WHAT IS PANIC DISORDER WITH AGORAPHOBIA?
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by regular panic attacks. These panic attacks occur when the body senses danger, even when no physical danger is present. Women experience panic disorder more often than men, and it tends to first manifest during young adulthood (though small children can also have panic disorder).
Agoraphobia is the fear of being unable to escape public places. Agoraphobia often leads people to avoid new or unknown environments, including public transport, open or closed spaces, crowded areas, or other places outside the home. Often, agoraphobia stems from the fear of having a panic attack while in public.
Some of the physical symptoms of panic disorder include:
- A racing heart
- Pain in your chest or stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling too cold or too hot
- Hands that are numb or tingling
Physical symptoms of agoraphobia include:
- Upset stomach
- Racing heart rate
- Feeling of fear
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Experiencing body chills
- A red and hot face
As you can see, the physical symptoms for both of these conditions are similar, so it makes sense that they are commonly experienced together.
However, remember that having panic disorder does not mean you will develop agoraphobia and vice versa. Someone can have just one or the other.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS OF PANIC DISORDER WITH AGORAPHOBIA?
Panic disorder or agoraphobia may be caused by a genetic predisposition, health conditions, temperament, or environment.
Other risk factors include people who have additional phobias, react to panic attacks with increased fear, have a worried temperament, are in an abusive relationship, went through the death of a parent, have a relative with agoraphobia, or have experienced traumatic events.
How Is Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia Diagnosed?
Some medical conditions have similar symptoms to panic disorder. For instance, a racing heart rate could be linked to an overactive thyroid or a respiratory issue. If you believe you’re experiencing a panic disorder, it is important to rule out all options.
CRITERIA FOR DIAGNOSING PANIC DISORDER
After ruling out other physical conditions, you might be diagnosed with a panic disorder. Diagnosis often occurs after multiple panic attacks that result in a constant state of worry, preoccupation with experiencing an attack, and avoidance of environments that could cause a panic attack.
Your physician may perform physical exams, blood tests, and psychological evaluations to reach a panic disorder diagnosis. The blood tests will check thyroid levels and other conditions, and an electrocardiogram (EKG) will check for any cardiac complications. Lastly, a psychological evaluation will include questions regarding symptoms, feelings of worry and anxiety, environments that produce stress, commonly avoided circumstances, and family history.
Patients must meet certain criteria to be diagnosed with a panic disorder:
- You must have panic attacks often and at unexpected times.
- You must experience a month of constant worry following an attack, have an ongoing fear of an attack, experience feelings similar to a heart attack, or stay away from certain situations due to fear of an impending attack.
- Your panic attacks must not be related to drugs, substance use, a mental health condition, or a medical condition.
How Does Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia Affect Daily Functions?
Panic disorder and agoraphobia are severe enough to affect daily functions.
Panic disorder with agoraphobia can interfere with going grocery shopping, going out with friends, commuting to work, and attending family gatherings. Obligations you typically don’t think about twice can turn into huge steps outside of your comfort zone if you have panic disorder with agoraphobia.
The fear, the anxiety, and the stress that panic disorder and agoraphobia bring can be debilitating. Going out to dinner with friends isn’t just going out with friends–it’s an excruciating ordeal that comes with uncomfortable physical symptoms at best and a panic attack at worst.
GOING OUT WITH PANIC DISORDER AND AGORAPHOBIA
Some of the basic tasks and functions we need to complete in our day-to-day lives–such as what to wear, how much a dinner will cost, or finding parking–can become insurmountable obstacles when panic disorder and agoraphobia come into play.
People experiencing panic attacks and agoraphobia add the possibility of experiencing an unexpected panic attack while in public. That fear may mean people with panic attacks and agoraphobic will refuse every dinner invite, which leads to feelings of isolation, insecurity, and depression.
This scenario addresses how panic disorder and agoraphobia affect relationships and social interactions. However, it also affects one’s overall health and day-to-day needs.
Maybe you have a support system to help and don’t need to go out much to get essentials. However, if you struggle to make friends due to your panic disorder, social isolation will further complicate your ability to complete daily functions.
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS TO REDUCE PANIC ATTACKS?
If you aren’t sure how to handle panic attacks, these suggestions might help. Remember that these steps won’t permanently solve your attacks; however, some of these suggestions may be helpful when you need to boost your mood, help with the anxiety, or work through an attack as it’s happening.
Exercise has several health benefits, including an increased release of endorphins and an improved mood. Going for a jog or taking a bike ride when you start feeling fearful might distract your mind from the impending panic.
JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP
Joining a support group might help you realize that you aren’t alone in your struggle. Others also deal with panic disorders and agoraphobia. Having a support system around you to encourage you, support you, and understand you might not heal the panic, but will help you find strength and comfort.
Stimulants include anything that increases your heart rate and blood pressure. These vital signs also increase during a panic attack because your body senses danger and responds to it by preparing your body to fight.
Further packing your body with stimulants, such as caffeine, nicotine from smoking or even chewing, and recreational drugs could worsen or trigger a panic attack. Avoiding stimulants could decrease your chances of experiencing a panic attack.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Having enough rest is vital for everyone’s emotional and physical health. Depriving your body of sleep will make your mind tired during the day, which prevents you from thinking clearly and rationally. That drowsiness could worsen panic and fear.
PRACTICE CONTROLLING YOUR STRESS
There isn’t one way to control stress and relax your mind and body. You might have to try several methods, including meditation, yoga, pilates, or journaling. Or maybe controlling your stress means taking a walk, going kayaking, or finding a friend you trust. A combination of these wellness practices will work together to help you manage your panic.
PICK A TREATMENT PLAN AND STICK TO IT
Finding treatment can be difficult, especially if leaving the house or going to new environments is a challenge. However, working with a professional will be beneficial for your health long term.
CAN KETAMINE HELP WITH PANIC DISORDER AND AGORAPHOBIA?
Have you ever considered ketamine as a treatment for panic disorder and agoraphobia?
Ketamine has shown promise as a safe and effective treatment for treatment-resistant depression. This treatment might be helpful for you, as the isolation and loneliness that many people with panic disorder with agoraphobia feel can lead to feelings of depression.
Pasithea Therapeutics uses IV Ketamine infusions to help treat patients suffering from psychiatric disorders, including panic disorder. At-home IV treatments performed by an anesthesiologist or CRNA are a safe option with less risk of abuse than other forms of ketamine. For many people with panic disorder and agoraphobia, leaving home can be difficult. An at-home treatment like ketamine therapy is the perfect solution.
Whatever your needs may be, there are many ways ketamine can help. This might be exactly what you are looking for when treating the depression that can come with panic disorder and agoraphobia.
Panic disorder with agoraphobia can be scary. If you or a loved one is experiencing panic disorder or agoraphobia, knowledge is power. Better understanding these conditions can help you discover a treatment plan that works.
There are several ways to manage a panic disorder, but it’s important to remember that no one action or treatment will work the same for everyone.
It might take various attempts to see if exercise, adequate sleep, a support group, or ketamine treatments can positively affect your mood and daily activities. Finding what works for you will be worth it in the end—don’t give up!