April 13, 2007
Panic Attacks in Young Adults (18-29)
Right before I left for college I experienced the single most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me. This experience and the fear of it happening again stalked me day and night. It is something that has stayed with me and that I deal with and fear on a daily basis. It wasn’t until years later that I sought professional help and found out how common this very personal, ground-shattering experience actually was. I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia.
Throughout history, anxiety and fear have been recognized as an inherent part of man’s existence. However, in antiquity, ...view middle of the document...
With many other disorders sharing the same criteria there was a diagnostic dilemma. To further understand and diagnose these disorders, panic attack definition was revised once again in 1994 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. This definition is now more precise and data driven the previous definitions. Many of the criteria remained the same for this new definition but emphasis was on the placement of these criteria. Criteria for panic disorder now reads “recurrent, unexpected panic attacks” and “attacks followed by a month (or more) of: persistent concern about having additional attacks, worry about the implications of the attack and its consequences, or a significant change in behavior related to the attacks.” (Barlow, David H., p553-554) Much remains unknown, including very basic questions on the relationship between panic and anxiety. Consequently, the definitions of panic attacks and panic disorder that are specified in the DSM-V should be considered a beginning rather then the final word on these issues. (Barlow, David H. p. 561)
13 Symptoms of a Panic Attack as listed in DSM-IV Criteria
1. Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
3. Trembling or shaking
4. Sensations of shortness of breathe or smothering
5. Feeling of choking
6. Chest pain or discomfort
7. Nausea or abdominal distress
8. Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
9. Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
10. Fear of losing control or going crazy
11. Fear of dying
12. Paresthesias (numbing or tingling sensations)
13. Chills or hot flashes
III. Causes of Panic in Young Adults
Throughout all of my research it is well documented that panic attacks and panic disorder make their first appearance in adolescents and young adults.
A. Drug Use
As we know, young adults, especially those who are leaving home for college, are likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Up to 30% of patients presenting with panic disorder can cite clearly an unfavorable experience with drugs such as anesthesia, cocaine, or marijuana as the setting for their first panic. (Barlow, David H. p. 561) Drugs such as cannabis, besides being common, are associated with a variety of adverse events such as emergency room visits, physical health disorders, fatal automobile accidents, impaired educational attainment, and reduced workplace productivity. Anxiety-oriented studies have found that cannabis use can acutely precipitate heightened levels of anxiety and panic attacks among certain individuals. (Zvolensky, Michael J., p. 478) Individuals with high levels of Anxiety Sensitivity are more apt to experience symptoms. Anxiety sensitivity has been described as a fear of anxiety symptoms based on the belief that these symptoms have harmful consequences. Anxiety sensitivity are not...