What is a panic disorder?
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that impacts 6 million American adults. It causes panic attacks that many people experience as a sense of physical and emotional terror that may even feel life-threatening. Many people also have physical symptoms during panic attacks, such as sweating, nausea, and a fast heartbeat.
What causes panic disorder?
The medical community does not know for certain what causes panic disorder, but it is suspected that it may be hereditary and may also have to do with the environment that you were raised in. It is common to see people suffering from panic disorder who also have other mental health diagnoses like substance abuse or depression.
How do I get help for panic disorder?
The first thing to do is to talk to your general practitioner so that they can evaluate and diagnose you. They may want to run a few tests to make sure that you’re not dealing with a medical issue, and then they will help you to explore your treatment options. Treatment with psychotherapy and/or medication can help to reduce the number of panic attacks that you’re having and can also lessen their intensity. Medications like antidepressants (SSRIs and SNRIs) are often prescribed. Benzodiazepines are another common prescription treatment. In addition to medication and therapy, having a mindfulness practice where you focus on your breathing, write in a journal, get plenty of exercise, and engage in positive social experiences are all an important part of recovery.
What role does a therapist play in panic disorder?
Your therapist will begin by providing you with education about panic attacks and will help you to uncover the major triggers that set them off. They will help you to learn relaxation techniques in order to decrease your body’s fight or flight response. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is also highly recommended for individuals who are dealing with panic attacks. CBT helps you to modify and eliminate problematic thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to panic attacks and overall anxiety. Ongoing therapy, sleep, hygiene, and self-care are all a part of the therapeutic experience of recovery for someone dealing with panic disorder.
If you or a loved one might be feeling suicidal, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential support.