Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Treating Panic Attacks

More often than not, people feel panic attacks are something that comes suddenly out of the blue. But in reality, they are a product of people’s own thinking. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, panic disorder is a form of anxiety disorder affecting about 40 million Americans in the age range of 18 years and above.

A panic attack is fundamentally a bodily sensation of anxiety and a misinterpretation of these sensations as something dangerous. People’s belief that they are in a dangerous situation increases the panic, thus creating a vicious cycle between bodily sensations, warped thought patterns, and anxiety. The real cause of such attacks in people is their wrong belief that they are in danger, and not the panic itself. Panic is only an emotional response to people’s belief that they are in danger.

Shortness of breath, dizziness, feeling unsteady and faint, pounding or racing heart, sweating, trembling, nausea and choking sensations, numbness, thrills, and fears are some of the symptoms that help in detecting panic disorders. Although panic attacks are not fatal per se, they shouldn’t be ignored. A professional psychotherapist can help individuals cope with such disorders.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and panic attacks

Several medications are used to treat panic and anxiety disorders in people, but such treatment options do more harm than good in the long run. This is when psychologists feel the need for non-medication approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to alleviate symptoms of panic disorders and help people out of their negative thinking loop.

Since panic attacks are an emotional response to a “fearful” situation, treatment should focus on addressing the deep-seated, subconscious fear that is triggering the response. CBT is composed of two components that help people overcome panic attacks:

  • Identification and alteration of distorted thought patterns that trigger anxiety (cognitive therapy)
  • Desensitizing anxiety through exposure to fearful situations (behavioral therapy)

As a combination of cognitive and behavioral therapies, cognitive behavioral therapy treats panic disorders by helping individuals identify their distorted thinking patterns and replace them with constructive and less-intimidating thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy goes to the root cause of such fears and trains individuals to respond in a particular way to fearful situations.

CBT, coupled with relaxation training, stress reduction, and mindfulness, can rewire the brain to think in a particular way. By enabling people to confront their fears, CBT breaks people’s current perception and make them view fearful situations differently. As a model that establishes a connection between cognition, emotion, and behavior, CBT trains people to identify negative thoughts, replacing them with positive ones and bring about a change in their behavior.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has become a preferred treatment option for psychotherapists across the globe. CBT in Toronto, for example, is offered by expert and qualified CBT professionals who have years of experience in mental and psychological health. In general, CBT is replacing medications in the present times because its benefits are more long-lived. Moreover, it is reinforcing a person’s coping mechanisms and helps him/her to overcome deep-seated, debilitating fears that trigger panic attacks.