What You Should Know About Panic Disorder

Any person can develop panic disorder, irrespective of gender, race, or socio-economic status.

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By Mental Health Information Centre Southern Africa (3 mins read)

Having knowledge about panic disorder will better equip you with not only diagnosing it through identifying the symptoms but you will also know how to treat it.

What is panic disorder?

Panic disorder is characterised by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. These attacks may last from a few seconds to a few minutes and are known for to be extremely frightening and uncomfortable.

Panic disorder is often accompanied by agoraphobia, which is an irrational fear of places or situations where escape is difficult.

Causes of panic disorder

Stressful life events or circumstances like adapting to university, while some causes are genetic and neurological.

According to the Mental Health Information Center, first-degree relatives of people with panic disorder have five times greater chance of developing panic disorder.

Characteristics and symptoms

During a panic attack there is a rapid escalation of symptoms, over approximately ten to thirty minutes.

The psychological symptoms include severe, intense anxiety and a feeling that something terrible is going to happen. This is accompanied by multiple physical symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Racing heart
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • A feeling of chocking
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension
  • Visual disturbance

If you noticed these symptoms contact the university’s career and psychological service or call the campus health service.

What to do and where to go for help

The most important step to do is to consult a professional for an accurate diagnosis. Help is available and in most cases is effective in relieving symptoms.

Both medication and psychotherapy are used, and a combination of both methods is often recommended.

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Medication for curing panic disorder include those that work immediately but have the limitation that they may cause dependence (benzodiazepines), and those that work slowly, but that can be readily discontinued (antidepressants).

A psychiatrist will prescribe the pills to you. These are not over the counter pills that can be bought without a prescription.

Treatment should be sought from a clinical psychologist or psychiatrists, whom are available at your campus’ psychological centre. Joining a support group also helps individuals to deal with this disorder. TOJ

RELATED ARTICLE: What Students Should Know About Mental Health And Awareness

Emergency Health Service at UJ

  • APK 011 559 3837
  • APB 011 559 1238
  • DFC 011 559 6544
  • SWC 011 559 5571

Content obtained from Mental Health Information Centre Southern Africa (www.mentalhealthsa.org.za).

Feature image: Breath illustration.

Illustration by Gaby Ndongo.

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