Panic Disorder

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic Disorder is a specific anxiety disorder comprised of recurrent panic attacks, fear of future attacks and avoidance behaviors. Panic attacks cause physical symptoms including deeper and faster breathing, or hyperventilation, that causes the scary sensations of a pounding heart, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, and numbness in fingers and toes. These physical symptoms cause people to avoid situations known to trigger their panic in an attempt to prevent future attacks. Thus, avoidance behaviors can severely impact one’s functioning including personal, work, social and family. This condition can become so debilitating that it comes with a risk of developing depression, substance abuse or becoming housebound.

Breathing Matters

When we breathe in, our lungs take in oxygen which is necessary to sustain life. When we breathe out, our lungs exhale Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Most people who suffer from panic attacks chronically hyperventilate, which leads to lower than normal CO2 levels in their exhaled breath. This hyperventilation and low CO2 cause a cascade of effects that reinforce and exacerbate a sense of panic, creating a vicious cycle: you feel panicked so you hyperventilate. The hyperventilating causes low CO2 which in turn makes you feel even more out of breath, dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous, and panicky which sets the stage for triggering a panic attack, whether prompted by perception of an external threat such as a crowded elevator or an internal threat, such as a sensation of breathlessness or chest tightness. Freespira breaks this vicious cycle.

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