The essential feature is the experience of recurrent panic attacks, which are characterized by an unpredictable sense of threat/dread where an individual may fear losing control, being trapped, unable to get help or die.
Panic disorder includes behavioral aspects, such as avoidance and reassurance seeking. There are also physical sensations including racing heartbeat, breathlesness, diziness, a chocking feeling, shakiness, blushing, excessive sweating, trembling/quivering voice, tearfulness, poor concentration, tightness in one’s muscles and dry mouth.
These symptoms may be triggered in a variety of ordinary settings and interfere with one’s ability to function in important areas. Unprovoked attacks usually reccur and individuals may begin to dread and anticipate future attacks. In time, individuals generally develop emotionally bound panic attacks and avoid certain situations, such as leaving their home or driving. The intensity of panic attacks, anticipatory anxiety and behavioral avoidance can exacerbate without appropriate cognitive-behavioral treatment.
Panic disorder develops in late teens and twenties and has a lifetime prevalence rate of 2.6% . Individuals may originally seek consultation with a physician due to the physical symptoms before turning to a psychologist.
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