HAVING a panic attack or feeling anxious is normal when you’re stressed or in an unpleasant situation.
Some people may be more prone to such attacks, with debilitating effects (to a point which they no longer function normally). When this happens, a panic attack becomes an illness that must be treated.
Its symptoms are typical of an anxiety disorder, a common mental illness.
The symptoms cause mood disturbances and hamper one’s thinking, behaviour and physiological activity.
Major types of anxiety disorders are panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and phobia.
University Malaya Department of Psychological Medicine consultant psychiatrist Dr Ahmad Hatim Sulaiman says that although anxiety is normal, it becomes abnormal when it results in prolonged distress and impairment in function.
People who suffer from frequent panic attacks or have an obsessive tendency to do things again and again cannot function normally and their quality of life is affected.
“Those with a severe condition often refuse to leave the house as they are afraid of having a panic attack in public places.
“They eventually develop low self-esteem and become depressed. Their condition also causes distress to their families.”
Common symptoms of anxiety disorders are restlessness, difficulty concentrating, extreme fatigue and difficulty sleeping.
Physical symptoms include palpitations, shortness of breath, a choking sensation, muscle tension, tremors, sweating and dizziness.
“Unfortunately, many who suffer from anxiety disorders are unaware that it is an illness that must be treated,” says Dr Abdul Hatim.
“They think the symptoms are caused by a weak personality or mind. The disorder is caused by neurochemical structural changes in our body and brain and requires treatment.”
Sufferers should seek treatment to ensure they are not suffering from heart disease or other illnesses before seeking psychiatric evaluation to determine the cause and treatment of the disorder.
“We have to look at the cause of the anxiety. Some people can be genetically predisposed to anxiety disorders. Once a diagnosis is made,
effective treatments are available.
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