Panic Disorder Treatment

panic disorder treatment

 

In the past year, an estimated 2.7 percent of US adults developed a panic disorder, a condition marked by frequent and unexpected panic attacks. When you develop a panic disorder, you worry about the risk of experiencing another attack. This can impair your ability to function as you make significant lifestyle changes to avoid experiencing another attack.

Fortunately, applying the right treatment methods can help alleviate the intensity and frequency of your panic attacks. Let’s discuss the most common approaches to treating panic disorder, mainly medication, psychotherapy, and holistic treatment methods.

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Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is considered the first line of defense in treating a majority of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder. Also known as talk therapy, it’s an effective approach to help you understand the condition and learn to cope with symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

 

CBT is a commonly used model of psychotherapy that’s proven to be highly effective in addressing a range of disorders. This research-backed approach aims to change how you think and behave in response to feelings that occur during or before a panic attack. In this form of therapy, you learn to react to physical sensations that occur during a panic attack. Over time, this helps reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.

 

It’s common for people with panic disorder to avoid places and situations where they fear the possibility of a panic attack. This contributes to agoraphobia, which is an excessive fear of leaving your home. Exposure therapy is a CBT method that helps you confront your fears, allowing you to engage in activities you previously avoided.

Individual Psychotherapy

 

Before your therapist recommends attending sessions in a group setting, they’ll prescribe individual psychotherapy. As the name implies, you’ll receive therapy in a one-on-one setting, which helps you build a strong therapeutic alliance (a relationship in which you and your therapist work together on tasks that improve your well-being).

 

And if you’ve just started the treatment process, seeking individual therapy allows you to move at your own pace and keep the discussion centered on your issues. This helps in making the group or family therapy process less overwhelming, and it encourages you to stay focused on your goals.

Family Therapy

 

Employing family therapy for panic disorder can help with anxiety management. By involving your loved ones in the process, whether it’s your spouse, children, or parents, to understand the condition, your therapist can help them understand your condition better.

 

Studies indicate that families, because of their negative reactions, play a major role in the development and maintenance of panic disorder. In family therapy, a licensed practitioner evaluates and changes interactions between members. This way, your family members learn healthy ways to react when you experience a panic attack while overcoming unhealthy communication patterns.

Group Therapy

 

There’s evidence to prove that group therapy is an effective treatment option for panic disorder. Studies have shown that implementing group therapy as part of a treatment plan resulted in reduced panic and agoraphobia symptoms as opposed to no-treatment control groups. These sessions, which are supervised by a licensed practitioner and involve two or more clients, are a source of social support.

 

Group therapy offers the opportunity to practice your coping skills, listen to others’ experiences, and feel inspired to continue on the path to recovery. You can also receive feedback from other members, develop sustainable habits to manage symptoms and foster personal growth.

Medication

In some cases, the severity of your symptoms can get in the way of seeking appropriate therapy. Or, you may be struggling with other mental health conditions that hamper the progress of your panic disorder treatment plan. Mental health practitioners prescribe medications in such cases to alleviate the symptoms associated with panic attacks (or depression, if that’s something you’re having trouble with). Different types of medications help treat panic disorder symptoms while making you more responsive to therapy.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

 

Just like other anxiety disorders, panic disorder can be attributed to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Antidepressants like SSRIs are considered safe due to their lower risk of side effects, which is why many clinicians prescribe them. This class of medication works by regulating levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that impacts both mood and anxiety.

Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors

 

Another class of commonly prescribed antidepressants is SNRIs, which regulate levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine. SNRIs such as venlafaxine are approved by the FDA for the treatment of panic disorder. This is because it regulates norepinephrine, the neurotransmitter that’s responsible for activating the amygdala. By reducing activity in the amygdala, SNRIs can reduce the intensity of panic attacks.

Benzodiazepines

 

Benzodiazepines make up a class of sedative medications and are called nervous system depressants.  These anti-anxiety medications work by increasing GABAnergic activity, allowing you to feel calm. However, they’re only prescribed as a short-term solution to reduce symptom severity and improve responsiveness to therapy. This is due to their habit-forming nature, which can result in mental or physical dependence.

 

In order for medications to deliver notable results and improvements, you’ll need to take them consistently for several weeks.

Holistic Therapies

In addition to psychotherapy and medication, the third element of an effective plan involves holistic therapies. The holistic approach centers on mind-body wellness to improve mental health. It does this by emphasizing core elements that promote physical and mental well-being.

Relaxation Methods

 

Stress management strategies such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and yoga give you healthy ways to cope with stress. They work by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces activity in the sympathetic nervous system and signals the body to relax.

Exercise Routine

 

Extensive evidence proves the benefits of aerobic exercise for reducing stress levels, improving mood, and regulating sleep patterns. Whether you prefer short periods of high-intensity exercise or a long, leisurely walk, exercise can have anti-anxiety effects that reduce the severity and frequency of panic attacks.

Balanced Nutrition

 

There have been numerous studies linking nutritional deficiencies to mood imbalances and elevated anxiety. This highlights the importance of balanced nutrition for reducing panic disorder symptoms and improving your mental health.

 

When you’re deficient in omega-3s, vitamin B complex, amino acids, and different minerals, it has a negative effect on your mental health. Therefore, implementing a balanced meal plan as part of your treatment plan is highly recommended.

Enrolling in a Residential Program

 

Implementing a holistic approach to panic disorder treatment is one of the fastest ways towards long-term recovery. However, it can be difficult without the right guidance and expertise from professionals. Enrolling in a residential program at a dedicated treatment facility gives you the space and resources needed to focus on recovery. Here, mental health practitioners follow the holistic approach and formulate a treatment plan that aligns with your needs.

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