Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is generally seen as the one of the most effective form of treatment for panic attack, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and the phobias, especially agoraphobia. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the thinking patterns and most behaviors that are sustaining or triggering the panic attacks. Often panic attacks generate secondary disorders which tend to sustain the initial anxiety feelings and feed into agoraphobia. This approach helps you develop a range of effective life skills and supports you to look at your fears in a more realistic light and track your thought patterns.
When you get into destructive personal thought patterns and the panic symptoms are ranging through your body making you think that you are having a heart attack or worse still a 'stroke', you might have to pull over to the side of the road, you are not likely to crash your car or have a heart attack.
Once you learn and accept that nothing truly disastrous is going to happen, the experience of panic becomes less terrifying as a mental process and leaves you open to handle the emotional and feeling experience as you know that the things you fear making you anxious are not likely to occur as they are fears which your mental processes are accentuating. Panic attack alone by itself is never dangerous, merely very difficult to bear and sustain yourself through.
Exposure Therapy For The Treatment Of Panic Attack And Panic Disorder
In exposure therapy for panic disorder, clients are exposed to the physical events that trigger feelings of anxiety and panic or sensations of panic in a safe and controlled environment, giving a person the chance to sustain the feelings of panic and the opportunity to learn new coping skills and 'healthier' ways of reacting and adapting.
They can be asked to hyperventilate, shake their heads from side to side, or hold their breath. These different drills cause sensations similar to the symptoms of panic. With each exposure, they are de-sensitized to the feeling and learn to become less afraid of these internal bodily sensations, giving them a greater sense of control over their panic feelings and reactions. Eventually, these feelings of panic have less impact on them and they are able to 'ride' through them and allow them to reduce their panic feelings to manageable levels.
Defining agoraphobia can be a bit confusing. The use of this term has changed over time. Initially, agoraphobia was held to mean a fear of wide-open spaces. In actual fact, this is the definition that still appears in the dictionary and is derived from the Greek words "agora", meaning marketplace or meeting place and "phobos", meaning fear. So, the literal meaning would be "fear of the marketplace or meeting place". Nevertheless, the more up-to-date definition is: a fear of losing emotional or physical control, following a panic/anxiety attack, in a place or situation where a return to the sufferer's safe zone may be difficult, embarrassing or, indeed, impossible.
If you have agoraphobia, exposure to the situations you fear and avoid is included in some of the treatment processes. In exposure type therapies for specific phobias, you will be introduced to the situation that evokes these types of fear responses that make up the agoraphobia and through gradual de-sensitization to the feared situations, the panic feelings begin to abate. Through this experience, you learn that the situation isn't harmful and that you have control over your emotions. This treatment for panic attacks will control and eventually remove the fear entirely.