Therapy for Panic

A panic attack is one of the most psychologically and physically intense experiences you can have. Learn to "ride the wave" of panic and let it wash through you rather than overwhelm you.

Dr. Parke is currently offering online teletherapy appointments

"I Feel Like I'm Literally Dying"

One of the most compelling ways I've learned about panic attacks is through listening to people's experiences. So often they mention the horrific nature of panic attacks--feeling as though they are dying, having a heart attack, or going crazy. The physiological experiences involved are so intense that I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy.

The Roots and the Fruits

Like other forms of anxiety, panic can stem from a mix of nature and nurture. Some factors that can make you predisposed to panic attacks include your genetics, going through a stressful season of life, having a stress-sensitive temperament, or certain aspects of brain functioning. For most people, there are a mix of risk and causal factors that influence their experience. Regardless of the "roots" of your panic, the "fruits" can manifest across your life.

The horrific symptoms of a panic attack can vary from person to person. Some of these include pounding heart, chills or hot flashes, nausea, dizziness, numbness or tingling, sense of impending doom or danger, chest pain, headache, etc. Some people only have one or two panic attacks in their lifetime. Other people are prone to recurring panic attacks, which can be especially debilitating for family relationships, friendships, school, and work. With these recurring panic attacks, people even develop "anxiety about the anxiety" where they dread having another panic attack or avoid places where they've experienced one.

How Can Therapy Help?

Panic is horrifying, and people usually want it to go away immediately. While no therapist can make good on that promise, the good news is that therapy can help to decrease the frequency, intensity, and duration of your panic attacks over time. You can also discover skills that help you cope with panic in the moment. I tend to use a cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) approach to treating panic, which can involve the following components:

  • Psychoeducation: learning about what panic and anxiety are and how they affect people
  • Coping skills training: learning what helps you prevent a panic attack and how to cope when having one
  • CBT triangle: understanding your own patterns of thoughts, feelings, and avoidance behavior
  • Cognitive restructuring: recognizing distorted thought patterns and modifying them to so that thoughts are more helpful and accurate
  • Interoceptive exposure: practicing the physical sensations of panic so that you become desensitized to them and can "ride the wave" of panic rather than reacting to it

These steps all need to occur in a therapeutic process with someone you can trust. It's not an overnight cure, and the process takes time, but it's totally worth it to reach that light at the end of the tunnel! Imagine being able to have less panic over time and greater peace and stability in your life.

Some Next Steps

  • Check out my blog to learn more about panic-related topics
Photo credit: Max Brinton on Unsplash

Dr. Parke is currently offering online teletherapy appointments

Seeking Relief?

Download my free Coping Checklist, with 68 coping skills you can try today

Let's Keep In Touch!

Receive free mental health tips via email
© 2023 Jackie Parke, Psy.D. All Right Reserved.