Panic disorder involves frequent and debilitating anxiety and fear, often without reasonable cause.
- Sudden and repeated attacks of anxiety and overwhelming fear that last for several minutes
- Fear of disaster or of losing control even when there is no real danger
- Strong physical reaction during a panic attack that may feel like a heart attack (increased heart rate, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness, blurred vision)
- Frequent avoidance of activities, situations or events that may trigger panic attack
- Fear and physical symptoms lead to clinically significant emotional distress and/or functional impairment
CBT Based Treatment for Panic Disorder
- Psychoeducation to understand the body on panic
- Cognitive therapy to identify the catastrophic thoughts driving the panic cycle and keeping your “fear of fear” activated
- Interoceptive therapy to train your brain to habituate to vs. fear panic sensations
- In vivo exposure to fear triggers you are avoiding in order to limit contact with panic
Access panic disorder severity scale here to learn more about the symptoms of panic disorder.
The Panic Workbook For Teens
In The Panic Workbook for Teens, three anxiety specialists, including LOA's Dr. Debra Kissen and Dr. Bari Goldman Cohen, will show you how to identify anxiety-causing thoughts and behaviors, mindfully observe your panic attacks instead of struggling against them, and experience sensations associated with panic until you discover that these sensations may be uncomfortable—but not dangerous.
Sample CBT Exercises to Move Past Panic Disorder
The brain is always scanning for danger. Sometimes it misfires and determines one is in danger when one is actually safe and sound. A panic attack is simply a false alarm going off in your brain.
Have you ever accidentally set off the smoke detector? Perhaps you were making yourself a meal when all of a sudden a ton of smoke arose from the frying pan, setting off the smoke alarm. Similarly, a panic attack is a false alarm going off in your brain.
Danger Vs. False Alarm
For the situations listed below, specify whether they represent an appropriate time to experience the panic response or a false alarm.
- You are driving on the highway and notice a spacey feeling in your head.
- A lion lunges for your face.
- You are at a party with friends and begin to feel weird and out of it.
- You are about to step on a rattlesnake.
- You think about how weird it is to be alive.
The next time you begin to panic, play a game of "Where Is the Danger"? Do a quick true danger assessment:
- Are there any angry bears approaching?
- Do I see any armed gunmen?
- Is there a volcano erupting before my eyes?
- Is the ground shaking due to an earthquake?
- Is hail coming down from the sky (or locusts or angry wasps or other dangerous objects?)
- Add your own true danger assessment question.
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, immediately stop reading this information and instead attend to the emergency at hand. If the answer to these questions is no, then remind yourself that panic over feeling uncomfortable sensations is a false alarm going off in your brain and you are actually safe and sound.
Next, respectfully inform your brain that until you observe any of the previously listed dangers, you are going to mindfully return back to the current moment and in the process teach it that it is (and you are) actually safe.
For the next week, for all panicky depersonalization or derealization moments, jot down your initial anxiety level. Next, play a quick game of Where Is the Danger? and look around the room for any imminent threats. Finally, jot down your anxiety level after playing Where Is the Danger?
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