Panic Disorder symptoms can be debilitating, as they can restrict a person’s ability to engage with the world. The person fears the onset of any symptoms that were associated with previous panic attacks, such as elevated heart rate, tingling, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath. Other cognitive symptoms include the fear of dying, losing control, or the panic symptoms never subsiding. Depersonalization (feeling detached from one’s self) and derealization (surroundings seeming “unreal”) can also occur during or after panic attacks. Once a person has had repeated panic attacks, they start to avoid any triggers that could potentially bring on another one.
People who are struggling with these symptoms often feel as though their only option is to stay at or very close to home. They have likely experienced several panic attacks in environments where they did not feel safe or comfortable. Some examples include department stores, being in a car, and any other public setting that could lead a person to feel as though immediate help would be inaccessible. While the urge to avoid triggers is understandable, this approach is counterproductive since symptoms will likely worsen.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps clients learn to manage their symptoms by identifying unhelpful thought patterns and making behavioral changes.
CBT is a collaborative process between the client and therapist. The therapist provides foundational skills and psychoeducation about the client’s symptoms before moving on to behavioral assignments.
Mindfulness training assists clients in building their tolerance for discomfort by learning to simply notice and accept their experiences through guided practices.
Exposure with Response Prevention (ERP) is the main behavioral therapy used to treat anxiety disorders. ERP teaches you to gradually approach anxiety-provoking situations without engaging in safety behaviors, or compulsions.
Effective ERP respects the client’s values while challenging their compulsive behaviors. This means that we have a conversation about the roadmap for recovery before starting ERP and you are in the driver’s seat. I will provide suggestions based on my experience treating clients, but there is always room for feedback and refinement.
Ask a question or book an appointment below. For emergencies, call 911 or visit your nearest hospital.