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Panic Disorder


People with panic disorder experience recurrent unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are more than feeling stressed, worried, or generally anxious; panic attacks are very intense physiological events that involve intense fear that may include palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; sweating; trembling or shaking; sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking; and feeling of impending doom. Panic attacks typically last about ten minutes. In addition to experiencing panic attacks, individuals with panic disorder worry excessively about having panic attacks, worry about the implications of having panic attacks (for example, they worry that having panic attacks will lead to sudden death, which is not the case), and often go to great lengths to attempt to reduce the likelihood of having forthcoming panic attacks. Many people with panic disorder also exhibit agoraphobia symptoms. Approximately 2.7% of the US population is diagnosed with panic disorder each year.



A full-blown panic attack includes a combination of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation

  • Heart palpitations or a racing heart

  • Chest pain or discomfort

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Choking feeling

  • Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings

  • Sweating

  • Nausea or upset stomach

  • Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint

  • Numbness or tingling sensations

  • Hot or cold flashes

  • Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy





Many people don't know that panic disorder is real and highly responsive to treatment. Panic disorder is usually treated with psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two. We use a variety of evidence-based psychotherapy treatments, such as  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is an empirically supported treatment that focuses on modifying problematic thoughts and behaviors that contribute to and/or maintain panic attacks. Two specific stand-alone components of CBT used to treat panic disorder are cognitive therapy and interoceptive exposure therapy. Cognitive therapy focuses on identifying, challenging, and then reframing unhelpful thoughts. Interoceptive exposure focuses on confronting the physiological sensations characteristic of panic attacks such that the individual no longer associates these sensations with fear. Studies show that panic disorder is highly responsive to CBT. Often 10-12 sessions of CBT is sufficient to eliminate panic attacks.

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Panic Symptoms
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