Dr. Daniel B. Nicholas
February 24, 2013

The experienced clinicians at Professional Counseling Services provide the latest research supported methods for the treatment of Panic Disorder. The two primary therapy treatment methods are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Response Prevention. Typically, treatment will involve a combination of both of the methods. If medication is deemed to be clinically necessary, an independent psychiatrist is available at our Tinley Park location.

What Is Panic?

Panic is a normal and natural response to the perception of an immediate threat or danger. This process has evolved over time to help protect us from danger. It is an alarm reaction that triggers our “fight or flight” response. Unfortunately, the intense reactions often occur as a “false alarm”. In other words, the perceived threat is judged to be far worse that it actually is. Fear-based thinking typically causes a host of unpleasant physical reactions. These “symptoms” cause safety seeking behaviors such as avoidance, distraction and seeking reassurance. These behaviors may lessen anxiety in the short-term. However, they interfere with daily functioning and prevent you from getting lasting relief from the symptoms.

Criteria for Panic Attacks

Panic2_Fotolia_13786078_XS-283x300A diagnosis of these disorders will occur after all possible physical conditions have been ruled-out by a thorough physical evaluation. Then, the following criteria must be met. A specific period of intense fear or discomfort, in which four(or more) of the following symptoms develop and reach a peak within 10 minutes.

  • Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate.
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Choking
  • Chest Pain
  • Nausea
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light headed or faint
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself).
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of dying
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Chills or hot flashes

Further criteria involves any of these criteria occurring for one month or more, following an attack:

  • Concern about future attacks.
  • Worry about the implications of an attack.
  • Change in behaviors related to the attacks.

Agoraphobia can occur with or without Panic Attacks

It is a strategy for coping with panic attacks by avoiding situations in which escape might be difficult or help may not be available in the event of having a panic attack or panic like symptoms. This condition involves anticipatory anxiety and safety seeking behaviors.

3 Types of Panic Attacks

  • Spontaneous- these occur without an identifiable trigger and with no warning.
  • Situationally Bound- these panic attacks occur in response to a certain situation or the anticipation of a specific situation.
  • Situationally Predisposed- these attacks have a tendency to occur in response to a situation but not all of the time.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

posttramaticPTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that can develop after an event is experienced or witnessed that involves actual or perceived threat to life. Reactions to the traumatic event is characterized by terror, horror, or helplessness. Although symptoms can decrease over time, for many people, the PTSD symptoms can become chronic and interfere with daily functioning. There are 3 major categories of symptoms.

  1. Re-experience of the Trauma– this can involve flashbacks, and/or physiological or emotional reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble and aspect of the traumatic event.
  2. Symptoms of Avoidance– efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, conversations, people or activities that are associated or arouse recollections of the trauma. Restricted range of affect. Diminished interest or participation in significant activities.
  3. Symptoms of Increased Arousal– These symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, irritability, concentration problems, hypervigilance, and exaggerated startle response.

Prolonged exposure treatment is the treatment of choice based on the research. We combine this treatment with cognitive techniques, breathing retraining and mindfulness to teach you how to be less reactive and more relaxed. Then, gradual, increasing imaginal and real life exposures will help you to reduce your anxiety and distress. You will see that you can regain your life!