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Chapter 23. Anxiety > Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder

In panic disorder, people experience half-hour bouts of severe anxiety, including a number of somatic complaints. The anxiety seems to come out of nowhere. Panic attacks sometimes lead to agoraphobia, a fear of being away from home without help lest a panic attack occur. As a result, the lives of people with panic disorder become increasingly restricted.

Panic Disorder

Ted had been a good performer, a nice guy. Now he often seemed on edge, somewhat withdrawn and hesitant. He no longer went out after work and started missing a lot more work than usual.

One day a colleague found him in the men’s room, sweating, looking terrified, and with his heart pounding. Assuming Ted was using drugs, the colleague told Ted that he needed to talk to the EAP (employee assistance program). Ted agreed. Ted explained he was having these attacks about once a week. They lasted a half hour and seemed to come from nowhere. He was preoccupied with them and avoided being away from home except when he absolutely had to.

The doctor diagnosed panic disorder and gave Ted an SSRI (a type of antidepressant). Ted objected, saying he wasn’t depressed. The doctor explained that these medications boost serotonin levels in the brain and are helpful in depression and several types of anxiety. After a month, Ted’s panic attacks ceased and he was back to the person he had once been.



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