Monday, November 29, 2004

One Million Canadians Suffer From Panic Attacks

One million Cdns. suffer panic attacks: report
CTV.ca News Staff
Updated: Mon. Nov. 29 2004 3:03 PM ET

Nearly one million adult Canadians have suffered some form of panic attack during their lives, a new study has found.

Based on data collected for the "2002 Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health and Well-being," Statistics Canada says about 3.7 per cent of people over the age of 15 have experienced recurrent, unexpected panic attacks.

Typified by symptoms such as chest pain, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath and palpitations, the agency notes the disorder can be both chronic and disabling. Sufferers may feel they are choking, losing control or "going crazy."

The rates of such attacks are higher among women than men, and generally more prevalent among adolescents and young adults.

"The average age of onset was 25, and for three-quarters of those with the disorder, it had begun by the age of 33," Statistics Canada said.

The agency warns that trend has long-lasting effects, as the stress and disruption associated with the attacks disrupt life at a time when individuals are forming relationships and entering the workforce.

The disorder is also more common among divorcees than married couples, and more widespread among the population with lower levels of income and education.

Other effects the Statistics Canada report has linked to individuals with the disorder include:

an increased likelihood of being permanently unable to work;
a greater chance of coping with stress by consuming drugs or alcohol;
the common presence of other mental disorders including agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or depression;
more frequent trips to the doctor for treatment of panic disorder symptoms often mistaken for the onset of a heart attack.
According to the study, 70 per cent of those afflicted by panic disorder consulted a psychiatrist, psychologist, family doctor or other physician in the previous year. That was four times the rate of Canadians who never had the condition.

Based on a weighted sample of more than 30,000 Canadians aged 15 and older in provinces countrywide, the 2002 CCHS covers 98 per cent of the population.

Women were more likely than men to seek treatment for the condition.