CBT for Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a condition where you have recurring panic attacks. Many people with panic disorder also develop agoraphobia. This means you avoid many places, and may not even go out from your home, due to fear of having a panic attack in a public place. Treatment with antidepressant medicines and/or cognitive behavioural therapy works well in over half of cases. 

CBT is the effective therapy for Panic Disorder

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a severe attack of anxiety and fear which occurs suddenly, often without warning, and for no apparent reason. In addition to the anxiety, various other symptoms may also occur during a panic attack. These include one or more of the following:.

•Palpitations or a thumping heart.
•Sweating and trembling.
•Hot flushes or chills.
•Feeling short of breath, sometimes with choking sensations.
•Chest pains.
•Feeling sick, dizzy, or faint.
•Fear of dying or going crazy.
•Numbness, or pins and needles.
•Feelings of unreality, or being detached from yourself.
The physical symptoms that occur with panic attacks do not mean there is a physical problem with the heart, chest, etc. The symptoms mainly occur because of an overdrive of nervous impulses from the brain to various parts of the body during a panic attack.

During a panic attack you tend to over-breathe (hyperventilate). If you over-breathe you blow out too much carbon dioxide which changes the acidity in the blood. This can then cause more symptoms such as confusion and cramps, and make palpitations, dizziness, and pins and needles worse. This can make the attack seem even more frightening, and make you over-breathe even more, and so on. A panic attack usually lasts 5-10 minutes, but sometimes they come in waves for up to two hours.

What is panic disorder?

Panic attacks usually occur for no apparent reason. The cause is not clear. Slight abnormalities in the balance of some brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) may play a role. This is probably why medicines used for treatment work well. Anyone can have a panic attack, but they also tend to run in some families. Stressful life events such as bereavement may sometimes trigger a panic attack..

.Panic disorder, agoraphobia and other fears
Some people with panic disorder worry about having a panic attack in a public place where it is difficult to get out of, or where help may not be available, or where it can be embarrassing. This may cause you to develop agoraphobia. About 1 in 3 people with panic disorder also develop agoraphobia.

If you have agoraphobia you have a number of fears of various places and situations. So, for example, you may be afraid to:.

•Be in an open place.
•Enter shops, crowds, and public places.
•Travel in trains, buses, or planes.
•Be on a bridge or in a lift.
•Be in a cinema, restaurant, etc where there is no easy exit.
•Be anywhere far from your home - many people with agoraphobia stay inside their home for most or all of the time.
You may also develop other irrational fears. For example, you may think that exercise or certain foods cause the panic attacks. Because of this you may fear (develop a phobia) for certain foods, or avoid exercise, etc..

What is the treatment for panic attacks and panic disorder?

No treatment is needed if you have just an occasional panic attack. It may help if you understand about panic attacks. This may reassure you that any physical symptoms you get during a panic attack are not due to a physical disease. It may help to know how to deal with a panic attack.

Treatment can help if you have recurring attacks (panic disorder). The main aim of treatment is to reduce the number and severity of panic attacks.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

This is a type of specialist talking treatment. Studies show it is the most effective treatment.

Cognitive therapy is based on the idea that certain ways of thinking can trigger, or fuel, certain mental health problems such as panic attacks and agoraphobia. The therapist helps you to understand your current thought patterns. In particular, to identify any harmful, unhelpful, and false ideas or thoughts which you have. For example, the ideas that you may have at the beginning of a panic attack, wrong beliefs about the physical symptoms, how you react to the symptoms, etc. The aim is then to change your ways of thinking to avoid these ideas. Also, to help your thought patterns to be more realistic and helpful. Therapy is usually done in weekly sessions of about 50 minutes each, for several weeks.

Behavioural therapy aims to change behaviours which are harmful or not helpful. This may be particularly useful if you have agoraphobia with panic disorder where you avoid various situations or places. The therapist also teaches you how to control anxiety when you face up to the feared situations and places. For example, by using breathing techniques.

If you need help with overcoming Panic then please contact us to discuss your problems or to book an assessment - 0161 8345888