Panic Attacks

I specialize in individual therapy for adults that have high levels of anxiety, social anxiety and panic attacks. Below you can find information about the signs and symptoms of panic attacks and the treatment that I offer specifically for panic disorder.

To better understand social anxiety, you may find this TED Talk helpful: Jordan Raskopoulos: How I live with high-functioning anxiety

 


Signs and Symptoms

Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear that may include palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, numbness, or a feeling that something bad is going to happen. Individuals experiencing a panic attack are afraid that they will die. They worry and fear that they are having a heart attack. The may also be scared that they will faint or that they will lose control and go “crazy”.

In reality, panic attacks are a maladaptive “fight or flight response” to a stressor or a danger, which triggers a flood of adrenaline in the body. Individuals suffering from panic attacks start avoiding many activities and situations. They feel uncomfortable when their body changes (heart rate increases, sweating, breathing faster) so they may avoid exercise, hot showers, tight spaces and crowds.

Treatment

I use a Cognitive Behavioral (CBT) model to treat panic attacks. A typical treatment for panic attacks includes 10-12 sessions. The first part of the treatment is educational: I explain the physiological mechanisms responsible for panic attacks. Understanding the biological causes for why you feel dizzy or faint or short of breath during a panic attack is the first step to overcoming your fear of panic attacks.

The second part of treatment introduces various relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation. These techniques help lower your anxiety levels and are effective coping strategies to deal with stress.

The third part of treatment targets the thoughts that you have when you are experiencing a panic attack. Typical thoughts include “I am dying”, “I am losing control”, “I am losing my mind”, “People know what’s going on and they think I am crazy”. In identifying and challenging these thoughts, you will feel empowered and more confident.

The fourth part of treatment involves exposure techniques. Together, we bring on the uncomfortable symptoms of a panic attack so that you can learn to cope with them instead of fearing them and avoiding them. Then, we develop experiments to help you face your fears. We identify the situations that you have been avoiding and we establish plans to actively seek out those feared situations.

 


Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.
– Vivian Greene

 

COUNSELING FOR CHANGE


Marie-Caroline Beaudoin, LPC

MA Counseling Psychology