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Panic Disorder Treatment

Clinically Reviewed

This page has been clinically reviewed by Laurie Woodard, MA, LAC, LPC.

Panic disorder (PD) is a type of anxiety disorder that causes repeated episodes of intense fear and anxiety. These episodes can last from minutes to hours but usually peak within 10 minutes. During these attacks, you feel debilitating physical and mental symptoms. Many who suffer from panic attacks report feeling like they’re no longer in control and that they might be dying. The frequency of the attacks varies from person to person. Some may experience them every week, others yearly. Around 11% of Americans experience a panic attack each year, but only 2.7% of Americans suffer from panic disorder.

What separates PD from other types of anxiety is that panic attacks don’t necessarily have an obvious trigger or cause. They can happen at any moment, making it difficult to navigate daily life. It’s not uncommon for people with PD to experience anxiety before the panic attack starts. This is known as “anticipatory anxiety.” During an attack, you may also feel detached from reality or have difficulty concentrating on anything else other than your fear. People who live with panic disorder often worry about when the next episode will occur and try to avoid situations that could trigger it.

There are effective panic disorder treatment options available. The best way to treat panic attacks and PD is to get help from cognitive behavior therapists at a rehab facility. Footprints to Recovery is an accredited mental health recovery center with skilled staff and effective treatment programs to help people work towards brighter futures.

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What Causes Panic Attacks?

The exact cause of panic attacks is something researchers are still working on, but there are a few factors that could lead someone to develop panic disorder.  

The risk factors for PD include:

  • Genetics – If a first-degree relative of yours suffers from PD, your risk for panic disorder increases by 40%.
  • Anxiety disorders – If you’ve already been diagnosed with a co-occurring anxiety disorder, you’re at risk for panic attacks.
  • Brain structure – How the brain processes fear in the amygdala could be another reason for panic attacks.

The Mayo Clinic’s research into the body and stress response shows that panic attacks closely mimic how we respond to stressful or dangerous situations. Certain traumatic events or experiences may trigger panic attacks.

Possible stress or trauma triggers related to panic attacks include:

  • Trauma experienced in childhood
  • Intense stress related to work, school, or relationships
  • The death of a loved one
  • Major life transitions
  • Environmental triggers such as loud noises or unsafe surroundings

It is important to note that anyone can experience a panic attack regardless of their age or background. If you are experiencing recurrent panic attacks, seek help from a mental health professional who can offer panic disorder treatment.  

What Are the Symptoms of Panic Disorder?

A panic attack happens without warning, and the symptoms are diverse. It can take up to 10 minutes for an attack to reach its peak. During that time, you may begin feeling physical and mental symptoms that could incapacitate you until the attack passes. Most attacks subside within 5 to 25 minutes, but some last longer.

Symptoms of a panic attack may include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling like you’re choking
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Numbness in extremities
  • Feelings of impending doom or death

There are other signs that panic disorder is a problem in your life. Maybe you avoid places or situations where a previous attack occurred. Maybe you avoid going out of your home altogether. This can lead to isolation, depression, and suicidal thoughts. 

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How Is Panic Disorder Diagnosed?

Panic disorder is typically diagnosed by a medical or mental health professional, such as the therapists at Footprints to Recovery. The diagnosis is based on criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). A mental health counselor conducts an interview to assess factors such as your:

  • Symptoms
  • Medical history
  • Family history
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Current stressors
  • Prescribed medications

The DSM-5 lists specific diagnostic criteria for panic disorder that include episodes of sudden fear or terror with at least four other symptoms listed above. To receive a diagnosis of panic disorder, you must have had at least two panic attacks and be concerned about having more episodes. Panic attacks must interfere with your normal functioning or cause significant distress. The diagnosis should also rule out other potential causes of similar symptoms, such as medical conditions and co-occurring substance abuse disorder.

The Link Between Panic Disorder and Addiction

Living with panic disorder can be a nightmare. Not knowing when or where the next panic attack will happen adds to the fear and anxiety. People who suffer from panic disorder may turn to alcohol or drugs as a form of self-medication to try and reduce symptoms.This escape may feel like it offers short-term relief, but substance abuse can increase feelings of anxiety and lead to more panic attacks. This indicates that the link between PD and addiction is a two-way street, with each condition feeding off the other.

Finding help for co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders is key to a successful recovery. Treating one issue without the other isn’t a recipe for success. When you work with behavioral therapy and addiction professionals for recovery, you’re putting yourself in the best position to succeed.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Panic Disorder

Dual diagnosis treatment is a specialized form of therapy that helps people who are suffering from both mental health and substance abuse disorders. It involves an integrated approach to address both issues simultaneously, rather than separately. This type of treatment helps you develop new behaviors and skills to manage your addiction and mental illness. It also improves your overall functioning and quality of life.

Treatment plans are tailored based on your individual needs, providing support for all areas of your life. Treatment plans address needs like:

  • Medical care
  • Group and individual counseling
  • Medication management
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Peer support groups
  • Alternative therapies such as yoga or meditation

With dual diagnosis treatment, you can achieve long-term recovery from both PD and addiction with greater success than if these issues were treated independently and without professional assistance.

Our Programs

Panic Disorder Treatments and Therapies

Treatment of panic disorder involves a combination of evidence-based and holistic therapeutic approaches.

One of the most popular treatment methods is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. It helps you identify and challenge negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to panic attacks. It also teaches relaxation techniques to manage your physical symptoms. The goal is to gradually expose you to feared situations to reduce avoidance behaviors and desensitize you to triggers. This lessens panic attacks and improves your overall functioning and quality of life.

Holistic treatments can also help by addressing you as a whole: mind, body, and spirit. Techniques include:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Physical activity
  • Acupuncture
  • And more

These practices promote relaxation in both the body and mind, enhance body awareness, and promote overall well-being. They are an integral part of any recovery plan crafted by the team of behavioral health professionals at Footprints to Recovery.

Finding Treatment for Panic Disorder

Footprints to Recovery offers a full continuum of care for mental illness and substance use disorders. Our levels of care provide personalized treatment plans tailored to the needs of each individual. Which level of care is right for you is determined after a consultation with clinical staff. Cognitive therapies help in reducing panic, promoting relaxation techniques, and reminding you to practice positive psychology.

Only cognitive behavioral therapy professionals should diagnose and treat panic disorder.

The levels of care available at Footprints include:

Medical detox – The medical detox program is for individuals looking to achieve long-term recovery from substance abuse, and it’s only necessary if you’ve developed a significant addiction problem alongside PD. Medical detox is designed to help you safely and comfortably withdraw from drugs and alcohol while providing therapeutic support to create a successful path towards sobriety and fewer panic attacks.

Residential treatment – Inpatient treatment involves living full-time at the treatment center. You attend PD treatment programs like individual and group therapy, medically assisted treatment (if necessary), holistic therapies, and family therapy. You receive 24/7 support from mental health counselors so your full focus can be on getting better.

Partial hospitalization program (PHP) – PHP is designed for individuals who can benefit from more intensive levels of treatment, but don’t need around-the-clock supervision. During this program, you participate in structured therapeutic activities such as group counseling, recreational therapy, educational groups, and individual counseling. Partial hospitalization provides the necessary structure to help you move toward recovery from panic disorder.

Intensive outpatient program (IOP) – Intensiveoutpatient rehab pulls from all aspects of recovery, from educational group sessions to individual treatment plans tailored to your needs. We provide a supportive environment that allows you to feel comfortable and safe during the entire learning process. We strive to create an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding for you to achieve your goals.

Outpatient rehab – Outpatient treatment offers the most flexibility for someone overcoming mental illness. The goal is to use the skills and coping mechanisms you learned in recovery in the real world. These are essential for managing PD in the future.

Medically Assisted Treatment

Medically assisted treatment for panic disorder involves prescription medications along with psychological therapy. The goal of this type of treatment is to reduce or eliminate panic attacks and the associated physical symptoms. Certain antidepressant medication can be effective treatments for panic disorder.

Medications used to treat panic disorder include:

  • Serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors such as Cymbalta, Effexor, and Pristiq
  • Anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, Valium, and Ativan

Does Insurance Pay for Panic Disorder Treatment?

If you’re wondering how to pay for panic disorder treatment, you have options. Insurance may cover all or part of the cost of rehab. Consulting with the team at Footprints to Recovery can give you more information about what treatment options are covered under your policy. Cost shouldn’t prevent anyone from getting help, so our team works with each client and their insurance provider to create a safe and effective recovery plan.

Panic attacks and panic disorder don’t have to make life a challenge any longer. Footprints to Recovery has dedicated therapists and effective programs to help address mental health issues. Contact us today for insurance verification and to learn more about panic disorder treatment options.

Questions about treatment options?

Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps.