Panic disorder

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Overview

Panic disorder is marked by recurrent experience of panic attacks - ‘surges’ of intense fear or discomfort that last up to a few minutes, accompanied by physiological symptoms such as heart palpitations, shaking or trembling, shortness of breath, dizziness, and numbness or tingling sensations.1, 2 There is also an associated catastrophic misinterpretation of these bodily sensations such as a fear of losing control, going ‘crazy’, or dying, or significant change in behaviour in an effort to circumvent future attacks or to always be within reach of help in the event of a panic attack.1

Individuals with panic disorder often experience persistent worry about further panic attacks or the consequences of those attacks. Sometimes there is an identifiable cue for a panic attack, though for a diagnosis of panic disorder, some panic attacks must occur unexpectedly.1

Assessment of panic disorder typically involves a thorough symptom review, an evaluation of the individual’s beliefs and interpretations of their symptoms, avoidance behaviours, and any comorbid psychological conditions.3, 4 A medical investigation is usually recommended to ensure symptoms are not due to a medical condition or the side effects of medication.1

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is considered the most effective treatment for panic disorder, and  typically includes psychoeducation, self-monitoring, relaxation, cognitive restructuring, in vivo exposure, interoceptive exposure, and relapse prevention.5-7 Lifestyle interventions such as reducing the use of stimulants and increasing exercise may also have a beneficial effect.8-11

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  • Contributor(s)
    APS Member Resources Team

    Dr Clare Rees, PhD
    Associate Professor
    School of Psychology and Speech Pathology
    Faculty of Health Sciences
    Curtin University
  • Publish date
    15 Sep 2014
  • References
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