The following came from Johns Hopkins Health Alerts.
Anxiety is a common, normal, and often useful response to life’s challenges and dangers. But in people who suffer from an anxiety disorder, anxiety levels spin out of control, causing psychological and physical symptoms that interfere with normal functioning, appear even in the absence of obvious external stressors, or are clearly excessive in the face of the stressors.
Researchers believe that anxiety disorders result from hyperactivity in certain areas of the brain, perhaps related to low levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is responsible for keeping activity levels of nerve cells in check.
Panic disorder. One of the five major forms of anxiety disorder is panic disorder — sudden but short-lived attacks of terror and a fear of losing control.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 6 million adults (about 3 percent of adult Americans) suffer from panic disorder each year. It is twice as common in women as in men. One study estimated that only one in four people with panic attacks receives appropriate care.
Panic attacks begin without warning during nonthreatening activities. Affected individuals often go to the emergency room or consult a cardiologist because the physical symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack. Panic attacks generally peak within 10 minutes and dissipate within 20 to 30 minutes. They are characterized by some combination of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Heart palpitations or a racing pulse
- Discomfort in the chest
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or feeling faint
- Choking, nausea or stomach pain
- Hot or cold flashes
- Trembling or shaking
- A feeling of detachment from one’s surroundings or a sense of unreality
- Tingling or numbness
- Fear of dying or losing one’s mind
My next blog will look at how to deal with panic attacks.