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Living With Panic Disorder and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Posted On December 17, 2015
bald worried business man biting his fingernails with anxiety watching sales and finance collapse
December 17, 2015

The sun is shining and the sky is blue. Keeping the top down on your convertible is a foregone conclusion. But wait, your palms become clammy, your heart starts to race, you can’t quite catch your breath and you have a sense of unexplainable danger. What is wrong? You might have just experienced a panic attack. And if the one attack evolves into many, then you might have graduated to having a full-blown panic disorder.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, currently about 6 million or 2.7 percent of adults in the United States have a panic disorder. Women are two times more likely to develop the disorder than men. The cause of a panic attack or the development into a disorder is not known. Some of theories are the following: stress, genetics or a change in the way the brain functions. And yet, what is seen in a panic attack is very similar to the correct reaction to danger also known as a “fight or flight” response.

When a person is involved or experiences a harrowing event, he or she gets an adrenaline rush. This hormone allows the individual to address the fear in an appropriate manner. Basically, this person can either run or fight. When an individual has a panic attack and/or disorder, he or she experiences fear when no threat or danger is present.

What Are Panic Disorder Symptoms?

A panic attack and ultimately disorder can come in all shapes and sizes. Sufferers can have any or all of these symptoms:

  • Sweating or hot flashes
  • Increased heart rate or chest pain
  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Nausea or stomach cramping
  • Headache, dizziness or fainting
  • Unexplainable sense of fear, danger or doom

Connection between Panic Disorders and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

People with a panic disorder are known to be riddled with anxiety. And there have been a number of research studies that have demonstrated a connection between anxiety disorders and sleep apnea. Teasing the connecting thread out, can the same be said about linking panic disorders and sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized as a condition in which breathing pauses throughout the course of a night’s sleep due to an obstruction. The stoppage in breathing can be as short as a few seconds to as long as minutes, and occur from 5 to over 30 times within any given hour during a night of sleep.

In addition, there is a type of panic attack that occurs during the night while a person is asleep rather than taking place when the sun is out: nocturnal panic attacks. If one of these unfortunate people, you probably have respiratory issues as a symptom of your disorder. And typically, you also wake up all of a sudden in a state of total panic and fear, which can last about 10 minutes.

Published in Cell, researchers decided to test the theory that an increase in carbon dioxide (which occurs in sleep apnea) can trigger a panic attack with this gas’ effect on the brain. The group concluded that when the amygdala of the brain senses a rise in carbon dioxide the wheels are put into motion to induce fear as a behavioral response with the end result being a panic attack.

If you have been wondering whether or not your panic disorder might be affecting or an indication of sleep apnea, contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a consultation when it’s convenient for you.

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