Although panic attacks and panic disorders can have terrifying symptoms, the good news is that they are perfect treatable through therapy and medication. Here’s a look at your therapy options for panic disorders.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is often regarded as the most effective tool to resolve panic disorder, panic attacks, and even agoraphobia. This type of therapy involves analyzing thought patterns and behaviors that only serve to trigger and ‘encourage’ attacks. With this treatment, your therapist can help you go over your fears one at a time and see them in a more realistic light.
For instance, if you were to have a panic attack while driving, cognitive behavioral therapy helps you realize that the worst that can happen, isn’t really so bad. Sure, you might have to pull over, but it’s unlikely you’ll have a heart attack or crash your car. Once you realize that nothing disastrous will happen, the panic becomes easier to manage.
Exposure therapy involves being intentionally exposed to the sensations of panic in a controlled environment, allowing you to ‘practice’ how to cope with your symptoms. You may be asked to simulate panic attacks by hyperventilating, holding your breath, and shaking your head. These exercises serve to create sensations associated with panic, allowing you to be less afraid of your symptoms and exercise control over your thoughts and emotions.
For patients with agoraphobia—an anxiety disorder that causes fear of places and situations that lead to panic, anxiety, and embarrassment—exposure to these same situations is part of the treatment. Similar to exposure therapy for specific fears and panic triggers, patients are exposed to simulations of feared situations, until such a time that the panic goes away on its own.