Treatment for Panic Attacks

Decades of research into anxiety and panic disorder have found cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to be the most effective psychological intervention in allowing people to overcome panic and anxiety.

In many controlled research experiments over the years, people with panic were given (a) social skills and educative training, (b) psychotherapy, (c) relaxation, meditative, and mindfulfulness training, (d) hypnosis, (e) medication only, and (f) cognitive-behavioral therapy.  In each of these studies there was a control group.   

Primary results from these meta analyses* found cognitive-behavioral therapy to be clearly superior to any of the other treatments by itself.  Particularly when the goal was to help people "overcome" panic and panic attacks, cognitive-behavioral therapy was the only therapy to show significant results.   Cognitive-behavioral therapy also showed effectiveness (efficacy) when combined with relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness training.  Although relaxation and meditative training when combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to work, it does not work without the major component -- cognitive-behavioral therapy.  That is, relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness are secondary adjuncts to CBT. 

Cognitive treatment for panic disorder consists of getting the person to see themselves and the world around them realistically.  Rational thinking is carefully taught and emotional reasoning is examined and reduced.  The paradoxical nature of panic and anxiety are introduced, and the patient is consistently bombarded with rational ideas and common sense reasoning.  Strategies to calm down are taught and made practical, so that the patient knows how to calm down in real life situations. 

The cognitive and behavioral therapy works when the patient is motivated to get better and willing to work on changing their life.  CBT does not work for people who are not motivated and will not do the therapy.  This has been another finding from research experiments and clinical experience:  People that actually do the therapy get better, whereas people who are not motivated to do the therapy, do not get better.   Although this is as you would expect, it pulls the success rate down significantly.  Controlling for motivation before the beginning of a study would greatly enhance published success rates for cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Behavioral therapy emphasizes actually calming down in stressful situations.  For example, a panic therapy group practices these strategies by holding a mock conference where they must converse with other people they have never met.  The goal is to use the calming down strategies they've learned to stay relaxed and calm, instead of letting anxiety and panic take control.  Behavioral therapy is also being employed when the stirrings of a panic attack are felt and people respond in different ways than they have in the past.  Behavioral therapy for panic consists of putting into place what has been learned in cognitive therapy.

One without the other does not work.  Cognitive therapy changes the way a person thinks permanently, and behavioral therapy changes the way a person acts.  Both are essential parts to the solution of panic and anxiety.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Meta analyses = A meta-analysis is a statistical analysis that combines the results of multiple scientific studies. Meta-analysis can be performed when there are multiple scientific studies addressing the same question, with each individual study reporting measurements that are expected to have some degree of statistical error.

Our History and Our Mission

The Anxiety Network began in 1995 due to growing demand from people around the world wanting help in understanding and overcoming their anxiety disorder.  The Anxiety and Stress Clinic and its website, The Anxiety Network, received so much traffic and requests for help that we found ourselves spending much of our time in international communication and outreach.  Our in-person anxiety clinic has grown tremendously, and our principal internet tool, The Anxiety Network, has been re-written and re-designed with focus on the three major anxiety disorders.  

The Anxiety Network  focuses on three of the major anxiety disorders:  panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

In 1997, The Social Anxiety Association, a non-profit organization, was formed and now has its own website.

The Social Anxiety Institute, the largest site on the internet for information and treatment of social anxiety, has maintained an active website since 1998.  Continuous, ongoing therapy groups have helped hundreds of people overcome social anxiety since 1994.  

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