In This Article
In This Article
Approximately 2.7 percent of adults and 2.3 percent of adolescents in the U.S. suffer from panic disorder characterized by sudden and recurring panic attacks. This disorder is more common among women than men and can vary from mild to severe. A major depressive disorder is a common co-occurring condition with panic attacks.
In many cases, therapies or panic disorder counseling can be very useful in helping an individual cope with the condition.
It is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by the spontaneous panic attacks that happen unexpectedly and spontaneously. The frequency of these attacks varies significantly from several attacks per day to a few per year.
In order to receive a diagnosis for panic attacks, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5), a person must have
Because of the last point, a doctor can rule out medical reasons for such attacks by, for example, running a thyroid test, testing blood sugar levels, or taking an electrocardiogram (EKG) before diagnosing panic attack disorder.
According to surveys, it has been found that panic disorder is more common in women i.e. 2.5 times more. Also, the data in the survey found a correlation between the gender difference and increasing age.
During panic attacks, a person experiences intense fear and shows such physical symptoms such as:
Many people have a feeling that something terrible is about to happen or that they are about to lose control. Some fear that they are about to die or “go crazy.”
The cause of panic attacks is unknown, but this disorder commonly runs in a family. It is debatable though whether this is due to heritage or environmental factors. Psychological stressors such as divorce or losing a job put a person at heightened risk for developing this disorder, and the risk is even higher if a person smokes or has experienced abuse as a child.
Some scientists also speculate that the brains of people experiencing such attacks might be especially sensitive to fear.
There are different types of panic attacks: Expected and Unexpected.
In the expected type, the trigger may be a phobia so if a person wants to know how to control panic attacks or how to prevent panic attacks like these, they simply have to avoid getting triggered by their environment.
Such attacks can be caused by one or a combination of multiple factors such as:
A trigger may or may not be present.
Another question that arises is how long do panic attacks last?
Such attacks can begin abruptly and start peaking at 10 minutes. Mostly they end after 20-30 minutes have passed and very rarely do they last for an hour.
If a person does not seek panic disorder counseling for panic attacks, it is common for the condition to go from isolated, infrequent attacks into severe agoraphobia, an intense fear of social settings that often forces a person to become housebound. Also, a person may start having the attacks only in one setting.
For example, they may experience such attacks only when giving a public speech. Over time, these attacks can spread into other areas, such as when they eat in a restaurant or use public transportation. This is why early treatment or panic disorder counseling is vital.
The prognosis for panic disorder is excellent if a person suffering from this disorder receives therapy. With cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), most people are able to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks and many even manage to stop having the attacks altogether.
Most studies show that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective panic disorder treatment, so much so that it even outperforms anti-anxiety medication.
Cognitive Restructuring: Cognitive behavioral therapy believes that it is our thoughts and beliefs that cause us to become depressed or anxious, not the other way around. That is why, with the help of cognitive restructuring, the therapist will help the client first to become aware of their thoughts and beliefs that are causing them to feel anxious.
Later, the therapist will show the client how to replace such thoughts and beliefs with healthier alternatives. This causes a person to have fewer attacks while also decreasing their severity.
Mindfulness: Being mindful means being fully present in this moment without trying to escape to the future or past. Mindfulness methods such as meditation or performing various everyday activities mindfully are used to teach the client how to be fully present.
The client will also learn to observe their body’s physiological fear reactions like a scientist without trying to change them.
The goal is for the client to learn to accept the way their body responds and to teach them that although such attacks can feel scary, there is no real danger in them. If given time, the body’s fear responses will subside.
Relaxation Training: When a person suffers from panic attacks for a long period of time, their whole body tends to become more tense even when they are not having attacks. Relaxation training can be used as part of panic disorder counseling to reduce such tension.
Methods like progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing can be used to reduce the heightened physiological arousal that a person who is experiencing the attacks often has.
Stress Reduction: In CBT, a therapist can teach a client how to learn to react to everyday stressors in a healthier way as well in order to reduce unnecessary stress and make dealing with panic attacks easier. Learning both these skills typically results in a person becoming less anxious and having fewer such attacks.
Exposure treatment: In exposure therapy, a therapist will help a client face situations where they typically have panic attacks in real-life situations.
The therapist providing the panic disorder counseling sessions might take the client to a high rise building if the client is afraid of heights or a party if he is afraid of crowds.
The idea behind this therapy is to show a person that when they experience a scary situation, instead of running from it, their fear actually reduces if they stay in that situation. Eventually, they will no longer be afraid of that situation.
Medication: Commonly, medication for panic attacks is also given to patients to support therapy. The most commonly used anti-anxiety medications include benzodiazepines (e.g. diazepam) and antidepressants (such as flluoxetine and sertraline).
People are generally advised not to use benzodiazepines for an extended time because they can cause dependency, which can make coping with panic attacks more difficult. Antidepressant medications do not have this problem, but they may take weeks to achieve adequate effects.
In addition to therapy and medication, some people get help by limiting their alcohol and caffeine intake and exercising. Of the people that stop treatment too early, over 30% go on to develop the disorder again.
Being considered a mental disorder, the treatment is usually covered by health insurance. If a person does not have health insurance, most psychologists and mental health counselors typically charge between $60-$150 per hour for individual panic disorder counseling. Some professionals may offer sliding scales for their low-income clients.