George was fast asleep one minute. The next minute, he thought he might die. He was dizzy; his arm was numbed; and he could barely breathe. For a minute, George felt like he was outside of his body, looking on himself. He thought he must be going crazy. Except that he wasn’t. George is perfectly sane. He just struggles with panic attacks. After a few minutes, the symptoms subsided, but George fears that more panic attacks will happen.
Without warning and with no obvious reason, panic attacks can strike, and when they occur repeatedly and disrupt people’s daily life, they may become a panic disorder. Experiencing panic can be exhausting and debilitating. Some people change their daily life in an attempt to stop the attacks, but as people try to bypass the panic attacks, they also bypass a lot of joy and fun. Others use alcohol or drugs to distract themselves from the fear and pain, but self-medicating often makes the panic attacks worse.
Panic attacks, however, are responsive to psychological treatment. Many people experience relief from the panic through cognitive behavior therapy, medically supervised medication, and/or exposure therapy. Thriveworks Manassas in Prince William County provides counseling for panic disorders, and we aim to find the right balance of treatments that fit each client’s needs and symptoms.
Panic Disorder: Signs and Symptoms
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) acknowledges the severity of panic attacks and gives signs and symptoms for a panic disorder (DSM-5 300.01 [F41.0]). Diagnostics for a panic disorder include:
- Experiencing repetitive and unexpected panic attacks which involve feeling intense fear, discomfort, and anxiety that increases and then within a few minutes subsides. Panic attacks must include a minimum of four of the following:
- Fear of going crazy or losing control
- Excessive perspiration
- Fear of dying
- Palpitations or escalated heart beat
- Shaking or trembling
- Feelings of choking
- Feeling detached or depersonalized from oneself
- Shortness of breath or feeling smothered
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Chest pain or tightness
- Dizziness or faintness
- Abdominal pain or nausea
- Chills or hot flashes
- Following a panic attack (or multiple panic attacks), experiencing for at least one month either or both of the following:
- Fierce and constant worry about having more panic attacks and/or experiencing negative health consequences because of them (e.g., having a heart attack).
- Changing one’s behavior in an attempt to avoid or lessen the attack(s).
The criteria for a panic disorder comes with a caveat: The panic attacks cannot be attributed to the physiological effects of a substance (i.e., a medication or drug), another medical condition, or another mental health disorder.
Treatment for a Panic Disorder in Prince William
No one should have to miss out on work, friends, family, and their normal, daily life because they have a panic disorder. Psychological treatments have proven very effective at managing or eliminating panic attacks, and many people now live symptom free or with diminished symptoms. A skilled therapist may form a treatment plan that involves:
- Medication: Medication will not address the foundation of the panic disorder or build coping skills, but it can alleviate the symptoms so that those actions can be taken more easily. With proper psychological supervision, antidepressants or benzodiazepines may make other treatments more effective.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy aims to treat the root cause of the panic disorder. It examines any thoughts or behaviors that may cause or exacerbate the panic attacks and addresses them. People may be able to put their fear in perspective, work through past trauma, or replace unhealthy thoughts with rational thinking.
- Exposure therapy: Voluntarily subjecting oneself to the experience of a panic attack while in a safe environment and with a coach’s guidance may build a person’s coping skills to handle the panic attacks. As people increase their coping skills, the panic attacks may decrease or their severity may decrease.
Scheduling Therapy at Thriveworks Manassas, VA in Prince William
Often, the first step in effective treatment is recognizing the problem and reaching out for help. Have you experienced some of the symptoms of a panic attack? If you or a loved one is struggling, know that the therapists at Thriveworks Manassas in Prince William County treat panic disorders. We regularly tailor a treatment plan for each, individual client that may include exposure therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and/or medication. The goal is to find the right treatment for your specific symptoms and needs.
If you want to be free of panic attacks and the fear they might occur, here are a few things that might be helpful to know about Thriveworks Manassas. We offer evening and weekend appointments, and new clients often see their therapist within 24 hours. You will never be put on a waitlist because we do not have one. We work with many forms of insurance, and real people answer our phone—not a voicemail.
If it time to live a life without panic attacks, Thriveworks Manassas in Prince William counselors and psychologists are here for you. Call today.