According to the National Institute of Mental Health, panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks occur suddenly and are periods of intense fear that may include palpitations, pounding heartbeat and/or accelerated heart rate. People in the midst of a panic attack may also experience shortness of breath or feel as though they are choking or being smothered. Feelings of impending doom may also occur during a panic attack. Anxiety disorders, including panic disorders, may be caused by the interaction of certain genetic and environmental factors. These factors include behavioral inhibition in childhood, exposure to stressful life events in childhood and adulthood, anxiety disorders in close biological relatives and a parental history of mental disorders. Anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy or medication, or a combination of both.
The Internet has made it easier than ever before to access information quickly. But people who look to the Internet for answers to their medical questions may be doing themselves more harm than good. A 2013 study from the Pew Research Center found that one-third of study participants had gone online to diagnose a medical condition. While the Internet can be a valuable resource, self-diagnosing medical conditions can be dangerous, as the risk of misdiagnosing signs or symptoms is considerable. But misdiagnosis is not the only potential problem of relying on the Internet instead of certified physicians for medical advice. “Cyberchondria” is a term used to described the unfounded escalation of concerns about certain symptoms a person might be experiencing. These unfounded concerns escalate as individuals search for and read information about their symptoms online. In fact, a 2008 Microsoft analysis of online search patterns found that one-third of the hundreds of thousands of people examined in the analysis tended to escalate their medical-related searches, potentially turning relatively minor medical conditions into something far worse, all without consulting a doctor. Men and women concerned about symptoms or medical problems should resist the temptation to self-diagnose online and should book an appointment with their physicians instead.