Panic attacks are the core symptom of panic disorder. These attacks are recurrent, abrupt in onset and random. The panic attack can manifest itself as intense fear, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, palpitations, sweating, trembling, and dizziness and these symptoms can vary in intensity and duration, and can last for several minutes up to hours.
A panic disorder can continue for many years, but if treated successfully, panic attacks do not return at any time and can even never return again. Many people become housebound for decades due to the fear of never knowing when their panic attacks can reoccur.
Some people feel healed since they feel better and because they no longer feel uncomfortable in places they used to avoid. And they may not have had a panic attack for months, even years. If they had an accompanying depression, which is not unusual, the depression may have disappeared.
But, still, that period of remission does not constitute cure, especially if the underlying reason for panic attacks is not tackled properly. As a comparison, a depression can relapse from time to time, indefinitely. And in cases of phobia and panic attacks combined with depression, once the phobia is treated successfully, a return of the depression does not bring with it a return of the phobia.
A panic attack goes away when the person is no longer afraid of the attack. Having a bad panic attack, ten or twelve times in different phobic situations without leaving the situation is usually enough to convince that person that the panic attack does not cause a heart attack, a fall to the ground, or any other loss of control. Finally, the person experiencing panic attacks continues to experience occasional, very brief panic attacks at increasing intervals until they go away altogether.
As a conclusion, the key to non-returning panic attacks is regular and definite treatment. Once properly treated, these attacks become rarer and rarer, until they disappear for real. There are numerous options for therapy, and you should find the one which suits your needs. Committing to therapy is usually the first and hardest step to make for many, but once you start seeing the results from the therapy, you will feel even more encouraged to go through with the whole therapy.
How to treat panic attack disorder?
Psychotherapy is first-line treatment for panic disorder. Psychotherapy is talk therapy that talks through and discusses your problems with a therapist, usually a social worker and psychologist. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be superior to interpersonal psychotherapy for panic disorder. This therapy is focused on addressing your cognitions and thoughts which lead to anxiety, and also addresses how your behaviors contribute to anxiety. When you are deciding on a therapist, you should also take into account the type of therapy he/she offers, and perhaps seek for recommendations for others with problems similar to yours. You should also take into account that each condition is unique, and different therapists are specialized in different fields, and it is best to look for the ones who have successfully treated cases similar to yours.
Prescription drug treatment for panic disorder is a last-resort treatment; it is for cases where psychotherapy is not effective, or for severe cases. If you believe that pharmacotherapy is essential in your case, you should look for a doctor which can prescribe medications, and preferably, one which is recommended by your general physician. However, even though panic disorder can be treated effectively with a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI) or serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), such as Celexa, Zoloft and others, these shouldn’t be considered as a sole and long term treatment, and as other medications have many side-effects especially in prolonged usage. Benzodiazepines can be prescribed for severe panic attacks when they occur, and they can also be prescribed short-term while the SSRI or the SNRI is taking effect for the treatment of the anxiety symptoms.
Natural supplements, which include herbal and nutritional products, are effective for panic disorder. One study found that inositol was as effective as fluvoxamine for the treatment of panic disorder. Natural supplements should be considered since they have fewer side effects and are generally less expensive than prescription medications for anxiety. Still, before introducing them to your treatment plan, on the account of other prescription drugs, you must consult your doctor first.
Coping with a panic attack
During a panic attack, if possible, you should try to stay where you are. Depending on the situation you are in, you must learn to respond adequately so you wouldn’t be a danger to your own health as well as to others. During the attack, remind yourself that the frightening thoughts and sensations are a sign of panic and will eventually pass. Try to focus on something that is non-threatening and visible, such as the time passing on your watch, or items in a supermarket. As the symptoms of panic attacks usually reach its peak in 10 minutes, they will eventually start to disappear, and most attacks will last between five minutes and half an hour. Once you realize you are in control of your attack, you will begin to feel more confident, and be on the right path to overcoming your panic attacks condition.
Regardless of whether you are seeing a therapist or take medications, you should focus on learning how to help yourself in times of panic attacks. Research has shown that self-help interventions are effective for panic disorder. Self-help interventions are convenient, can be done on a person’s own time, do not require a doctor visit, and do not require a therapist visit.