Co-occurring mental health and eating disorders are more common than most people think. Sometimes eating disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia, or Binge-Eating Disorder are rooted in a maladaptive attempt to manage the symptoms of other conditions. Anxiety and Panic Disorders, for example, may contribute to an eating disorder as a means of avoiding feeling physically ill or trying to feel some sort of control when everything else feels like chaos. They may also contribute to food fears and aversions rooted in disordered eating. If you or someone you love are experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder spurred on by Panic Disorder, you’re not alone. Eating Disorder Solutions can help you on your journey to recovery.
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What is Panic Disorder?
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that causes panic attacks or sudden feelings of terror with physical symptoms when there is no real danger. Although panic attacks themselves aren’t life-threatening, they can be frightening and significantly affect your quality of life. You may even confuse a panic attack with a heart attack or other physical illness.
Many people have had at least one panic attack in their lifetimes. They are typically triggered during high stress periods, causing your body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to kick in even if there is no actual threat to your physical safety. The problem usually goes away, often when the stressful situation ends. However, if you are having recurrent panic attacks, experience persistent fear of another attack, or avoid certain places or even leaving your home, you may have a Panic Disorder.
Signs & Symptoms of Panic Disorder
Anxiety and stress can be a natural part of everyday life. But feelings of extreme anxiety or panic that interfere with your daily life indicate a panic disorder. Panic attacks can happen anytime and without warning. You may feel as if you are losing control or losing touch with reality. Physical Panic Disorder symptoms include:
- Fast, rapid, or pounding heartbeat
- Chest or stomach pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Weakness, dizziness, or feeling faint
- Sweating, or feeling hot flashes or chills
- Tingly or numb hands
- Trembling or shaking
- Cramping or nausea
Many people experiencing Panic Disorder symptoms may struggle to identify the trigger behind a panic attack, leading to greater fear of future sudden onset attacks. This heightened anxiety only further increases the chances of a future attack, creating a terrifying cycle that can feel impossible to escape on your own. This can leave you vulnerable to developing negative coping mechanisms such as an eating disorder or substance use disorder. Unfortunately these co-occurring conditions only compound the problem, requiring a specialized treatment plan to address both issues simultaneously.
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Benefits of Panic Disorder Treatment
Panic Disorder treatment generally involves psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy, is commonly used to treat Panic Disorder. CBT has been shown to be effective in teaching patients ways to deal with panic attacks, such as thought reframing, deep breathing, or other behavioral modifications. The attacks can become less frequent or intense once you learn how to address the physical sensations during a panic attack.
Exposure therapy is another common CBT method that focuses on confronting the fears and beliefs associated with Panic Disorder. This can help you regain the confidence to participate in activities you once avoided and gain control of your symptoms. Exposure therapy is sometimes paired with relaxation exercises.
A health care provider also may prescribe medication for panic disorder, including:
- Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
- Beta-blockers, which can help control some physical symptoms of panic disorders, like rapid heart rate, shaking, or trembling.
- Anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, can rapidly decrease panic attack symptoms.
While medication and psychotherapy can be effective, you can also adopt some healthy habits to help promote relaxation and address panic attacks. Getting enough sleep and exercise, along with practicing stress-relief activities like yoga or deep breathing can help you before or during a panic attack.
Panic Disorder Treatment Process
If you’re experiencing symptoms of panic disorder, talk to your doctor. After discussing your history, a doctor may conduct a physical exam to ensure that an unrelated physical problem is not causing your symptoms. The first step to effective treatment is to get a diagnosis.
Both psychotherapy and medication can take some time to work, so it is important to continue with your treatment plan. Some medications can also cause serious side effects or have the risk for dependence or abuse. Be sure to check-in with your doctor throughout your treatment. Many people try more than one medication before finding the best one for them.
Panic Disorder Treatment at Eating Disorder Solutions
Eating Disorder Solutions provides treatment for eating disorders and co-occurring disorders, like Panic Disorder, for adults aged 18 years and older. Our dual diagnosis treatment for eating disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions helps to set us apart from other eating disorder treatment facilities. Our highly individualized, evidence-based treatment programs address physical and psychological symptoms while also getting to the root causes of your conditions for the best chance of recovery.
In our residential, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient programs, you will have access to a multidisciplinary team that collaborates closely to address eating disorders and Panic Disorders for comprehensive and effective care. Our client-centered treatment approach means you’re never alone and we provide the exact level of support and guidance you need for success in recovery and beyond.
The Impact of Panic Disorder if Left Untreated
Having both an eating disorder and panic disorder can be a serious health issue. Left unaddressed the two conditions can influence one another, making recovery more difficult and greatly increasing their impact on your life. Treatment for an eating disorder can only succeed if all co-occurring disorders, like panic disorder, are identified and treated from the start. If the Panic Disorder is left undiagnosed and untreated, you may start to recover from the eating disorder, but Panic Disorder symptoms can intensify. This often leads to a relapse in the eating disorder and a setback in the recovery process.
Left untreated, panic attacks and Panic Disorder can affect almost every area of your life. It can impact your finances and ability to work or go to school, social relationships, and ability to achieve your goals. Some potential consequences of an untreated Panic Disorder include:
- Developing phobias, such as fear of driving or leaving your home
- Hypochondria and frequent visits to doctors or medical facilities over health concerns
- Avoiding social situations or relationships
- Loss of employment or inability to succeed in school
- Increased risk of depression and suicidal ideation
- Misusing alcohol or another substance
Get Help Treating Panic Disorder Today
To minimize risk and help ensure recovery, you should seek treatment for a Panic Disorder as soon as possible. At Eating Disorder Solutions, we understand the full spectrum of eating disorders and co-occurring conditions like Panic Disorder. We are proud to offer inclusive, individualized treatment in a safe environment to help individuals reclaim control of their lives and future. Our caring and compassionate staff will address each client’s unique needs throughout the process. Contact our team for a free consultation to start your journey to recovery and learn more about our treatment programs.