“Let’s just say, my anxieties have anxieties, and telling me to calm down won’t help!” – Anon
Do you have sudden attacks of fear?
Do you fear disaster or losing control?
Do you experience intense physical symptoms like a pounding heart during these attacks of fear?
Do you worry about having the next panic attack?
If you are experiencing these, you may be dealing with a Panic Disorder.
Symptoms of Panic Disorder
- Sudden and repeated panic attacks of overwhelming anxiety and fear lasting for several minutes or longer
- Feeling of being out of control or fear of death or impending doom during a panic attack even when there is no danger
- Physical symptoms during a panic attack, such as a pounding heart, breathing problems, chest pain, sweating, tingly or numb hands, light-headedness, stomach upset, and nausea
- Intense worry about when the next panic attack will happen
- Fear and avoidance of places where panic attacks have happened in the past
Factors That May Contribute to Panic Disorder
- Already being under a lot of stress
- Being more biologically responsive to stressful situations and producing more stress hormones
- Being sensitive to the physical responses of anxiety and more likely to interpret those symptoms as dangerous
- Having a tendency to catastrophize, which may be a learned way of thinking
The good news is that Panic Disorder is very treatable. Evidence-supported practices that have proven to effectively treat Panic Disorder include:
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), as a behavioral approach, emphasizes acceptance of what is and commitment to valued action. You learn to let go of negative thoughts, feelings, memories, and physical sensations and to redirect your attention to choosing and committing to meaningful activities. ACT for Panic Disorder focuses on accepting rather than fighting or attempting to avoid the symptoms of panic (fight-flight response). Since the fight-flight response contributes to the panic, the problem is reduced when you redirect your focus and actions.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has shown to be very effective in treating Panic Disorder. It emphasizes the relationship between your thoughts, feelings, and actions and how they interact to cause and maintain anxiety. You learn to identify and change the catastrophic thinking patterns that trigger fear and panic and the avoidant behavior that drive panic attacks. CBT for Panic Disorder may include the following interventions: education on anxiety; challenging negative thoughts; relaxation skills training; and exposure therapy/systematic desensitization.
Mindfulness Therapy, Mindfulness-based Therapy, or Mindfulness-based Interventions may be used as a stand-alone therapy or along with other therapies. Through mindfulness strategies, you learn how to be more aware and accepting of yourself and your environment in the moment. By acknowledging your thoughts, emotions, and physical experiences and allowing them to pass without reacting to them, you are able to learn new ways of responding to your fears and experience peace and clarity.
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), also called Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT), is one of the most widely used and successful approaches to treating anxiety disorders. It is a strength-based, goal-directed, and present and future-oriented approach. Through SFBT, you focus on your goals, explore exceptions and coping strategies/solutions to your panic attacks, and find a path forward to relief, peace, and clarity.
If you are struggling with sudden attacks of fear that are getting in the way of enjoying life and would like to further discuss how counseling can help you meet your personal needs and goals, contact me today for a free phone consultation.
I provide telehealth and online therapy to Florida residents. Please see additional information about my telehealth and online services at Telehealth in Florida: Online Therapy for Florida Residents with Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, and (Dis)Ability-related Issues