Dave was getting ready for bed one evening, when out of the blue he thought he was going crazy. His fingers and arms felt numb; his heart raced. Dave was shaking, but he was also so hot, he thought he might pass out. Dave was sweating profusely, and these feelings escalated for several minutes. Then, out of the blue they stopped. He was exhausted and unsure of what had just happened. Dave just had a panic attack.
Panic attacks surface, often with no warning and for no apparent reason, leaving people exhausted and debilitated. They can disrupt people’s lives, and when they occur repeatedly, they may have grown into a panic disorder. In order to avoid them, many people adjust their everyday routine, but they also miss out on much of life’s fun and joy in the process. Others may use drugs or alcohol to dull the discomfort of panic, but these can increase the severity and frequency of panic attacks.
Psychological treatments have proven effective for panic attacks, however. Cognitive behavior therapy, exposure therapy, and/or medication can be combined to relieve panic disorder. The counselors at Thriveworks Portage treat panic disorder, and they are dedicated to finding the right treatment plan for each client’s symptoms and needs.
Diagnosing Panic Disorder
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) gives the following diagnostics for a panic disorder (DSM-5 300.01 [F41.0]):
- When more than one panic attack strikes and involves acute discomfort, fear, and anxiety that builds and then abates after several minutes. To be considered a panic attack, it must have at least four of the following symptoms:
- Fear of going crazy or losing control
- Fear of dying
- Excessive perspiration
- Palpitations or escalated heart beat
- Feelings of choking
- Shaking or trembling
- Feeling detached or depersonalized from oneself
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Shortness of breath or feeling smothered
- Chest pain or tightness
- Abdominal pain or nausea
- Dizziness or faintness
- Chills or hot flashes
- Experiencing either or both of the following for a minimum of one month following a panic attack(s):
- Persistent worry that one will have more panic attacks and/or experiencing similar, negative health consequences (e.g., a stroke).
- Altering one’s daily behavior, trying to avoid or mitigate the panic.
Before diagnosing panic disorder, know that if the attacks are the result of a medical condition, different mental health disorder, or physiological effects of a drug/medication, the condition is not panic disorder.
Panic Disorder Therapies
Missing out on family, friends and work because of a panic disorder adds difficulty to difficulty. Several therapies have proven effective at controlling or wiping out panic attacks, and lots of people live their normal life, panic attack free. Possible therapies for panic disorders include:
- Exposure therapy: This therapy seeks to build coping skills for handling the feelings and sensations of a panic attack in a healthy way. Under a trained therapist’s supervision and within a safe environment, people may voluntarily subject themselves to the experiences of panic. By doing so, clients can normalize and handle the attack. As their coping skills increase, the severity and frequency of the attacks may decrease.
- Medication: This therapy is most effective when combined with exposure therapy or cognitive behavior therapy. Medicine may alleviate the symptoms to that coping mechanisms can be learned and/or foundational causes of the disorder can be handled. Typical medications may include benzodiazepines and antidepressants.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy seeks to address the foundational causes of the panic disorder. It may examine any past trauma that clients experienced and any unhealthy thought or behavior patterns that grew from the trauma. With a skilled therapist, people can resolve the trauma and replace unhealthy patterns with healthy ones.
Reaching Out to Thriveworks Portage
The therapists at Thriveworks Portage are dedicated to finding the right combination of treatments that work for each, individual client. We have appointments available for panic disorder because we do not want anyone’s life to be disrupted because of panic attacks. If you or your loved one is struggling with panic, we are ready to help.
If you are ready to live your life without panic attacks, know that Thriveworks Portage has made the process of scheduling therapy as easy as we can. When you call, a person will answer and help you. New clients might even meet with their therapist the following day. We accept many forms of insurance, and we have weekend and evening sessions.
If you are ready to conquer your panic disorder, call Thriveworks Portage today. We are ready to help.