Panic Disorders can be very similar to anxiety related disorders. However, in a panic disorder I usually see someone who experiences severe panic attacks. Panic attacks can occur one to several times a day, weekly, or monthly. Everyone experiences panic attacks differently in duration and intensity.
I often hear a panic attack being described as being overwhelmingly fearful for some unknown reason. This is usually accompanied by shortness of breath, chest pain, profuse sweating and/or sweaty palms. Some people will break out in hives or have a diffuse reddish rash that breaks out on various parts of their body. The panic attack can come without warning and last from two minutes to two hours, one never knows. The person will usually need to go to a place where they feel safe to try to recover and be able to function. There are often reports of a recovery period after the occurrence of a panic attack. Some describe this as feeling exhausted or overwhelmed and unable to focus or concentrate until their mind and body rest to the point of being able to function. Recovery periods are different for everyone.
Usually the person does not even know they are experiencing a panic attack when this condition first begins to surface. They will often times report to the emergency room thinking they are having a heart attack, a digestive problem or some other issue and it may be after a few visits that they are finally diagnosed as suffering from a panic disorder. At this point they are often referred to mental health treatment and therapy in an attempt to control the attacks. Unfortunately, severe panic attacks are often times difficult to control. Some individuals are aware of a trigger for a panic attack. Some are afraid to leave their home; others are afraid of animals, bridges, tunnels, crowds, and/ or men/women. Some people experience panic attacks for no reason at all. Sometimes the fear of having a panic attack will prevent the person from leaving their home.
It is extremely important that the individual seek help from a mental health professional. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to tell someone to stop treating with their primary care physician and go to a mental health professional (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist) for this type of problem. Sometimes it is very difficult for the person to understand that this is a mental health issue because of the physical symptoms that occur with panic attacks. The Social Security Administration wants to know what the mental health professional believes is occurring in these types of claims.
In these claims it is important to evaluate the intensity, frequency, and duration and recovery time of the panic attacks. The mental health records will document the length of treatment and the various treatment options that have been applied to aid in reducing the panic attack episodes. Also, the testimony given at the hearing is very important for the Social Security Administration to properly evaluate these claims. It therefore, becomes very important that you are represented by an experienced attorney in presenting these claims to the Social Security Administration.
Disclaimer: These pages are only observations from my point of view of some of the factors that are present in the diagnosis. I am not a doctor, I am a lawyer and I am only providing observations of various signs and symptoms that I have seen during my practice and/or the signs and symptoms that I evaluate when taking a client in front of an Administrative Law Judge.