Laurie slept soundly one moment. The next moment, she was awakened by a panic attack. Her stomach was in a knot, and her chest was constricting. Laurie was dizzy and sweating profusely. Yet, she was also cold and shaking. Laurie’s panic attacks have been happening more and more. They have also been lasting for a longer time. Laurie has tried everything she knows, but nothing has worked. Even when she is not having a panic attack, she worries constantly that one will occur at work, with friends, or while she is driving.
Panic attacks can occur with no clear reason and with no warning. When they strike repeatedly or severely disrupt a person’s life, they have grown into a panic disorder. Panic can debilitate and exhaust people, and many people—understandably—rearrange their lives to avoid the attacks. But in the process, they may also miss out on work opportunities, time with friends, and important family events. Others hope to dull the intense emotions with alcohol or drugs, but these often make the panic attacks more severe.
There are effective psychological treatments for panic attacks, however. With a professional’s care and guidance, many people have learned coping skills to handle the panic attacks and/or addressed their root causes. Thriveworks Lynchburg offers therapy for panic attacks, and our therapists and psychologists often combine medication, cognitive behavior therapy, and/or exposure therapy to find an effective treatment plan to meet each’s individual’s needs.
Symptoms and Signs of Panic Disorders
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) recognizes the strain panic attacks can cause with its diagnosis of panic disorder (DSM-5 300.01 [F41.0]). Panic disorder is characterized by:
- Panic attacks that strike repeatedly (at least twice) and unexpectedly. During the attack, people may feel intense discomfort, fear, and anxiety that escalate and then abate within several minutes. Specifically, symptoms must include at least four of the following:
- Sweating excessively
- Fear of going crazy or losing control
- Fear of dying
- Palpitations or escalated heart rate
- A choking feeling
- Shaking or trembling
- Feeling depersonalized or detached from oneself
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Feeling smothered or experiencing shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Dizziness or faintness
- Hot flashes or chills
- Abdominal pain or nausea
- Experiencing, after a panic attack (or multiple panic attacks), either or both of the following for a period of one month:
- Relentless concern that one will have another panic attack and/or face negative health consequences (e.g., a heart attack) because of them.
- Changes in one’s daily routine that attempt to bypass or decrease the attacks.
A panic disorder generally surfaces when people are in their 20s or 30s. However, children have been diagnosed with a panic disorder, as have older individuals.
Many people plagued by panic disorders can identify stressful situations they faced in the time before their first attack. People who have survived childhood abuse suffer from a panic disorder more than other anxiety disorders. A person’s genetic makeup can also contribute to the disorder.
Psychological Treatments for Panic Disorders
Missing out on friends, family, and work because of panic attacks is too much of a burden to bear, especially since treatments for panic attacks are available and effective. Many people who have sought psychological help have seen their panic attacks eliminated or diminished. Several types of treatment can be combined to form a treatment plan that addresses each individual’s unique needs.
- Exposure therapy: When in a safe environment and under a skilled therapist’s supervision, being exposed to triggers for a panic attack may give people the opportunity to practice coping skills to handle panic attacks that occur unexpectedly. When people boost their capacity to cope during an attack, the attacks may diminish in their severity and/or frequency.
- Medication: When used properly, medications such as antidepressants or benzodiazepines may reduce or eliminate panic attack symptoms for a season that allows other therapies to address root causes and build coping skills. Medicine will not cure a panic disorder, however.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy aims to expose and treat any root causes of the panic disorder. At times, people’s thinking or behavior patterns can exacerbate the attacks, and with adjustments, the panic attacks may lessen. Cognitive behavior therapy can help people work through past trauma that may be related to the feelings of panic.
Counseling for Panic Disorders at Thriveworks Lynchburg
Effective treatment for panic disorders may begin with acknowledging the problem and asking for help. While reading through symptoms of panic disorders, did any resonate with you? If yes, know that Thriveworks Lynchburg offers counseling for panic attacks. Our counselors want each client to receive the right treatment that fits their needs.
If you are ready to get help for your panic disorder, here are a few things that might be helpful to know about our office…
- We offer evening and weekend appointments.
- When you call, a person—not a voicemail—will answer.
- We work with many insurance providers.
- New clients may see their therapist within 24 hours of when they call to schedule an appointment.
If panic attacks are keeping you from living your normal, daily life, Thriveworks Lynchburg is ready to help. Call today.