Panic disorder

We’ll help you overcome your panic attacks

Fear is a feeling that ensures our survival. Without fear, we would take risks that are a danger to our health and life. But fear can also become pathological. People with a panic disorder suffer repeatedly from sudden, intense panic attacks that have a major negative impact on their lives.

For many years, our specialised physicians, therapists and co-therapists have been successfully working on the treatment of anxiety disorders. They carefully assist you in overcoming their fears and combating the panic attacks. So you can actively take part in life again.

Causes & symptoms

Panic attack – Causes: Here’s how a panic disorder develops

The first panic attack presumably come “from nowhere”. But when asking targeted questions, it is determined that the person was usually suffering from a high level of stress before the panic attack. This can come from negative or positive life events such as a death in the family, separation from a partner, a wedding, the birth of a child or a move. More frequently, however, it’s the “little everyday things” that result in a higher level of stress. When warning signals, such as increased restlessness, sleep disorders or heart palpitations are ignored,a panic attack may ensue.
Today, the assumption is that some people have a higher propensity toward fear and the risk of developing an anxiety disorder increases further due to stressful childhood experiences, rearing methods, learning experiences or stressful life events. Scientific studies show that, in addition to changes in messenger substance systems in the brain, genetic changes also play a role in the development of anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders usually start between ages 20 and 30.

Symptoms: Frequent indications of a panic disorder

Panic disorders are characterised by recurring, sudden and unexpected panic attacks during which the physical symptoms, catastrophic thoughts and a massive feeling of fear present at the same time. The duration of the attacks spans from a few minutes to several hours. The symptoms during the panic attack support the supposition that something dangers or even life-threatening is happening in the body. The affected persons often suffer from the fear of dying and losing control. This feels particularly stressful.

Physical symptoms during a panic attack:
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sudden sweating
  • Trembling
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Pain in the chest
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Numbness or tingling
Psychological symptoms:
  • Fear of losing control or going mad
  • Fear of dying
  • Disaffection from yourself
  • Catastrophic thoughts
  • Intense feelings of fear
The characteristic physical symptoms of a panic attack often lead to the assumption the afflicted person might be suffering an acute physical illness such as a heart attack or stroke. Therefore, patients panic disorders often come to emergency rooms and undergo a variety of examinations but are generally in normal condition. In this case, it is important that the affected person is quickly informed that a panic disorder may be a potential cause so a specific and effective form of therapy can be started.

Agoraphobia as a consequence of a panic disorder
To prevent future panic attacks, affected persons often avoid places where it might be difficult to get help or flee the situation. Typical places that trigger fear include public spaces, crowds of people, travelling on buses, trains or by car and leaving the house alone. This agoraphobia can be so strong that the affected person is no longer able to leave the house without someone with them or may not be able to leave at all. They often take sedatives or drink until they have enough courage.

Diagnostics

Diagnosis: How a panic disorder is diagnosed

If physical problems have been excluded as a cause of the panic attack, the person should be referred to a psychotherapist or specialist. A precise diagnosis can be provided by having a comprehensive conversation about the patient’s history and with the help of clinical interviews and special surveys.

At Schoen Clinic, we take a lot of time for diagnostic process and develop a customised model for the development of your symptoms with you. It is also important to find out what factors trigger the attacks and what maintains the panic disorder. After that, we derive the primary strategies of your treatment from this model.