When you suffer from an unusual mental health disorder, it’s important to advocate for others with that disorder who are uncomfortable talking openly about it.
Mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression are celebrated by advocates, but typically other lesser known mental health disorders such as panic disorder are not discussed.
Panic disorder is often recognized by chronic and often frequent panic attacks.
I was recently diagnosed with panic disorder, but before I was diagnosed I had not heard of it.
O Anxiety and Depression Association of America says around 2-3% of Americans suffer from panic disorder in any given year.
Scotland’s National Health Service says that people with panic disorder regularly have panic attacks, but the frequency of attacks depends on the person. Some people have panic attacks several times a day and others once a month.
For me, the number of panic attacks is sporadic, but when I’m really stressed, I usually have at least one attack a day.
The website also says that if panic disorder is left untreated, it can become a very debilitating and isolated illness.
Sometimes I find panic disorder to be extremely debilitating, causing me not to be able to attend classes or go to work. While I know many others suffer from anxiety, I sometimes feel alone in the frequency and severity of the panic attacks I experience.
Anxiety attacks and panic attacks are very similar experiences, but a panic attack is usually more extreme and occurs for no reason, whereas anxiety attacks are usually triggered by a trigger.
An extremely harmful result of untreated panic disorder is the development of agoraphobia.
The National Health Service in Scotland says that agoraphobia is a strong fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult and/or help would not be available if things went wrong.
Agoraphobia can make someone unable to leave the house, so it’s important to treat panic disorder as soon as it’s noticed.
The main treatments for panic disorder are therapy and medication. Therapy for panic disorder usually takes the form of cognitive behavioral therapy.
The National Institute of Mental Health says Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches you how to think, behave, and react in different ways to the thoughts and feelings that precede a panic attack.
Continued use of this type of therapy can lead to fewer panic attacks and better reactions to attacks.
The other type of treatment is medication, mainly the use of antidepressants and medication for anxiety.
The most common antidepressant used to treat panic disorder is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which increase the level of serotonin in the brain, according to Scotland’s National Health Service.
With the use of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication, panic disorder can be managed, but living with it can still be a struggle.
It’s harder if you feel alone, which is why I find it beneficial to share my experiences so that others with similar experiences can feel comfortable with themselves.
Kate Beske is a 20-year-old second-year journalism student from Destrehan.