Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Panic Attacks

Panic Attacks Cause Pain

Panic attacks are incredibly intense episodes of fear and distress that occur wihtout the presence of a pressing physical danger.  These episodes also include troubling thoughts and physical or somatic symptoms.  

While panic attacks are incredibly painful, even when people are not experieincing them, they are often anxious as they anticipate the next one. Despite the pain they cause there is good news for people who suffer from panic attacks. 

CBT Treatment of Panic Attacks

Panic attacks, unlike many other problems, are highly responsive to evidence-based treatments.  That means that clinicians who are specially trained in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and behavior therapy (BT) can often quickly intervene to alleviate the suffering of someone who is having panic attacks.

For more information about reducing your pain and eliminating panic attacks from your life, call or email us.


Panic Attack Definition

Panic attacks are discrete periods of intense fear and discomfort.  Often times sufferers have difficulty fully describing their experiences because they are so incredibly painful and unlike other experiences. Many describe an overwhelming sense of dread or doom, feeling like he/she is going crazy, or being frozen with fear.  In addition to the cognitive symptoms, many physical or somatic symptoms accompany panic attacks. Somatic symptoms of panic attacks can include heart palpitations, shaking, shortness of breath, perspiration, choking, chest pains, light headedness, dizziness, nausea, etc. 

Panic attack episodes come on suddenly and typically peak in 10 minutes or less, although the symptoms may persist beyond that. Panic attacks are not a disorder on their own.  Rather panic attacks are sympotomatic of a few diagnoses. To be clear, regardless of a diagnosis, panic attacks are distressing on their own and can be treated regardless of diagnosis. With that said, depending on the characteristics associated with the panic attacks, a particular diagnosis may be given.  

One important characteristic associated with the panic attack involves what does or does not predict that a panic attack will occur.  For example, is a person likely to have a panic attack when they have to attend a social engagement or drive on a busy highway? If particular situational factors such as those reliably predict a panic attack, the panic episode may be said to be situationally bound.  People with these kinds of panic attacks may receive diagnoses of phobias or social anxiety.  There are though panic attacks, which seemingly occur without any predictable cues. A person with these types of panic attacks may receive a diagnosis of panic disorder. While the diagnosis will inform the treatment plan developed by the CBT Therapist, in all of these cases there is strong scientific evidence that the vast majority of people will significantly improve with specific evidence-based treatments, even without medication. 

CBT Treatment of Panic Attacks

Panic attacks and many of the associated diagnoses, e.g., Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Social Phobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder are all highly responive to proper treatment.  However, it is important for the clinician to be properly trained and for the client to be comfortable enough with the therapist to reliably participate in the treatment.  Numerous cognitive behavior therapy studies support the efficacy of treatment for people suffering in these ways. Therefore, we highly encourage those or the loved ones of those expereincing panic attacks to contact a professional with experience in utilizing the proper techniques to eliminate panic attacks.

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