The Korea Herald


Panic disorder on the rise

By Korea Herald

Published : March 29, 2012 - 19:34

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Jeon Jin, a TV celebrity and member of boy band “Shinhwa,” recently made a stunning confession.

He said he suffered from panic disorder, which made it almost impossible to live a normal life.

“I was always anxious. I was seized by thoughts about things that would not happen to me. I carried a baseball bat or a bamboo stick to protect myself from imaginary attackers. I relied on alcohol for months, rarely going outdoors,” he told a television talk show.

Jeon is among an increasing number of panic disorder patients troubled by sudden and repeated attacks of fear that last for several minutes.

According to the National Health Insurance Corp., the number of people treated for the disease surged from 35,195 in 2006 to 58,551 in 2011, a 10.7 percent increase from 2010. About three-quarters of patients were in their 30s, 40s and 50s, but the percentage of younger patients is growing.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, panic disorder is characterized by a fear of disaster or a fear of losing control even when there is no danger. A strong physical reaction is likely during an episode, with a heart attack among the worst examples.

A panic attack can occur at any time. What scares a person with panic disorder is the possibility of another attack coming, the institute notes.

Panic disorder patients may experience a sudden and repeated attack of fear. During the attack, they may feel out of control, worrying intensely about when the next attack will happen. They avoid places where panic attacks have occurred in the past.

Other symptoms include pounding or racing heart, sweating, breathing problems, weakness or dizziness, feeling hot or a cold chills, tingly or numb hands, chest pain or stomach pain.

The exact cause of the disorder is not verified yet.

“One thing for sure is that people have been under extreme stress right before the first attack,” said Roh Sang-pil of the corporation.

Most of time, panic disorder can be treated with medication and consultation therapy.

“Refraining from consuming too much caffeine will help,” Noh said.

By Bae Ji-sook (