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Information from Your Family Doctor
Help for Anxiety and Panic Disorders
Am Fam Physician. 2015 May 1;91(9):online.
See related article on generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder in adults
What are generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder?
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD for short) and panic disorder (PD for short) are different types of anxiety, or worry. It is normal to sometimes worry or feel panicked, but you might have GAD or PD if these feelings frequently affect your life.
People with GAD worry much more than normal about everyday things. People with GAD also have at least three of these symptoms:
Feeling keyed up or on edge
People with PD have panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of fear or anxiety. Sometimes panic attacks happen for a reason, like being in a busy public place, but people with PD can also have a panic attack out of the blue. People with PD also have at least four of these symptoms:
Trembling or shaking
Feeling like you can't breathe or are choking
Feeling dizzy or faint
Chills or hot flashes
Numbness or tingling
Feeling that your body or things around you are not real
Fear of going crazy or losing control
Fear of dying
How are GAD and PD treated?
It is important to tell your doctor if you are having symptoms of GAD or PD. Some symptoms can also be signs of other serious problems.
Medicines and psychological or behavioral talk therapy are the two main treatments of GAD and PD. Many people do best when treated with both medicine and therapy. Your doctor might also talk to you about how to avoid situations that trigger your panic or anxiety. Making lifestyle changes is often helpful. These changes include getting more exercise, drinking less coffee, or getting better sleep. Tell your doctor what medicines you are taking because some medicines can make anxiety worse.
This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.
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