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AU / Psychology / PSYC 3560 / What causes panic disorder?

What causes panic disorder?

What causes panic disorder?


School: Auburn University
Department: Psychology
Course: Abnormal Psychology
Professor: Fix
Term: Spring 2016
Cost: 25
Name: Abnormal Psychology Notes Week 3
Description: These notes cover the rest of anxiety disorders. Because class was cancelled on 2/4, mood disorders were not covered. Notes on this topic as well as any other things that should be known for the exam will be posted after class on Tuesday (2/9)
Uploaded: 02/05/2016
4 Pages 142 Views 1 Unlocks

Anxiety Disorders (continued notes from Week 2)

What causes panic disorder?


Panic Disorder 

• Panic Disorder: recurrent panic attacks that “come out of the blue” AND fears of  having additional panic attacks

• Agoraphobia: fear of situations in which escape might be difficult if you have a  panic attack (or other embarrassing symptoms)

• Panic attack: a discrete period of intense fear in which 4 of the following  symptoms develop abruptly and peak within 10 minutes

o Palpitations of pounding heart

o Sweating

o Trembling or shaking

o Shortness of breath

o Feelings of choking

o Chest pain or discomfort

What is the fear of leaving your house?

o Nausea or abdominal distress

o Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or faint

o Derealization or depersonalization If you want to learn more check out What does it mean to be jointly and severally liable?

o Fear of losing control

o Fear of dying

o Dumbness of tingling sensations

o Chills or hot flashes

• Timing of a first panic attack

o Frequently follows feelings of stress or highly stressful life circumstance o Many adults with a single panic attack do not develop panic disorder o Heart attack concerns If you want to learn more check out Define limbic system and its function.

▪ Many people feel like they’re having a heart attack and think they  need to go to the ER and they’re dying. When this happens, it can  

What is the most effective treatment for panic disorder?

actually cause the individual to freak themselves out enough that  

they do end up in the ER

• Agoraphobia: anxiety about being in places from which escape might be  difficult/embarrassing, or in which help may not be available in the event of a  panic attack (or other embarrassing symptoms) We also discuss several other topics like What are the main sources of heat?

o Situations are avoided or endured with distress or a panic attack We also discuss several other topics like How are some blind people able to navigate their worlds?

o Common situations: crowds, theaters, malls, parking lots, cars, bridges,  standing in line, elevators, planes, home alone

• Lifetime Prevalence of panic disorder is about 5%

o Gender ratio

▪ 2:1 (female to male)

o Comorbidity (about 83%)

▪ Other anxiety disorders, substance use disorders

▪ 50%-70% major depression

o Age of onset: early adulthood

o Course

▪ Chronic and often disabling

▪ Symptoms can wax and wane

• Causal Factors of panic disorder

o Psychological

▪ Cognitive Theory (plus hypersensitivity)

▪ Pill/placebo effect

▪ Anxiety sensitivity

▪ Perceived control

▪ Safety behaviors (e.g., carrying around pills) If you want to learn more check out What is epidemiology?

▪ Cognitive biases that maintain (notice minor bodily sensations) • Panic Disorder- Treatment

o Medications

▪ Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin)

▪ Antidepressants (Tricyclics and SSRIs)

o Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (Panic Control Treatment)

▪ Exposure Therapy- panic attacks, external stimuli for agoraphobia ▪ Cognitive Restructuring

Generalized Anxiety Disorders 

• Generalized Anxiety Disorders: characterized by excessive and unreasonable  anxiety or worry about many different aspects of life

o Core fear: everything (really characterized by worry)

o Prevalence: 3% in any 1-year period, 6% lifetime We also discuss several other topics like What is the difference between apes and monkeys?

o Course: tends to be chronic

o Gender differences: 2:1 ratio (female to male)

o Age of onset: varies

o Comorbidity: other anxiety or mood disorders

• Causal Factors (Psychological)

o Perceptions of uncontrollability and unpredictability

o The role of worry

▪ Belief that worry is a good thing

o Worry (cognitive) reduces physiological symptoms

o However, in creases the sense of danger and anxiety

o Cognitive biases for threat

• Treatment

o Medications

▪ Benzodiazepines: may relieve physical, but not cognitive,  


▪ Antidepressants: help cognitive symptoms

o Cognitive-behavioral treatment

▪ Muscle relaxation

▪ Cognitive-restructuring

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder 

▪ Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: characterized by the recurrence of unwanted  and intrusive obsessive thoughts or distressing images; often accompanied by  compulsive behaviors to cope with such thoughts

o Obsessions: recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses or images that are  intrusive and inappropriate and cause marked anxiety or distress

▪ Not simple excessive worries about real-life problems

▪ Attempts to ignore, suppress, or neutralize them

▪ Recognition they are a product of own mind (different from  

psychotic thoughts)

▪ Common obsessions: contamination fears, fears of harming oneself  or others, pathological doubt, need for symmetry, sexual  

obsessions, religious obsessions

o Compulsions: repetitive behaviors or mental acts that drive an individual  to perform acts in response to an obsession and can be 15 minutes to hours  long

▪ Aimed at preventing or reducing distress or some dreaded event or  situations

▪ Common compulsions: cleaning, checking, repeating,  

ordering/arranging, counting

o Prevalence: 1-2% (lifetime and 1-year)

o Gender differences: 1.4 to 1 ratio (female to male)

o Age of onset: late adolescence/early adulthood

o Course: gradual onset, tends to be chronic, symptom severity waxes and  wants

o Comorbidity: frequently co-occurs with other mood and anxiety disorders,  elevated rates of divorce and unemployment

• Causal Factors

• Treatment

o Behavioral and Cognitive-Behavioral

▪ Exposure and response prevention

• Very intense for clients, high drop out rates

• Studies suggest 50-70% reduction in symptoms

• 75% maintain gains long term

o Medication

▪ Medications that affect serotonin systems (SSRIs)

• Minor improvements in symptoms, but many non

responders, when discontinued, symptom relapse is very  


Body Dysmorphic Disorder 

• Body Dysmorphic Disorder: characterized by obsessions about some perceived  or imagined flaw or flaws in one’s appearance to the point one firmly believes one  is disfigured or ugly (like Michael Jackson)

o Most common imagined defects: head hair, body hair, beard growth o Associated features

▪ Typically focused on a specific body part

▪ Compulsive checking behaviors common

▪ Avoidance of activities

▪ Reassurance of activities

▪ Reassurance seeking

▪ Comparing self to others obsessively

▪ Engagement in activities to cover up their perceived flaw (e.g.,  

excessive grooming, makeup)


o Prevalence: 1-2% of general population

o Gender ratio: men = women

o Age of onset: usually adolescence

o Comorbidity: high rates of comorbid depression (50%), suicidal behavior,  relationship to eating disorders, OCD, psychosis

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