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Category: Panic Disorder

Is Panic Disorder a Disability?

A panic disorder can be a disability. If your symptoms are severe, they can significantly reduce your quality of life and make it difficult to engage in everyday activities. Fortunately, panic disorders can be treated with a combination of medications, therapy, and holistic approaches.

North Atlanta Behavioral Health provides evidence-based, outpatient mental health treatment in Atlanta, Georgia. Visit our admissions page today to begin treatment with us.

What Is Panic Disorder? (Signs + Symptoms)

A panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that causes episodes known as panic attacks.

Therefore, the primary symptom of a panic disorder is a panic attack. Panic attacks are unexpected episodes of intense fear with physical symptoms. Oftentimes, you feel like you are having a heart attack.

Some people have one panic attack triggered by some external event or internal feelings—and then never have another. This wouldn’t qualify as a panic disorder. However, if you have recurrent panic attacks without a clear trigger, then you most likely have a panic disorder.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Panic Attack?

The following are the signs and symptoms of panic attacks:

  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Excessive sweating
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Chest discomfort
  • Trouble breathing
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Tremors or shakes
  • Nausea
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands, feet, and arms
  • Feeling like you are removed from your environment (derealization)
  • Feeling detached from your own thoughts and feelings (depersonalization)

[Recommended: “Signs and Symptoms of a Silent Panic Attack]

In addition, when you have a panic disorder, you are overwhelmed by the fear of having another panic attack. This can limit your ability to live a full life, as you worry about where a panic attack could occur. For instance, you might not get a driver’s license for fear of having an attack while driving.

4.7% of US Adults Have a Panic Disorder in Their Lifetime

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “An estimated 4.7% of U.S. adults experience panic disorder at some time in their lives.”

However, this statistic doesn’t mean that a person will have panic attacks for their entire lives. Panic disorders are treatable and aren’t usually a persistent, lifelong issue. Still, for some, a panic disorder can be debilitating—impacting their ability to work, form relationships, and, in extreme cases, even leave their homes.

When Is Panic Disorder a Disability?

A panic disorder is a disability when your symptoms significantly limit one or more major life areas.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into US law in 1990. The ADA is a federal civil rights law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination. It also guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities and rights as everyone else.

According to the ADA, a person with a disability:

  • has a physical or mental impairment that limits their ability to function in one or more major life activities
  • has a psychiatric or medical history or record of this impairment
  • is perceived by others as having a limiting or visible impairment

Furthermore, the ADA defines major life activities as “the kind of activities that you do every day, including your body’s own internal processes.” For example:

  • Thinking or concentrating
  • Seeing, hearing, or feeling
  • Eating, speaking, sleeping, walking, or breathing
  • Performing tasks like working, reading, communicating, and learning
  • Major bodily functions (ex. circulation, reproduction)

Therefore, if panic attacks limit the above-mentioned life activities, you have a history of a panic disorder, and they occur often enough for others to notice, you could have a disability.

Even if your panic disorder is a disability, there are treatment options that can help you.

How Are Panic Disorders Treated?

Panic disorders are treated with a combination of psychiatric medication and psychotherapy.

Even if your panic disorder qualifies as a disability, treatment can reduce the severity of your symptoms. Over time, you may even resume formerly impaired major life activities. Thus, mental health treatment programs—whether your symptoms are mild or severe—will significantly improve your quality of life.

Which Medications Help With Panic Disorder?

Each person responds differently to psychiatric medications. So, you may need to try different types before you find the best medication for you.

The following medications can help with panic disorders:

  • Antidepressants
  • Beta-blockers
  • Benzodiazepines

Some medications are fast-acting and work to reduce symptoms during a panic attack. Others reduce anxiety and activity in the central nervous system (CNS) to prevent panic attacks from occurring.

Regardless of which medication works for you, medications alone won’t be enough. Instead, medications reduce symptoms so that you can fully participate in psychotherapy.

How Can Psychotherapy Help My Panic Disorder?

Psychotherapy can teach you more about the underlying causes of your panic disorder. It can also teach you healthy ways to reduce stress and anxiety. As a result, you can manage your symptoms so they don’t seem so out of control.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common type of therapy for panic and anxiety disorders.

During CBT, you’ll learn how negative thought patterns and beliefs can influence your behaviors. After all, one of the worst parts of panic disorders is the fear of having a panic attack. Oftentimes, the fear of another attack holds you back more than the attack itself.

Furthermore, your therapist can recommend holistic approaches, like mindfulness, yoga, or exercise to reduce stress. With comprehensive treatment, including medications, therapy, and holistic approaches, you can overcome your panic disorder and reduce the likelihood of disabling symptoms.

Get Treatment for Your Panic Disorder Today

When left untreated, a panic disorder can become a disability. It can significantly reduce your ability to function in major life areas and lower your overall quality of life. However, panic disorders are treatable—and North Atlanta Behavioral Health has solutions for you.

Contact us today to begin panic disorder treatment in Atlanta, Georgia.

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