Everyone gets nervous from time to time.
Some people, however, suffer panic attacks that are frightening and can be debilitating because episodes are known to occur suddenly and pass quickly.
Those who experience them may dismiss them or keep the experiences secret from family and friends to avoid the often-associated negative reactions that come with sharing.
If this is true for you or someone you know, take heart: panic attacks are treatable and do not necessarily indicate a serious psychological or physical condition.
What is anxiety?
Occasional anxiety over a particularly troubling task or event is normal. Chronic anxiety, however, does not reflect a healthy mental state.
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Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a psychological condition in which constant and excessive worry over a variety of situations cause anxiety to the extent that it affects everyday function. GAD afflicts almost seven million American adults (over three percent of the population).
People with GAD can anticipate catastrophe in every aspect of their lives, regardless of whether there’s true immediate cause for concern. (1) GAD has been associated with serious comorbidities, such as life-limiting phobias, depression, and thyroid disorders. (2)
Panic disorder (PD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It manifests as sudden and overwhelming fear. PD, like other psychological disorders, can be hereditary but isn’t always. It is theorized that panic disorder is caused by certain mechanisms in the brain that trigger imbalanced—and often unfounded—fear and anxiety. Panic attacks are one of the signs of PD. (3)