5 Myths About Panic Disorders
Panic attacks are frightening and disruptive enough; you don't need the additional stress
of worrying about whether common misconceptions about panic disorders are true.
Panic disorders cause sudden and repeated attacks of fear despite the absence of any real
danger. Although panic attacks can seem interminable at the time, an attack generally
lasts only a few minutes. About six million adults suffer from panic disorders. They
generally begin in individuals' late teens or early adulthood years, and women are more
likely than men to experience them.
Putting the Nix on Common Misconceptions
Myth: Panic disorders only occur in people who are emotionally weak or who have serious
Fact: Panic attacks can strike anyone, although they tend to run in families. There
are also biological explanations for panic disorders. Studies have linked them to a
specific hormone in a brain circuit that regulates vigilance. Too much of this hormone may
lead to panic attacks. Other studies suggest that the brains of people with panic
disorders are lacking in a type of serotonin receptor. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter
that regulates emotion.
Panic disorders are not a personal weakness or sign of mental illness, and having
occasional panic attacks don't necessarily lead to panic disorder.
Myth: Everyone will know I'm having a panic attack.
Fact: While the feelings of fear and anxiety are very real to you when you're
having a panic attack, remember, they're just in your mind. The people you're with are
not aware of them and may not know you're having a panic attack.
Myth: Specific situations trigger panic attacks.
Fact: It's common to associate specific places or activities with panic attacks if
that's where (or when) they occurred. And while certain situations might trigger a panic
attack, there are other triggers as well.
Myth: Panic attacks produce physical symptoms but physical conditions do not cause panic
Fact: Many individuals do experience physical symptoms during panic attacks, such
as a racing heart, sweating, or difficulty breathing.
However, physical conditions such as heartburn or a headache can also trigger a panic
attack. Individuals with depression and anxiety may also have a predisposition to
developing panic attacks after consuming high doses of caffeine. If you're concerned
about panic attacks, it may be best to skip the coffee.
Myth: Drugs are the only treatment for panic disorders.
Fact: Medications such as antidepressant or anti-anxiety drugs may be part of a
patient's treatment for panic disorders. However, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a
type of psychotherapy, is probably the most effective treatment. During CBT, a qualified
therapist will gradually expose you to different experiences in a safe environment to help
you learn to cope with anxiety-provoking situations.