Panic disorders can be really scary!
They may not always be obvious when they show up and yet it’s important to be able to recognize these signs so you can get the help you need to treat it. Today, we share with you what 5 common signs of a panic disorder are and what a panic disorder actually is.
A panic disorder is, actually, an actual mental health diagnosis as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (the bedrock of the diagnostic mental health community).
Panic disorder, in short, is an anxiety disorder but one that is specifically characterized by the occurrence of panic attacks that are recurrent and sometimes unexpected.
Additionally, panic disorder is further diagnosed by whether or not an individual fears having another attack within a month after one has occurred and this fear causes them to adjust or change their behaviors or patterns to avoid stimulating another panic attack.
A panic disorder diagnosis must not be informed by a substance or other general health condition nor can panic disorder be diagnosed if the individual is dealing with and is better diagnosed by another mental health disorder such as PTSD, social anxiety, or phobias.
While the DSM has a list of defined criteria that must be met in order to be diagnosed with panic disorder, some of the more common physiological signs that someone may experience when having a panic attack and be able to reflect upon afterward include:
- Heart palpitations: You catch your heart pounding, racing, or generally beating at a highly accelerated rate when you’re not exercising or doing an activity that would otherwise account for a high heart rate.
- Shortness of breath, a sense of being smothered: You find it hard to take deep, even breaths and experience a restriction in your breathing capacities when there is no external reason for this.
- Upset stomach: You experience nausea, irritable bowels, or general discomfort in your stomach and intestinal area, that cannot be better accounted for (say, with food poisoning).
- Feeling dizzy and/or light-headed: You feel the room spin around or experience a general sense of lightheadedness at different times with no known physical reason for this.
- Body flushes/chills: You experience what might seem like hot flashes or the sudden onset of chills with no correlation to what’s happening in your external environment.
Again, these are but a few of the four symptoms (at least) that the DSM defines as needing to be present in order to diagnose a panic disorder (in addition to the above criteria).
There are more symptoms but the ones I have listed are, in my experience as a clinician, among the most common that clients report that they are then able to reflect upon.
A panic disorder is treatable and those that are dealing with this, or believe they may be dealing with this, would be advised to seek out psychotherapy and/or talk to their primary care doctor about this.