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How are panic attacks and disorders different from one another?

Some of life's most difficult stressful transitions happen when we head off to college, start our first job or retire, get married or divorced or have our first child. The reason why these stages in our lives tend to be stressful is because they're when we transition into the unknown. Unless addressed, our anxious feeling can worsen causing a panic attack.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), most individuals only suffer from a panic attack at most twice during their lifetime. Those who find themselves constantly worrying about having one or who have one each month may be diagnosed with a panic disorder. APA data shows that one in every 75 people are diagnosed with this condition.

Panic attacks often set in all-of-a-sudden and can last anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour. There's generally little to no correlation between the intensity of environmental factors and how bad the panic attack may be.

Research that has been conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health shows that women are twice as likely to develop panic disorders than men. Other research suggests that the condition may be genetic as well.

A person suffering from this condition may experience an unfounded sense of trepidation, detachment from oneself or a fear of death. Patients' mental symptoms may be accompanied by physical ones including sweating, shaking, a racing heart, a breathing difficulty, dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea.

Individuals are often diagnosed with this condition after appearing at the hospital thinking that they're suffering a heart attack. Doctors generally perform a physical exam, electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood tests there to rule out cardiac arrest before diagnosing a patient with this condition.

Psychiatrists treating this panic disorders may prescribe antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs to minimize a patient's symptoms. They may also refer their patient to a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Many patients are able to continue enjoying their lives symptom-free by taking medication and receiving therapy. Individuals who experience chronic panic attacks may not respond well to treatment and have difficulties with daily functioning. Anyone suffering from a panic disorder should consult with a St. Louis attorney if their condition prevents them from working.

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