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Treatment for Panic Disorder
Panic attacks occur unexpectedly and can be highly debilitating. Sometimes these panic attacks lead to avoidance of an activity or environment which the sufferer has associated with a feeling of panic from their past. This avoidance could potentially lead to more severe and disabling disorders such as agoraphobia. Panic Disorder is diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack.
What is a Panic Disorder?
The primary characteristic of Panic Disorder is a history of panic attacks followed by one or more of the following symptoms:
- Persistent anxiety about having further panic attacks
- Excessive concern about the implications and/or consequences of panic attacks
- Substantial modification of daily activities in an effort to avoid further panic attacks
People with Panic Disorder have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. A fear of one’s own unexplained physiological response is also a symptom of Panic Disorder. The inability to predict when or where the next attack will occur causes many to worry excessively between attacks and may lead to substantial modification of daily activities in an effort to avoid further attacks. For example, if a panic attack happened on a subway, then someone with Panic Disorder may develop a fear of subway transportation which could then affect their choice of job, friends, or even where they live.
Treatment of Panic Attacks & Panic Disorder
At Gateway, we believe that education is key to recovery. Our goal is to provide a thorough psycho-education into how panic attacks occur, which key regions of the brain are being triggered, and how our thoughts and behaviors influence ongoing panic. With proper education, individuals suffering from anxiety and panic attacks are able to understand what is happening and even though it feels scary, they know they are safe. This understanding can help decrease anxiety and fear from future panic or anxiety. Education will also support individuals in eliminating any feelings of embarrassment, guilt, or shame. Therefore, proper education will provide a foundation that empowers the individual with the knowledge needed to overcome panic and anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Strong evidence supports the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) in treating Panic Disorder which may or may not be used in conjunction with medication. Cognitive Behavior Therapy includes many techniques, such as applied relaxation, exposure therapy with in-vivo exposure therapy with in-vivo exposure, exposure through imagery, and cognitive restructuring. CBT seeks to help those with panic disorder identify and decrease irrational thoughts and behaviors that reinforce panic symptoms.
Common Symptoms of a Panic Attack
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath
- Sensation of choking
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations, pounding heart or rapid heartbeat
- Nausea or abdominal pain
- Numbness/tingling sensation
- Feelings of being detached from reality
- Feelings of being detached from oneself
Common Fears that trigger Panic Attacks
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
- Fear of going crazy
- Fear of having a heart attack
- Fear that you will never be the same
- Fear that panic attacks will continue
Panic or Anxiety Attacks can be triggered by multiple factors. Some people experience periodic or episodic panic attacks that happen due to ongoing stress or anxiety. Other’s have panic attacks that are triggered by obsessional fears from OCD or reoccurrence of PTSD. For some individuals, the fear of ongoing panic attacks takes over and creates Panic Disorder.
Other Common Anxiety Disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- General Anxiety Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Disorder
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder
It is not uncommon for an individual to suffer from multiple anxiety disorders. Treating co-occurring conditions simultaneously is important in finding balance and healing from anxiety.
The Gateway Institute is here to support you in getting the help that you need.