Panic Disorder

If you have ever felt suddenly overwhelmed with feelings of fear or anxiety that last for minutes on end, you may have experienced a panic attack. If you regularly find yourself gripped by these feelings you cannot control, you may have panic disorder. Not everyone who has a panic attack has panic disorder—but if you do, it is important to recognize and seek out proper treatment.

Like all anxiety disorders, panic disorder can slowly diminish a person’s quality of life. If you are concerned you may have panic disorder, there are a few key indicators that may help you better understand your feelings and gain a sense of control over what can otherwise be a frightening experience.

As the name suggests, panic disorder is expressed in panic attacks which occur without warning, accompanied by sudden feelings of terror, dread, or doom. These attacks are characterized by a number of physical symptoms that range from shortness of breath to sweating or chills to a racing heart, stomach pain, and

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nausea. Panic attacks are often unpredictable in nature—they can strike at any moment and last for several minutes or longer. This can lead to a feeling of deep dread in individuals who suffer them, as they never know when they may succumb to another attack. This not infrequently leads to “phobophobia” which is the fear of having another attack, which in and of itself can bring on another attack, leading to an accelerating cycle that begins to destroy any sense of control over one’s life or destiny. Panic attacks lead to a higher rate of suicide attempts, so the earlier one receives treatment, the better

Certain genes may be associated with a higher rate of developing panic attacks, including one of the “orchid genes”—COMT Met/Met.

If this sounds familiar, we encourage you to reach out to one of our psychiatrists at Potomac Psychiatry for a consultation. Medication can rapidly and effectively reduce the frequency and intensity of these devastating attacks, while the underlying causes that drive them are identified and solved, which can include genetic testing.