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Untreated panic disorders can dramatically impair your quality of life, triggering difficulties at home, work, or school.
Fortunately, panic disorder is a treatable condition. This guide outlines the most effective science-based interventions to help alleviate the frequency and intensity of panic attacks, improving overall functioning – psychotherapy and/or medications.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by panic attacks. Attacks occur frequently and unexpectedly, bringing on a wave of discomfort and fear. Panic attacks also tend to induce a loss of control, even in the absence of obvious triggers.
While panic attacks are central to panic disorder, not everyone who experiences panic attacks develops a panic disorder.
The main treatment options for panic attacks and panic disorder are psychotherapy and medications. Your treatment provider may recommend one or both of these approaches to treatment depending on factors that include:
Medications that may be effective for treating panic disorders include antidepressants and benzodiazepines. Behavioral interventions like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) help to address negative and destructive thought patterns that may contribute to panic attacks, enabling you to reevaluate those thoughts.
Treatment for panic disorder may also include exposure to mindfulness practices and breathing techniques.
Before we highlight the effectiveness of pharmacological and behavioral interventions for panic disorder, what are the symptoms of panic attacks?
Panic disorder typically presents in the teens or in early adulthood. ADAA (Anxiety & Depression Association of America) reports that panic disorder impacts 6 million U.S. adults in any year. Women are more likely than men to develop panic disorders.
People diagnosed with panic disorder may experience the following symptoms:
Panic attacks are also characterized by physical symptoms that may include:
For a diagnosis of panic disorder according to DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the following conditions must be satisfied:
If you experience panic attacks but you do not have a diagnosable panic disorder, you may still benefit from treatment. Untreated, the symptoms of panic attacks may develop into phobias or panic disorder.
These are the most common treatments for panic attacks and panic disorder:
Studies show that antidepressants may help those with panic disorders in the following ways:
Reduce the severity of panic attacks
A meta-analysis of studies indicates that SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants) are equally effective for reducing the frequency and severity of panic attacks.
MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) may also be effective, but this older type of antidepressant is associated with more adverse side effects and safety concerns.
Benzodiazepines like Xanax can be highly effective for relieving the short-term symptoms of panic attacks. Tolerance to benzos forms rapidly, and this class of medication also has a high potential for abuse and addiction.
CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) is a form of psychotherapy or talk therapy that is proven effective for treating mental health conditions and addictions.
During CBT sessions, cognitive therapy focuses on identifying flawed thoughts and misinterpreted feelings, while behavior therapy includes relaxation, breathing exercises, and exposure).
Some research supports the effectiveness of self-directed CBT via books and videos for the treatment of panic attacks.
Research suggests that CBT in combination with antidepressants is more effective during therapy. After the discontinuation of therapy, individuals who used CBT alone often enjoy superior outcomes to patients who used CBT in combination with antidepressants.
At Gratitude Lodge in Southern California, we specialize in the treatment of:
Head to one of our pet-friendly rehabs in Long Beach, Newport Beach, or San Diego and access evidence-based treatments and medications to help improve your mental health and overall functioning.
If you have a panic disorder co-occurring with alcoholism or drug addiction, initiate a sustained recovery by engaging with our dual diagnosis treatment program. Unpack panic disorder and addiction with simultaneous therapy addressing both conditions.
When you are ready to fight back against mental health issues and substance abuse, begin your recovery with a supervised medical detox at Gratitude Lodge before transitioning into inpatient or outpatient treatment.
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