Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and panic at certain times during their lifetime. It’s a natural response to stressful or dangerous situations. However, for someone with anxiety or panic disorder, these feelings of anxiety, stress and panic occur severely, regularly and at any time with no apparent reason.
Various conditions can lead up to severe anxiety. The most common include:
- phobias where one experiences an extreme or irrational fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal
- generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) a long-term condition of excessive anxiety and worry related to a variety of situations
- caused by distressing or frightening events
- panic attacks
- post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition with psychological and physical symptoms (link to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Panic disorders occur when there are recurring and regular panic attacks, often for no apparent reason. A panic attack occurs when your body experiences a rush of intense psychological and physical symptoms.
An overwhelming sense of fear, apprehension and anxiety, as well as certain physical symptoms can occur in a panic attack. These include:
- a sensation that your heart is beating irregularly (palpitations)
The number of panic attacks you have will depend on how severe your condition is. Some people may have one or two attacks each month, while others may have several attacks a week.
Panic attacks can be very frightening and intense, but they are not dangerous. An attack will not cause you any physical harm, and it is unlikely that you will be admitted to a hospital if you have had a panic attack.
As with many mental health conditions, the exact cause of panic disorder is not fully understood. However, it is thought the condition is linked to a combination of physical and psychological factors.
Read about Anxiety Disorders.