February 15, 2012

Panic Attack Treatment

There can be a large amount of pain of suffering associated with panic attacks, including both the terror in the moment and the dread of future panic attacks that often strike without warning. People with panic disorder are are among those most likely to quickly seek treatment. Luckily, panic disorder can be effectively treated using empirically supported methods.

Panic Treatment Model

Panic operates as a powerful cycle, and treatment requires close understanding of what maintains each individual’s cycle and targeted intervention aimed at breaking it.

Panic typically begins with a trigger, but this trigger is often unknown to patients beginning therapy. It could be something like an irregular heartbeat, a subtle change in breathing, or thoughts of being trapped. These triggers can induce panic because they are perceived as threatening – “perhaps it’s a heart attack,” “I’m going to faint”, “what if I go crazy?” A person’s identification of this trigger as dangerous naturally leads to a rapid increase in anxiety, as the body prepares to fight or flee the danger. When the changes that come with body response to danger (such as increased heart rate, changes in breathing, tingling in the extremities, mental focus on possible threats, etc.) are themselves perceived as dangerous, the escalating cycle to panic takes hold. This can lead to increases in anxiety – anxiety about anxiety.

While this model is representative of the basics of panic, for each individual there are many other factors involved. These differentiating factors are important for individualizing treatment.

Panic Treatment at the Anxiety Treatment Center of Austin

At the Anxiety Treatment Center of Austin, the clinicians are well-trained in using cognitive and expectancy models of treatment and look for multiple places to interrupt the cycle of panic to try to cure panic disorder.

The focus is on changing interpretations of triggering bodily sensations so that they are understood for what they are rather than being interpreted as dangerous. The underlying beliefs that inadvertently promote the cycle of panic to get worse are targeted, and physiological methods to stop the body from escalating to panic when anxiety sets in are used. Most importantly, exposure and response prevention (ERP) is used to extinguish the connection between feared situations/bodily sensations and anxiety. This means that when triggers are experienced, the brain no longer responds with fear.

In essence, treatment breaks the chain of anxiety, bodily arousal, and panic that leads to the bodily sensations that make people feel out of control. At the end of successful treatment, uncomfortable feelings are recognized, understood, and accepted. The result is a reduction in panic symptoms.

Schedule a Free Consultation for Panic Attack Treatment

Call or email us to set up a brief phone or office consultation with one of our Anxiety Specialists. We can answer questions, provide more information, and determine eligibility for panic attack treatment. Please provide a good time to speak. We are located in central Austin, and have availability during daytime hours, evenings, and weekends.

Wondering if you might have Panic Disorder? Take a Panic Disorder screening test.