Sarah was exercising, walking through her neighborhood, feeling fine one moment. The next, she thought she might die. Sarah was dizzy and felt her chest constricting. She started shaking, and her heart rate raced. Sarah was cold, so very cold. These feelings grew worse for several minutes. Sarah called an ambulance because she thought she might be having a heart attack. Then, all of the sudden, the feelings abated. Sarah did not have a heart attack. She had a panic attack.
Without warning and without a clear trigger, a panic attack can devastate. When people experience multiple panic attacks, a panic disorder may have developed.
If you have ever experienced a panic attack, you know how much harm they can cause. In an attempt to avoid them, many people avoid any situation that may trigger the attack. In the process, they may also avoid professional opportunities, family time, and fun with friends. Other people use alcohol and drugs to dull the difficult feelings and experiences of panic. These, unfortunately, make the problem worse in the long-run as they often increase the severity and frequency of the attacks. Panic disorders, however, are responsive to psychological treatments.
The therapists and psychologists at Thriveworks Bethlehem treat panic disorders because no one should live with panic attacks or live in fear of when they may strike. Our professionals tailor treatment to each client’s symptoms and needs, and we love seeing people live without panic.
Panic Disorder Diagnostics
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) acknowledges the seriousness and severity of panic attacks and gives the diagnostics for when they have developed into panic disorder (DSM-5 300.01 [F41.0]). The signs and symptoms of panic disorder include:
- Panic disorders occurs when a person experiences repeated (more than one) panic attacks which involve acute discomfort and fear that increase for a few minutes and then begin to subside. A panic attack must involve a minimum of four of the following symptoms:
- Fear of going crazy or losing control
- Excessive perspiration
- Fear of dying
- Palpitations or abnormally rapid heart beat
- Feeling detached from oneself
- Shaking or trembling
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Dizziness or faintness
- A choking feeling
- Hot flashes or chills
- Shortened breath or feeling smothered
- Abdominal pain or nausea
- Chest discomfort/pain
- After experience a panic attack(s), also experiencing either or both of these for at least a month:
- Changing one’s daily routine in an attempt to avoid a panic attack.
- Feeling acute worry about another panic attack striking and/or experiencing a similar negative health consequences like having a stroke or heart attack.
Diagnosing a panic disorder comes with an important caveat: the panic attacks cannot be attributable to another mental health disorder, physical health disorder, or medication/drug use.
Psychological Treatments for Panic Disorders
Missing out of daily life is not a desirable treatment plan for panic disorders. Instead, what if people who suffered from panic attacks could go about their normal life but without the fear and without the panic? Skilled counselors can tailor a treatment plan that potentially diminishes the frequency and severity of panic attacks and may even eliminate them completely. Many effective treatments are available, and they can be combined to meet people’s specific needs.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy examines any patterns in thought or behavior that may cause or exacerbate the panic. Cognitive behavior therapy also looks at how those may have formed, seeks to resolve the foundational issue, and build healthy thought and behavior patterns.
- Medication: This treatment may control or even alleviate symptoms for a period of time. When combined with cognitive behavior therapy or exposure therapy, medication may increase the success of treatment. Options for medication usually include benzodiazepines and antidepressants.
- Exposure therapy: Under a therapist’s supervision and in a safe space, this therapy exposes clients to the sensations and feelings of a panic attack in order to normalize them and build coping skills for dealing with them. As clients learn how to respond in a health way to the feelings of panic, the attacks may decrease if not stop completely.
Scheduling Therapy at Thriveworks Bethlehem, PA
Whether you have experienced one or multiple panic attacks, know that help is available. If you are ready to be done living in fear, then we are ready to support and guide you in your healing process. Thriveworks Bethlehem has appointments available for panic attack disorder therapy. We want each client to find the right therapy that addresses their unique symptoms and needs.
We have done what we can to make scheduling therapy as convenient as possible. When you call Thriveworks Bethlehem, know that a person will answer and schedule your appointment. We offer evening and weekend sessions, and many new clients see their therapist within 24 hours. We also work with many forms of insurance.
Is it time to live without panic attacks? Thriveworks Bethlehem is ready to help. Call today to work with a therapist or psychologist.