Anxiety & Panic Disorder
Dentistry is also not only one of the most hazardous jobs, it is also an incredibly stressful one. Unique stressors begin in dental school, with studies showing that in the final year of training, 67% of students had experienced possible pathological anxiety.
Stressors only increase as a dentist enters clinical practice—including those found in the workplace, financial, practice management, and societal issues. In fact, dentists’ mental health has been shown to be poorer than that of those working in other professions. The unique demands of the profession can unfortunately lead to serious mental health conditions that can interfere with the ability to practice safely. In this post will look at one such condition, panic disorder.
What Is Panic Disorder?
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that involves recurrent, unexpected episodes of sudden, intense anxiety (panic attacks). These episodes of overwhelming fear occur with no specific basis, and cause individuals to worry about future panic attacks and/or develop maladaptive changes in behavior related to the attacks. This fear of another attack can lead to avoiding situations and settings associated with past panic attacks.
An estimated 4.7% of U.S. adults will experience panic disorder at some point in their lives, with females at higher risk than males. Those with the disease can suffer varying degrees of impairment, with the frequency of panic attacks varying from a few per year to daily. In some instances, panic disorder can become debilitating when the fear of having another panic attack interferes with the ability to carry out daily tasks and, in some instances, panic disorder presents with agoraphobia.
What Are the Symptoms of Panic Disorder?
Panic attacks typically happen unexpectedly and peak within several minutes. The symptoms of a panic attack can include:
- Shortness of breath;
- Pounding heart rate;
- Chest pain;
- Dizziness or lightheadedness;
- Trembling or shaking;
- Chills or hot flashes;
- Nausea or stomach ache;
- Sensation of choking;
- Feelings of being disconnected or unreal; and
- Fears of losing control.
What Causes Panic Disorder?
The exact cause of panic disorder is not known, but experts believe certain factors can play a role, including:
- Changes in how the brain functions; and
- Increased sensitivity to certain hormones that trigger excited feelings in the body.
What Are Treatments for Panic Disorder?
Panic disorder is most often treated with medication, typically anti-anxiety and/or antidepressant medications and counseling, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Panic disorder can prove debilitating, interfering with an individual’s ability to work, leave home, or carry out daily tasks. If you have been diagnosed with panic disorder and fear that it may be impeding your ability to continue to safely practice on patients, you should speak with an experienced disability insurance attorney.
It is especially important to speak with an attorney before making changes to your schedule and/or job duties or working in another field, because making changes like these could jeopardize your ability to collect, or continue to collect, benefits under the terms of your policy. Further, it is important to understand how any limitations or exclusions in your policy may impact a claim based on a mental health condition before making a claim.
These posts are for informative purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with and diagnosis by a medical professional. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above and have yet to consult with a doctor, do not use this resource to self-diagnose. Please contact your doctor immediately and schedule an appointment to be evaluated for your symptoms.
National Institute of Mental Health
Johns Hopkins Medicine
 Robert E. Rada, DDS, MBA, Charmaine Johnson-Leong, BDS, MBA, Stress, burnout, anxiety and depression among dentists, Journal of the American Dental Association, Vol. 135, June 2004.