Fall semester topics

Panic disorder

"Nearly everyone experiences some degree of stress during their college years. The multiple obligations of studying for exams, writing papers, friend or relationship issues, family concerns, participation in athletics, Greek life and other campus activities can contribute to feeling pressured and anxious. However, an anxiety disorder differs from normal stress in that symptoms such as worry, panic and/or physical discomfort are more intense and frequent, and persist even when the situational pressures of life lessen. An anxiety disorder typically causes a great deal of distress, and interferes with the ability to relax and experience a sense of enjoyment and well-being. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders comprise the most common mental health diagnosis in the U.S. Approximately 1 in 9 people suffer from an anxiety disorder at any given time. It is important to diagnose and treat an anxiety disorder that develops or worsens during the college years to help prevent the problem from becoming chronic and continuing into later life. There are several types of anxiety disorders, and each has its own set of common symptoms:

Panic Disorder is characterized by sudden, intense episodes of fear and anxiety that occur often and without warning. During a panic attack, physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, racing heart, dizziness, or feeling flushed typically occur. Feelings of unreality, and fear of fainting, losing control, or dying are also common during panic episodes. People who suffer from Panic Disorder may become fearful of having panic attacks, and may begin to avoid public situations, such as parties, classrooms or social gatherings. College students are in a high risk age group for Panic Disorder, as it most frequently is diagnosed during young adulthood." Source info

Panic Attacks
A panic attack is a brief period of acute anxiety that comes on all of a sudden. It occurs when there is no real danger. It comes without warning. Four or more of the following symptoms define a panic attack:

  • Shortness of breath or smothering sensations
  • Sweating
  • Choking feeling
  • Racing heart rate or palpitations
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Feeling dizzy, faint or light-headed
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Numbness, tingling in the hands or feet
  • Feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself
  • Fear of going crazy or losing control
  • Fear of dying

  • A person having a panic attack may rush to an emergency room because they think they are having a heart attack, feel like they are going to die, or think they are going crazy.

    Persons who have repeated panic attacks begin to avoid situations they associate with past attacks. For example, if the panic attack took place in a grocery store and the person had to leave the store to get home to feel safe, the person avoids future trips to the grocery store. This can lead to a phobia called agoraphobia.

    A panic attack usually lasts only a few minutes, but seems to last for hours. A person who has four or more panic attacks in any four week period could have panic disorder. The disorder can also be present if the person has less than four panic attacks in four weeks, but is afraid of having another panic attack.

    Panic attack symptoms can be symptoms of many medical conditions. These include heart attack, hyperthyroidism, and low blood sugar. The symptoms can also be a side effect of drug abuse or some medications. It is important to rule out any medical reasons for panic attack symptoms. Most persons who have panic disorder consult with their doctor 10 or more times before their condition is accurately diagnosed.

  • Medication. Certain antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines are used.
  • Therapy. One type helps the person “reshape” the way they think to avoid panic attacks. Another type uses relaxation methods and a gradual exposure to situations they have avoided due to fear of another panic attack.
  • Support groups. These provide understanding and positive feedback to the sufferer.

  • Soruce info

    Recommended books

    Christine Ingham: Panic Attacks: What they are, why the happen, and what you can do about them: What They Are, Why They Happen and What You Can Do About Them, 2000., Thorsons.

    Additional web resources