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Panic Disorder

February 07, 2014 at 5:00 PM

If you have ever experienced a panic attack, you know the symptoms:  Racing pulse, shortness of breath, disturbing thoughts, a feeling as though your skin is crawling, hot flashes, and an overall sense of feeling trapped or out of control, as if the very space surrounding you is, itself, a malevolent swaddle from which you cannot escape.

The American Psychological Association estimates that about 1 in 75 people may suffer from panic disorder (http://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/panic-disorder.aspx).  This condition is defined as one wherein people experience multiple, unexpected panic attacks and at least a month of worries about having more of them.  A panic attack is a period of sudden, intense terror, in which one may feel dizzy, sweaty, experience a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, feelings of unreality, and fears of losing control or of “going crazy”.

As distressing as it is to have panic disorder, the good news is this condition is very treatable. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) (www.vobh.org/newsevents1/cognitive-behavioral-therapy) has been demonstrated to be very effective in treating panic disorder.  If one does the work of therapy, improvements can usually be seen in as few as 10 to 20 sessions.  By changing the way one thinks about panic attacks and interprets physical sensations accompanying them, it is possible to overcome this condition and return to your previous level of functioning.



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