Although panic disorder strikes people from wide and varied backgrounds, most sufferers have some personality and emotional characteristics in common.  People who eventually develop panic disorder very often have an overriding tenacity to “get the job done.” They put their personal concerns and needs side, sacrificing themselves for what is perceived to be the greater good. In time, this ongoing sacrifice takes its toll resulting for some in the mind and body imbalance of panic disorder.
Panic sufferers often report that panic seems to come out of nowhere – one day a panic attack just seemed to fall from the sky.  In truth, the building blocks for panic disorder accumulate for some time, often years.  Taking on large responsibilities while working to meet external (other people’s) needs, “panickers” delay or even deny their own need fulfillment.  In so doing, they drain their emotional, physical, and spiritual energy reserve without refilling it.  They tend to ignore the small and subtle signs of overload (inability to relax or slow down, sleep problems, intermittent heart palpitations) in favor of getting the job(s) done.  It is just a matter of time before the first panic attack occurs.
 Often self-described as independent, competent people to whom others turn to for help, many people are shocked when they develop panic. Having anxiety problems seem incongruous to the way some panickers see themselves. But, it is just this combination of spending massive amounts of energy on others and precious little in the service of oneself that makes one vulnerable to panic disorder.
Once panic becomes manifest, there are two strong and related perceptions reported by nearly all.  The first is an enduring sense that something crucial is out of control. Second, there is a sense of insecurity in some aspect of one’s life position – a sense that there is a job that one can’t handle.  These thoughts serve to fuel and maintain panic overtime.
The treatment of panic disorder focuses on all of these aspects of its presentation.  Common personality characteristics, thoughts, and emotions are taken into account in the treatment protocol.  The specifics of panic disorder treatment are presented on another blog.
Holly O. Houston, Ph.D.
Anxiety & Stress Center