Panic Disorder & Social Anxiety

Panic Disorder & Social Anxiety

You’re fearful, panicky, and afraid of embarrassing yourself or being judged negatively. But you feel these things all the time, and even though you have no other medical problems, issues like these need to be explored – not ignored. You may be suffering from symptoms of panic disorder or social anxiety.

What Is Panic Disorder?

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, “panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress. These episodes occur “out of the blue,” not in conjunction with a known fear or stressor.” Symptoms, of course, vary by individual, but the good news is they can be treated with medicine.

What Is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder isn’t always easy to diagnose, quantify, or treat. It’s also sometimes called social phobia and is a serious mental health condition. Social anxiety is characterized by an intense, constant fear of being observed and judged by someone else. This fear can affect work, school, and your daily life. You may have trouble maintaining relationships. But social anxiety disorder shouldn’t stop you from achieving your potential or dreams. Treatment may help you conquer your symptoms.

Know The Symptoms

Panic disorder and social anxiety disorder manifest themselves differently in everyone affected, but the most common symptoms may include:

  • Sense of imminent doom or danger
  • Fear of losing control or death
  • Fast, pounding heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or quivering
  • Shortness of breath or stiffness in your throat
  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Marked anxiety or fear about multiple social situations where you’re subjected to possible examination by others (like having a conversation, giving a speech, meeting new people, eating in front of someone else)
  • You’re afraid you’ll act a certain way or display anxiety symptoms that could be viewed negatively (they’ll be demeaning or embarrassing, or you’ll be rejected)
  • Social situations provoke anxiety or fear, and you avoid or endure them with anxiety or fear. 
  • The fear or anxiety is disproportionate to the danger posed by the setting and context.

Many of these symptoms can be managed with medicine.

Panic Disorder & Social Anxiety

Panic disorder and social anxiety disorder are marked with similar qualities, such as persistent fear, nervousness, and physical sensations, including trembling and shaking. However, each disorder has a specific set of diagnostic criteria that make them unique and distinct conditions.

It’s common to equate social anxiety with panic attacks, but they’re not the same thing. While anxiety symptoms can include extreme fear, trembling, sweating, and rapid heartbeat, the diagnostic criteria for panic disorder and social anxiety are different.

The distinction between social anxiety and panic disorder is probably the most misunderstood subject concerning anxiety disorders. Many clinicians and therapists have not been adequately trained to understand or diagnose anxiety disorders in general — and the clear-cut distinction between these two anxiety disorders is often misunderstood.

Coping strategies:

  • Arm yourself – with knowledge. The first step in overcoming either condition is understanding what is happening in your body when you experience an attack. Gathering knowledge about the disorder and working out your underlying triggers can be a starting point for dealing with the condition.
  • Relaxation techniques aren’t just for jazzed-up infomercials on late-night television. 
  • Try deep muscle relaxation.
  • Change your thought process. Some people automatically overestimate a perceived threat, thinking it’s worse than it is, while at the same time convincing themselves of the worst possible outcome. Don’t do either. Calm your thoughts.
  • Consider the possible benefits of psychotherapy.
  • Consider the potential benefits of ketamine therapy but ask your healthcare provider about risks and benefits.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosis involves:

  • A physical examination to talk about your symptoms and what may be triggering them. You may undergo specific tests to determine or eliminate a medical problem as the cause.
  • A psychiatric assessment to learn about thoughts, feelings, and behavior as possible triggers. Your medical professional will be keen to learn about any history of personal or family mental illness.
  • Comparing your symptoms to criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.

If diagnosed with either condition, your healthcare provider may recommend treatment, like antidepressant medicine, psychotherapy, self-help, diet or lifestyle changes, or ketamine therapy.

Final Thoughts

Panic disorder and social anxiety are serious mental health issues that can lead to more severe problems if the symptoms are ignored. Diagnosis and treatment are difficult, but you owe yourself to make an effort and begin the road to recovery. Aren’t you worth at least that much?

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