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    Therapy for Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder

    Panic attacks are scary. If you’ve had a panic attack, you might have even worried that you were having a heart attack, going crazy, or dying. Panic attacks feel awful and dangerous, but can’t cause any of these things to happen. Effective treatment is available. If you’re interested in treatment for panic attacks in the Boulder, CO area, contact us for a free phone consultation.

    What is a panic attack?

    Panic attacks are intense surges of anxiety that come with physical sensations such as: racing heart rate, shortness of breath, dizziness, hyperventilating, feeling cold and clammy or hot and sweaty, tingling in your extremities, and nausea or other GI distress. At first, panic attacks are usually triggered when you’re already feeling very anxious. Some people who have panic attacks will only have one or a handful throughout their life. Others will go on to develop Panic Disorder, which includes panic attacks that happen out of the blue–when you don’t expect to feel especially anxious.Apart from the attacks themselves, the key symptom of Panic Disorder is fear of having an attack and/or making significant and unhelpful changes to how you live your life to try to avoid or manage panic attacks. For example, before treatment, someone with Panic Disorder might be avoiding anything that might increase their heart rate (e.g., going to the gym, shoveling snow, or simply walking quickly or taking the stairs) for fear of spiraling into panic. Research estimates that 22.7% of U.S. adults will have a panic attack in their lifetime, versus 4.7% for Panic Disorder. 

    Panic Disorder can also be accompanied by Agoraphobia when you become afraid and avoidant of certain situations because of the possibility of having a panic attack there. For example, not wanting to take the bus because you fear you would get trapped there or be embarrassed in front of other passengers if you had a panic attack. Agoraphobia can impact anywhere from just a few specific types of settings/situations to nearly anything involving leaving your home. Approximately 1.3% of U.S. adults meet diagnostic criteria for Agoraphobia in their lifetime.

    How are panic attacks treated?

    Research consistently shows that the most effective treatment for decreasing the frequency and intensity of panic attacks includes exposure therapy. Interoceptive exposure is the type of exposure therapy used to treat panic, and focuses on exposure to your physical symptoms of panic. Exposure for panic probably seems scary, but the research is conclusive that it is safe and effective. Therapists using exposure to treat panic make a plan together with you where you take challenging but doable steps towards facing your fears.

    What is the Best Treatment for Panic in Boulder, CO?

    Foothills CBT psychologists have advanced training in evidence-based treatments for panic and other anxiety-related challenges. Our Boulder, CO therapists can help you understand your panic and become less afraid of it. In addition to proven panic treatments, our counselors are trained in acceptance and compassion-focused approaches that can help you treat yourself more gently and less critically around this experience. We are passionate about helping our clients face their fears and get back to doing more of what matters. Contact us today for a free phone consultation.