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Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Overcome Panic Attacks

written by: HeatherW • edited by: Jacqueline Chinappi • updated: 12/23/2010

Cognitive behavioral therapy for panic attacks is one of the best treatments for people suffering from anxiety. Here we discuss how CBT is used to overcome panic and anxiety attacks.

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    Introduction to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

    anxiety 

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for panic attacks teaches you how to change your thought processes about what is going on in your body to overcome the attack. For instance, if you are experiencing tightness in your throat, your first logical thought might be " My throat is going to close, and I will die of suffocation." CBT teaches you to come up with an alternate way of thinking to describe the sensation. Instead of thinking "I am going to die of suffocation", you substitute the thought " This is a harmless sensation of anxiety and my throat is not going to close, causing me to die."

    In a CBT session patients are often encouraged to make lists of what types of sensations commonly occur during a panic attack and come up with an alternate thought process to define them.

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    What goes on in a CBT Session?

    CBT is done individually, with a group of people, or sometimes a patient can benefit from both forms. Here is a model of a typical CBT session.

    What Goes On In a CBT Session :

    • Each session will last for approximately 45 minutes to one hour. Sessions will be weekly or biweekly depending on the schedule agreed upon by you and the therapist.
    • The first two to four sessions will be a sort of "getting to know" each other process where you and the therapist try to form a bond and see if the therapy will work out for you. At this point in time the therapist will also gather information about you and your background. While CBT is very much about dealing with the "now", some of this information will be pertinent to your therapy.
    • You will decide what you want to work on a short, medium, and long term basis.
    • Each session will usually start with the therapist asking you what you would like to discuss that day.

    The Work :

    • You and your therapist will break down each of your problems into separate parts so as to look at them clearly. To do this with is, you may be asked to keep a journal. This helps to identify sensations in the body, mind and emotions. You will then look at your thought and feelings to see if they are unrealistic or harmful to you. Your therapist will be by your side to guide you through this process and help you see how these thoughts and feelings affect you.
    • Once the harmful thought patterns have been discovered, the therapist will begin to help you work out how to change them.
    • At each session, you will discuss how you have been doing since the last session.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy for panic attacks has been shown to be one of the most effective types of therapies available for sufferers of this condition. Research has shown that about 80% to 85% of people become panic free after having completed a full round of cognitive behavior therapy. The best thing about cognitive behavior therapy, however, is that the skills you are taught in therapy are with you for life, and should panic arise again, you always have those skills to turn in a moments notice.

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    References

    1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - http://www.paniccure.com/Approaches/CBT/Overcome/Overcome_Panic_Attacks.htm
    2. CBT - http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mentalhealthinfoforall/treatments/cbt.aspx
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    Photo Credit

    1. Anxiety - Photobucket - meanne016.