Women who are most likely to experience panic attacks are least likely to be aware of panic disorder, according to a survey by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA). The survey found that almost half (45 percent) of women ages 18-34 and over 55 – the two groups most likely to have panic disorder – were not familiar with the condition.
According to the ADAA, women are twice as likely to have panic disorder than men, with two to three million women frequently experiencing panic attacks. The most common age of onset for panic disorder varies from adolescence to mid-thirties.
What is Panic Disorder?
Imagine you're safe at home, sitting comfortably in front of the TV when out of nowhere, you feel your heart rate accelerate, your breathing becomes erratic, and you experience true terror for no reason whatsoever. This is the experience of the panic sufferer.
People suffering from panic disorder may not be anxious all of the time. However, they do experience unanticipated "attacks" that recur after periods of normal functioning. These "attacks" are sudden, overwhelming periods of intense fear that seemingly come out of nowhere. Quite often, a person suffering from a panic attack will believe he or she is suffering from a heart attack and dying.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Common symptoms of panic attacks include shortness of breath, dizziness, heart palpitations, nausea, numbness or tingling, chest pain, a sense of "strangeness" or being detached from one's surroundings and fear of going "insane" or dying. The person suffering from panic disorder often develops anticipatory anxiety, tension and worry that the panic will happen again.
What Can You Do?
Contact your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for confidential help. Your EAP can assist you with counseling or referrals to help you understand and overcome panic disorder.