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Austin Center for Anxiety & Related Disorders
Telephone: (512) 538-5066
Panic Attacks: Hard To Endure, Easy To Treat by Dr. Erikalin Ashton
Approximately 12-25 million people in the the U.S. alone suffer from panic attacks and/or agoraphobia. That’s one out of every 12 people (Barlow, 2007). Panic attacks can be extremely frightening and even lead people to go to the Emergency Room for fear that they’re dying or losing control.
If you’ve ever had a panic attack you already know that they are sudden rushes of anxiety with multiple physical symptoms. These can sometimes come “out of the blue” or even while sleeping. Some of the most common symptoms people experience are:
Heart racing or pounding
Shortness of breath
Dizziness or faintness
Shaking or trembling
Abdominal distress or discomfort
A sense of unreality or depersonalization
Chest pain or discomfort
Fear of losing control or going crazy
Fear of dying
If you’ve had a panic attack and find yourself worried about having another one, you may have panic disorder. If you’ve also found yourself avoiding certain activities for fear of having another panic attack, you may have developed agoraphobia. Both panic disorder and agoraphobia are extremely treatable disorders. Anywhere from 83% to 90% of people are panic free after receiving the evidence-based treatment of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, (Barlow, 2007). This is true even if other treatments have not been successful for you. The American Psychiatric Association (APA, 2009) has also credited CBT as a first line treatment for patients with panic disorder.
It’s helpful to know that panic attacks, as scary as they feel, are merely a result of your fight-or-flight system firing when it doesn’t need to be. Your body is responding as if it saw a grizzly bear but there is no grizzly bear present. Panic attacks are a false alarm of your fight-or-flight system.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) will help you retrain your fight-or-flight system so that it’s no longer misfiring and leading to panic attacks. You won’t lose your ability to have a fight-or-flight response if you ever do need it, but it will no longer be firing unnecessarily. Treatment is fast and effective so you can get back to feeling comfortable again quickly and return to doing the things that you used to enjoy before you had panic attacks.
American Psychiatric Association. (2009). Practice guideline for the treatment of patients with panic disorder, 2nd Ed. Washington, D.C.: Author.
Barlow, D. & Craske, M. (2007). Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic-4th Ed. New York, Ny: Oxford University Press.
Austin Anxiety article.
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