After veterans witness or experience a tragic, traumatic, or life-threatening event, they may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This mental health condition can occur immediately following the event, or it can take much longer to develop—sometimes months or years.

panic_attackAccording to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), approximately 11 percent of Afghanistan war veterans; up to 10 percent of veterans from the Gulf War; and nearly 31 percent of Vietnam War veterans suffer from PTSD.

Veterans with PTSD are at an increased risk of developing any number of other mental problems, including anxiety disorders. Panic attacks are common for people who suffer from PTSD.

The Link Between Panic Disorder and Panic Attacks

Veterans who suffer from panic disorder have unexpected and recurring panic attacks. These are feelings of intense fear without the actual presence of any real danger. The VA defines a panic attack as a “rush of intense fear or discomfort” accompanied by any number of symptoms, including:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Trouble breathing
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Chest pain
  • Light-headedness or dizziness

When a veteran has a panic attack, it can last from 5–20 minutes, but it’s possible for an attack to last up to three hours. Typically, the highest anxiety is felt about 10 minutes after the start of the attack. During an episode, an individual might feel they could do something out of their control, that they're dying, or that they're going crazy. Often, attacks are unpredictable and come without warning.

Veterans who suffer from panic disorder worry about having panic attacks and behave in ways to prevent them. They may:

  • Avoid exercising or being in places where they feel hot. They do this out of fear they may start sweating or their hearts will beat faster—which often prompts an attack.
  • Avoid certain activities they feel may trigger an attack.
  • Avoid situations where they feel they can’t get help. This can include avoiding travel in cars or on public transportation, as well as staying out of small, tight spaces such as on an airplane.

Qualifying for Panic Disorder Disability Benefits

To better understand if you suffer from panic disorder, and to determine if you qualify for VA disability benefits, read through these questions. If you answer yes to some or all of them, you may be eligible for financial support:

  • When you have an attack, do you sweat, feel dizzy, become short of breath, or feel your heart pounding?
  • Do you make changes in your routine or lifestyle just to avoid having a panic attack?
  • Do you worry about having additional panic attacks?
  • Have you had more than one rush of intense fear?
  • Do you avoid public situations because you fear being unable to get help during a panic attack?
  • Do you feel unable to control your anxiety and worry?
  • Do you feel constant anxiety about your daily life?

Treatment for Panic Attacks

If you’re a veteran suffering from panic attacks, or you think you may have panic disorder, it’s important to talk to a doctor about your symptoms. Together, you can determine the best treatment to help manage your condition.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy may help you with both your PTSD and panic attacks. With this type of therapy, you are taught techniques for relaxation that can help you better handle the physical symptoms that come with the attacks. You learn why you feel high stress from your thoughts and memories. Your doctor may take you through “exposure exercises,” during which you focus on the life-altering event until you can get past the anxious reaction you have to it. Additionally, psychotherapy, group therapy, and medication can help treat panic disorder. 

Call Cuddigan Law

If you believe your military service caused your PTSD, and you’re now suffering from secondary panic attacks, you may be eligible for VA benefits. To determine if you qualify, it’s helpful to contact an experienced VA disability lawyer to assist in filing your claim.

Our attorneys are committed to helping veterans. We'll examine your case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit a claim that increases your chances of receiving disability benefits. Contact our office today.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska