Archive for the 'Anxiety Disorders' Category

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Ever wonder what it feels like to have a mental disorder?

Here are some incredibly powerful depictions of common mental disorders that may help promote understanding and reduce stigma about mental disorders:

What NOT to say to someone with struggling with a mental disorder…

Want to know what NOT to say to someone struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental disorder? This brave young lady’s recent Facebook post may help:

She is absolutely correct in her stats: More than a third (estimates range from 28-44%) of all people will suffer from mental health issues at some point in their lifetime (1). If you are blessed to not have had to struggle with mental health issues, please do your best to be understanding, supportive, or at the very least be non-judgmental of the many many people around you who may be silently suffering from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.

Reference:
1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2174588/

Panic Disorder


Introduction

One of my special clinical interests is panic disorder.  Panic disorder is an example of the link between mind and body and how they can have a strong impact on each other.  About 6 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 2.7 percent of people in this age group struggle with this disorder. (NIMH)

Symptoms

Patients generally report repeated, generally unpredictable episodes of extreme fear and discomfort starting suddenly and peaking within 10 minutes.  Common symptoms during these episodes called “panic attacks” are:

  • hyperventilation or shortness of breath
  • fast heart rate or palpitations
  • chest pain
  • trembling or shaking
  • numbness or tingling in fingers and other extremities
  • feelings of choking
  • nausea
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • chills or hot flashes
  • feelings that the world is unreal (derealization)
  • feelings that the patient is observing herself from the outside (depersonalization)
  • fears of losing control or going crazy
  • fears of dying

Diagnosis

Panic disorder is diagnosed clinically, based on history.  There is no blood test or imaging test that is diagnostic for panic disorder.  That being said, the symptoms of panic disorder mimic many medical illnesses, including potentially life-threatening conditions like heart attack or stroke.  It is critical for the patient to be medically cleared before arriving at the diagnosis of panic disorder.

Treatment

Treatment can involve psychotherapy, medications, or combined treatment, depending on patient preference and severity of symptoms.

  • Psychotherapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been proven to be very effective for panic disorder.  The CBT workbook my patients have found to be most helpful for panic disorder is Mastery of Your Panic and Anxiety Workbook by Craske and Barlow.  Many patients find it helpful to go through the workbook and suggested exercises with the guidance of a mental health professional, though the workbook is made to be self-guided.
  • Medications: The most commonly used medications for treating panic disorder are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) and benzodiazepenes. These medications can be prescribed by your primary care doctor, or by your psychiatrist.
  • Combined Treatment: For some patients, the combination of psychotherapy and medications is the most effective form of treatment.  If CBT is successful, patients are often able to eventually decrease or even stop their medications.

For Further Information

See the Anxiety Disorders Association of American (ADAA) website, or contact a qualified mental health professional.

Article written 8/29/09 by Minyang Mao, M.D. and updated 8/30/09

Disclaimer: This article is intended as an educational resource only, and is not intended to be a replacement for treatment. For evaluation and treatment, please contact a qualified mental health professional.

Content and images are © 2009 Minyang Mao, M.D. All rights reserved.