It is estimated that about 5% of population suffers from panic disorder which is characterized by sudden attacks of panic with great intensity. Genes as well as social and psychological factors are largely responsible for this emotional disorder. But solutions exist to better deal with this situation, and even eliminate it gradually.
Stephen, 46, remembers his first panic attack vividly. It was a beautiful month of June while he was visiting the university to retrieve the notes of his late work session. “I went through the cafeteria to get some coffee. Suddenly, everything started to spin, my legs became soft, my heart throbbed and I was very sick at heart. I thought I would die on the spot,” he says with much emotion.
Stephen does not even remember how he ended up in a medical clinic because he had lost all his means. Anyway, it took a few minutes for the doctor to make a medical diagnosis that he had never heard of before: panic disorder.
In fact, Stephen had suffered a panic attack that was sudden and very violent. The features are easy to establish: the person has difficulty in breathing, is a victim of palpitations, and feels a loss of balance with tremors, nausea and profuse sweating. Panic disorder is a real sign of fear and imminent danger. The person falls into a stupor and often feels he/she will die or disappear. It is a very traumatic experience.
Is still poorly understood why at one point, in specific circumstances, panic disorder is triggered. Most of the time, the first attack occurs in late adolescence or between 20 and 30 years. After the first experience, some people will have up to two, three, even four panic attacks per week, sometimes more. And that is where the vicious circle begins. The person with panic disorder develops a fear of being a victim of a crisis but will continue to live normally. Crowds, restaurants, driving, public places – anything can become a difficult experience when there is a fear of panic attack. It then settles into a generalized anxiety.
Sally, 32, is a perfect example. Working at a large company in downtown Boston, she has been living with panic disorder for almost a year. “My first seizure occurred while I was behind my computer at work. I thought I was having a heart attack or that I was going crazy. My heart was beating fast and I felt bad. I painfully went to the bathroom and came out an hour later completely exhausted, as if a truck had passed over my body!”
Shaken by this experience, Sally immediately contacted her doctor who prescribed medication to reduce anxiety. But she also began psychotherapy which gradually has reduced the number and intensity of panic attacks and most importantly, helped her understand what was happening in it. “I can now function normally and no longer restrain myself in my activities. Because I now know the warning signs of a crisis and can defuse them. I’m much more in tune with my body and take better care of myself, “says Sally.