Biological Causes of Panic Disorder Patients with panic disorder experience terrifying attacks of sudden, overwhelming and intense fear, often without any provocation or stimulus.
Doctors used to think that anxiety disorders were directly related to deep-seated neurotic or other psychological problems. Now, research suggests that subtle imbalances in brain chemistry may play a significant role. Many anxiety disorders strike women and men in equal numbers, but more women than men experience panic disorders, with or without agoraphobia. Women are also more prone to generalized anxiety disorder, which causes prolonged worrying for exaggerated reasons. Women are vulnerable to these disorders because they are more likely to be exposed to abuse, poverty and powerlessness, which add to their stress.1 Misdiagnosis is often a problem, since some doctors have little experience with anxiety disorders, and many physical symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, sweating and shaking, are also associated with other conditions, such as an excessive caffeine intake, medication side effects or a thyroid disorder.
Many people suffering from a panic disorder are tested for cardiac or neurological illnesses before their disorder is identified.
Although only a small percentage of people suffer from panic disorders, 30 percent to 40 percent of the population will suffer one or more panic attacks in a lifetime. The difference between the occasional attack and suffering from a panic disorder is the frequency and intensity. For people suffering from a panic disorder, the attacks may happen frequently, and the victims tend to "catastrophize" the symptoms.
Signs of a panic attack A panic attack typically lasts for several minutes. The symptoms appear suddenly and without any apparent cause. Some can be confused with those of a heart attack.
The signs may include the following:2 ÃÂ· Shortness of breath or smothering sensation.
ÃÂ· Dizziness, lightheadedness, unsteady feelings, or faintness.