic attacks that occur at night, causing the person to awaken in a state of terror. Some may be so terrified that they may refuse to go to sleep and will suffer from exhaustion.

Many people with panic disorder remain intensely concerned about their symptoms. They will keep seeing different doctors with the hope that "the doctor may find something wrong with them that explains these panic attacks.

3. Agoraphobia

Panic disorder, left untreated, may eventually develop into agoraphobia. The person becomes afraid of being in any place or situation where escape might be difficult or help unavailable in the event of a panic attack.

Agoraphobia affects about a third of all people with panic disorder.

Typically, people with agoraphobia fear being in crowds, standing in line, entering shopping malls, and riding in cars or public transportation. They often restrict themselves to a "zone of safety." Any movement beyond the edges of this zone creates mounting anxiety. Most people with agoraphobia continue to have panic attacks at least a few times a month.

People with agoraphobia can be seriously disabled by their condition. Some are unable to work. They depend heavily on their friends and relatives for help.

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