Have you had episodes of intense and crippling fear that come on suddenly and last for several minutes at a time? During these episodes are you afraid that you’re having a heart attack or that you can hardly even breathe? Have these attacks happened unexpectedly? Do you find yourself worrying about if and when the next attack will come? If these symptoms sound familiar, it may be that you are having panic attacks, which are a form of an anxiety disorder.

Individuals with panic attacks typically experience attacks of fear that come on suddenly, without warning, and can last several minutes or longer. This happens repeatedly and causes the person to worry constantly about when it will happen next. They live in fear of a panic attack or they are terrified by the prospect of losing control when in actuality they’re in no danger whatsoever.

The individual having panic attacks will also experience an extreme physical reaction. It very often feels like a heart attack and at times has been mistaken for one. Panic attacks can happen anytime without any warning at all which causes people with panic disorder to worry constantly about when the next one will occur.

It’s common for people with panic disorder to feel hopeless and ashamed due to their inability to take on normal responsibilities and errands. Simply going to the market or even driving a car can seem overwhelming. It’s not surprising that panic attacks affect one’s entire life, disrupting their home life, school work and/or job.

Panic attacks usually start in the late teen years or early twenties. Women, more than men, suffer from panic attacks. However, just because someone has panic attacks, does not mean that they will develop a full-blown panic disorder.

Typical symptoms of panic disorder:

  • A sudden attack of fear without warning and these panic attacks are repeated
  • A fear of losing control
  • Consciously avoiding places where a panic attack has happened in the past
  • Experiencing some if not all of the following physical symptoms:

Heart palpitations, racing or pounding heart

Sweating profusely

Trouble breathing

Dizziness, feeling weak

Hot flashes or cold chills

Feeling of numbness or tingling in hands

Pain in the chest or stomach

Frequent worry about when the panic attack will happen next.

What is the treatment for panic attacks? 

The usual treatment for panic disorder is psychotherapy and medication or more often a combination of both.

The type of psychotherapeutic treatment most effective for panic attacks is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It addresses irrational beliefs and in changing their thinking about certain things, people change their feelings and ultimately feel less fearful and anxious, which then allows them to change their behavior.

There are those who respond well to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and there are others who respond better to medication. Some people do best when they receive a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Every person responds differently and should consult their behavioral health care provider for their recommendations.

However, for some people psychotherapy and medication may not be enough to reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks.  In this case, a more intensive outpatient program may be indicated.  Because our treatment for panic attacks and depression rely on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods.  The foundation of our treatment program panic attacks for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from panic attacks, depression and other mental health disorders.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of panic attacks in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of panic attacks or depression, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for panic attacks that can result in recovery.  Treatment for anxiety and depression can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.