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Identifying a Panic Attack

Anxiety disorders rank as the most prevalent mental illnesses in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults, or 18.1% of the population. While these disorders are generally treatable, the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) notes that only 36.9% of individuals choose to seek treatment.

Various disorders are linked to anxiety, and their symptoms often overlap, leading to confusion about the specific type of anxiety one may be experiencing, such as general anxiety versus panic attacks. Here is a brief exploration of what constitutes a panic attack and the diverse treatment options available for anxiety of varying intensities.

What defines a panic attack?

Characterized by brief but intense episodes of fear, these episodes typically manifest with increased heart rate, chest pain, or shortness of breath. Lasting under thirty minutes, panic attacks can emerge suddenly and without apparent cause, with their intensity sometimes leading to a misidentification as a heart attack. Up to 11% of Americans encounter a panic attack annually.

Individuals grappling with recurrent panic attacks may be diagnosed with panic disorder (PD), a specific type of anxiety disorder affecting approximately 4.7% of U.S. adults at some point in their lives. PD is more prevalent in women, with a twofold likelihood compared to men, and often manifests in early adulthood, with about half of those affected developing the condition before reaching 24 years of age.

While the term “anxiety attack” is sometimes used interchangeably with “panic attack,” the former is not a formal DSM-5 term or diagnosis, unlike the recognized panic attacks. Notable distinctions include the duration of the attack, the severity of symptoms, and the triggers involved.

Effective treatment for disorders, anxiety as a condition, and associated symptoms requires a thorough examination and symptom analysis by a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis. Addressing the diagnosed disorder, condition, or underlying cause is essential.

Treatment approaches vary based on the diagnosis and symptom severity. Options encompass medication, such as antidepressants or beta-blockers, therapeutic interventions, lifestyle adjustments, or a combination of these methods. Diverse forms of therapy, including cognitive therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and innovative techniques like ketamine treatment therapy, can assist in managing symptoms and reducing excessive fear and worry.

Numerous avenues exist to alleviate anxiety and enhance the quality of life for individuals experiencing these challenges. For further information on treatment options and distinctions between anxiety and panic attacks, please refer to the accompanying resource.

Infographic provided by MD Infusions, learn more about ketamine treatment for mood disorders

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