An individual with panic disorder experiences frequent unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are a sudden surge of intense fear or discomfort that comes quickly and peaks within minutes. Attacks can be brought on by a trigger like a particular object or situation or can occur unexpectedly.
A person who suffers from panic disorder has frequent worries about when the next attack will occur and actively strives to avoid future attacks by avoiding places, events, or behaviours that they identify with panic attacks. The fear of panic attacks and the effort expended to prevent them cause considerable problems in a person’s life.
What do people having a panic attack experience…
- Heart palpitations, a pounding heartbeat, or an accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath, smothering or choking
- Feelings of impending doom
- Feelings of being out of control
Management & Treatments
- Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” helps you learn how your emotions affect your behaviours. A therapist listens and talks to you about your thoughts and feelings and suggests ways to understand and manage them and your anxiety disorder.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a common type of psychotherapy that teaches people different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to anxiety-producing and fearful objects and situations.
Cognitive therapy and exposure therapy are two CBT techniques frequently used, either together or separately. Cognitive therapy aims to uncover, challenge, and ultimately neutralise unhelpful or distorted concepts that are at the root of these disorders. In contrast, exposure therapy focuses on tackling the concerns that underpin the disorders to let people engage in previously avoided activities. Sometimes, exposure treatment is combined with relaxation exercises and/or imagery.
CBT can be done alone or with a group of persons who are having similar problems. Participants are frequently given “homework” to complete between sessions.
- Medications could also be prescribed to manage the panic disorder. Medications will not cure the panic disorder but can give significant relief from symptoms.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
- ACT fosters an open, non-judgmental attitude toward the feelings and sensations that arise in the body in the present moment, recognizing them for what they are. The fundamental ideas in ACT for anxiety and panic involve the concept of psychological flexibility to teach anxiety acceptance, differentiating the self from anxiety and panic sensations, and responding in the individual's chosen directions.
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