Counseling for a Panic Disorder in Sterling, VA—Calming a Panic Attack
Theresa was fine one moment, taking her lunchbreak at a park. The next moment, she felt dizzy and short of breath. Her heart was racing, and she started sweating and shaking. Fear washed over her, and Theresa thought she might die. After a few horrible minutes, the feelings subsided, but Theresa was exhausted. She went home and rested instead of returning to work. Theresa had a panic attack.
Panic attacks can strike with no warning and for no apparent reason, and when people experience them repeatedly, they may have a panic disorder. People who suffer from panic attacks know how debilitating the experience can be, and they often change their daily routine to avoid them. Such changes are understandable, but these people also miss out of many of life’s joys as well. Other people self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to avoid the terrible feelings of panic; however, this can increase the frequency of the panic attacks. Instead, psychological treatments for panic attacks have proven much more effective.
Thriveworks Sterling offers counseling for panic disorders because we do not want our clients to live in fear of when panic will strike.
What Is a Panic Disorder?
Panic attacks are serious enough that when they are experienced, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) may classify them as a panic disorder. The criteria for diagnosing a panic disorder (DSM-5 300.01 [F41.0]) include:
- When people experience repeated panic attacks which include intense feelings of fear and discomfort that escalate and then subside within a few minutes and which also include at least four of these symptoms:
- Excessive sweating
- Palpitations or increased heart beat
- Trembling or shaking
- Feelings of choking
- Shortness of breath or feeling smothered
- Chest discomfort or pain
- Nausea or abdominal pain
- Chills or hot flashes
- Dizziness or faintness
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (feeling detached from his or her self)
- Fear of death
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Following one or more of the panic attacks, experiencing one or both of the following for a month or longer:
- Altering one’s behavior in response to the attack(s) and in order to avoid them.
- Relentless worry about having another panic attack and/or experiencing negative health consequences because of a panic attack (e.g., having a heart attack).
Diagnosing a panic disorder comes with two caveats:
- Another mental disorder, such as social anxiety disorder, may involve panic attacks. If another diagnosis has been made that includes panic attacks as a symptom, the previous diagnosis takes priority.
- The panic attacks cannot be attributed to the physiological effects of a substance (i.e., a medication or drug) or another medical condition.
Treating a Panic Disorder
Panic disorders have effective treatments that do not involve people missing out on their daily life. Many people have overcome their panic attacks and now live without them or with greatly reduced symptoms. Options for treatment include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy explores and identifies the behavior and thought patterns that may sustain or cause the panic attacks. Skilled therapists may help individuals look at their fears and put them in perspective or find appropriate coping mechanisms for them.
- Exposure therapy: This therapy may involve clients experiencing the physical sensations of a panic attack within a safe environment and with a therapist’s coaching. People can then learn coping techniques—how to respond in a way that lessens the symptoms of the attack. Being exposed to panic symptoms may decrease people’s fear of them and increase their ability to control them.
- Medication: As a temporary treatment, medication may alleviate or control symptoms. Medication does not address the root causes of the panic attack, but it may make other treatments more effective. If symptoms are more manageable, cognitive behavior therapy or exposure therapy may be more successful. Medication options may include antidepressants and benzodiazepines.
Setting Up Therapy
Effective treatments are available for panic attacks, and often, the first step in healing is acknowledging the problem and asking for help. Thriveworks Sterling offers therapy for a panic disorder, and our therapists are dedicated to offering holistic treatment that is tailored to each client. We often combine cognitive behavior therapy, exposure therapy, and medication to reach the right balance for each client’s needs.
If you are ready to live without panic attacks, know that Thriveworks Sterling offers weekend and evening appointments. We work with most insurance providers. When you call to make an appointment, a person will answer your call—not an automated teller or voicemail. Many new clients see their counselor the day after their first call.
Is it time to treat your panic attacks? Call Thriveworks Sterling today. We are ready to help.