Ways Panic Disorder Can Impact a Person's Life

The Effects of Living with Panic Disorder

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It can be difficult to manage the symptoms of panic disorder and agoraphobia. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with panic disorder, then you may understand how living with panic disorder can greatly impact many areas of a person’s life. For instance, panic disorder can negatively affect a person’s personal and work-related relationships. Additionally, there are several mental health and medical conditions that commonly co-occur with panic disorder, potentially causing more stress and strain to a person’s quality of life.

The following describes several areas that may be impacted due to having panic disorder, panic attacks, and/or, agoraphobia.

Problems at the Workplace

The symptoms of panic disorder can be a difficult barrier in one’s professional life. Panic disorder can hinder a person’s work performance and get in the way of developing relationships with coworkers. For example, people who experience frequent panic attacks may fear potential judgment or negative reactions of coworkers. Some people even afraid that if coworkers found out about their condition, they would be at jeopardy to losing their job.

Fear and anxiety about future panic attacks can make a person distance themselves from others at work. Many of the physical symptoms of panic and anxiety, such as sweating, trembling, and shaking, can cause feelings of shame and embarrassment. Such feelings can contribute to the loneliness and isolation that many people with panic disorder experience.

The symptoms of agoraphobia can also impact a person’s work life. Agoraphobia can make commuting to work difficult. It can also be a barrier to any work-related travel or maintaining employment in a large open area or in a crowded work environment. The fear, worry, and avoidance associated with agoraphobia can at times make it difficult to find and maintain employment.

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Difficulties with Relationships

Aside from issues with coworkers, people with panic disorder also often have problems with their personal relationships. Difficulties in personal relationships can stem from the aforementioned issues, such as embarrassing physical symptoms of panic or fears associated with agoraphobia. A person with panic disorder may find it difficult to genuinely connect with others.

Many people with panic disorder keep what is called the “panic secret” in which they try to hide their symptoms out of fear of being negatively evaluated by others, or worse yet, many worry that they will be rejected or abandoned by loved ones who don’t understand panic disorder. Trying to keep quiet about this condition can cause issues in dating relationships and with close friends and family.

Even though panic disorder can have a great impact on social relationships, many loved ones truly want to be helpful and supportive. There are many myths about panic disorder that may have clouded the opinions of your friends and family.

However, most loved ones want to understand panic disorder and help be supportive throughout recovery.

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Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders

There are several anxiety disorders that commonly co-occur with panic disorder. These conditions include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), specific phobias, social anxiety disorder (SAD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Some of these diagnoses have many similar features as panic disorder, but are separate and distinct conditions. To help ensure that misdiagnosis does not occur, be sure to thoroughly discuss your symptoms with your doctor or mental health specialist.

Mood disorders, including depression, are also common among people with panic disorder. People with depression often feel an overall sense of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed. If you suspect that you also have signs of depression or any other potentially co-occurring mental health condition, be sure to discuss your concerns with your medical provider. Only a doctor or professionals who treats panic disorder can provide you with an accurate diagnosis.

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Related Physical Health Issues

Along with co-occurring mental health disorders, there are also several medical health issues that are often related to panic disorder. Some of these common physical health problems include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), headaches and migraines, and acid reflux disease.

Only your doctor can confirm a diagnosis of any of these additional medical problems. If you are also suffering with physical health issues, make an appointment to consult with your doctor. Be prepared to discuss your medical history and detailed information about your current symptoms. Even though these medical issues commonly co-occur with panic disorder, that does not mean that you will definitely develop any of these conditions.

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Sources:

American Psychiatric Association. "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.)" 1994 Washington, DC: Author.

Carter, Michele. “Clinical Update: Panic Disorder." Family Therapy Magazine 2002 1: 32-38.

Cougle, Jesse R.;Feldner, Matthew T.;Keough, Meghan E.;Hawkins, Kirsten A.;Fitch, Kristin E. "Comorbid Panic Attacks Among Individuals with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Associations with Traumatic Event Exposure History, Symptoms, and Impairment." Journal of Anxiety Disorders 2010 24(2): 183-188.

Gorman, J.M., & Coplan, J.D. “Comorbidity of Depression and Panic Disorder.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 1196 57: 34-41.

Rapee, R. M., Sanderson, W. C., McCauley, P. A., Di Nardo, P. A. “Differences in Reported Symptom Profile Between Panic Disorder and Other DSM-III-R Anxiety Disorders” Behavioral Research & Therapy 1992 30: 45-52.

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