This post is the third of a multipart series on panic disorder. In the first post, we discussed symptoms of panic attacks, what panic disorder is, and what makes anxiety different from panic attacks. In the second post, part two, we focused on factors that worsen panic attacks and cause panic disorder. Today’s post, part three, will review available treatments that can effectively reduce the severity and frequency of panic attacks.
Panic attacks, and panic disorder, are in many ways difficult to treat. There are no known solutions or available methods for completely “getting rid” of panic attacks. Most treatments focus on prevention of panic attacks by reducing your overall levels of stress and anxiety.
As discussed in part two, when your body is in a heightened state of anxiety (and especially for prolonged periods of time), this is when you are more likely to experience a panic attack. This is also why prevention through reducing the frequency and intensity of experienced anxiety are the main focuses of treating panic attacks and panic disorder. With panic disorder, it is also important to learn how to not fear panic attacks and to unlearn fearing or anticipating their occurrence.
While there is not a specific way of completing prevent panic attacks from happening, there are effective therapies that can greatly help to reduce the likelihood of a panic attack. These treatments can also reduce the intensity of panic attacks when they do occur.
The most researched and evidence-based form of psychological treatment for panic is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This treatment is backed by the Society of Clinical Psychology as having strong research support for the treatment of panic disorder.
CBT is a commonly practiced psychological intervention for many problem areas and mood difficulties. It consists of recognizing that your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all related, and when one is altered, the others are changed, too. The therapy focuses on learning how to identify, challenge, and modify negative, maladaptive, and unrealistic thinking.
With regard to panic attacks and disorder, the treatment is usually between 12 and 16 sessions, and this number of sessions is most supported by research for being effective in the treatment of panic. This therapy teaches the patient to challenge and modify thoughts about the catastrophic consequences of panic bodily sensations, and behaviorally challenges the person to expose themselves to panic inducing situations and panic bodily sensations.
This treatment possesses modest research support. The purpose of this therapy is to learn how to quickly relax, and to be able to do so in stressful situations. With panic attacks, the individual first learns to identify situations where a panic attack is likely to occur and also learns to identify panic cues early on before they escalate. The patient is taught how to progressively relax their muscles, and how to use progressive muscle relaxation at the onset of panic attack bodily cues. This is then generalized to relaxing in real-life situations where a panic attack is more likely to occur.
Psychoanalytic treatment for panic disorder attempts to help the individual discover the unconscious psychological meaning of their experienced panic. The evidence for the effectiveness of psychoanalytic treatment for panic disorder is somewhat controversial, as although psychoanalytic psychotherapy appears to work, it is not yet clear that the treatment works through the reduction of unconscious conflicts. Of note, psychoanalysis should only be conducted by a trained psychoanalysis.
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Dr. Barbash is an anxiety disorder specialist who is trained and experienced in working with panic disorder, and highly experienced in providing CBT and relaxation techniques. If you are struggling with intense anxiety or panic attacks, give us a call. At Tampa Therapy, we are committed to providing a relaxing, healing, and non-judgmental environment to support you on your journey. If you want things to be different, you have to change them. Give us a call or email us today to start the process of making important changes in your life.