What to Expect in Panic Disorder Treatment

Getting Treated for Panic Disorder and Panic Attacks

Some panic disorder sufferers put off treatment due to fears over what treatment will be like. You may worry about the time commitment involved, the side effects of medication, or the cost of psychotherapy. Additionally, you may have concerns about how to find professional help and the outcome of treatment.

The fact is that getting treated for panic disorder will take time, dedication, and effort. However, through your continued work and determination throughout the treatment process, you can expect to learn to effective manage life with panic disorder.

Interested in what the treatment process involves? Read ahead to learn more about what to expect out of panic disorder treatment.

Getting the Help You Need

Treatment starts with locating professional help. A good start is to schedule an appointment with your doctor. You can come prepared for this initial appointment by being ready to discuss your current symptoms and write down a few pressing questions to ask your doctor. Your doctor will use this and your medical history to help in determining your diagnosis, while ruling out any other mental health or medical conditions. Your doctor may then make a diagnosis or she may refer to a specialist, such as a psychiatrist or therapist, for further evaluation.

Starting a Treatment Plan

Once you have been diagnosed with panic disorder, your mental health provider will want to work with you on a treatment plan. This plan will have specific goals, such as reduce feelings of anxiety or recognize the symptoms of panic attacks.

These goals may also be accompanied by smaller goals or objectives, such as experience less anxiety more days than not, get at least 6 hours of restful sleep per night, or learn 2-3 ways to feel more calm and relaxed.

Your treatment plan will also consist of ways you are going to try to treat your goals.

At this stage, your mental health provider will discuss treatment options, such as medication, psychotherapy, and self-help techniques. So for example under the goal of reducing your anxiety, your provider may list strategies such as, take prescribed anti-anxiety medication as instructed, learn ways to cope with anxiety through therapy, and develop relaxation techniques to combat anxious feelings.  

Medications for Panic Disorder

Prescribed medication has become one of the most popular treatment options for panic disorder. Both antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are frequently prescribed to treat panic symptoms. Antidepressants work to lessen feelings of anxiety and the frequency of panic attacks over time. Whereas anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, are fast-acting to quickly reduce panic attack symptoms in their tracks by providing the sufferer with a sense of calm.

It is not uncommon to have concerns about taking medication for panic disorder. For instance, you may worry that you will begin to rely on these medications or perhaps you are feeling apprehensive about some of the potential weight gain.

When considering medications for panic disorder, it is important to remember that you will be monitored by your prescribing doctor. This means that if side effects become unmanageable or that your medication isn’t working, your doctor will work with you to perhaps change dosage, switch medications, or taper off your medication as needed.

Psychotherapy for Panic Disorder

Psychotherapy, shortened to therapy, involves regularly scheduled meetings with a mental health specialist. During these appointments, you will discuss your treatment goals and learn new ways of thinking and behaving to help achieve these goals. For example, your therapist may teach you deep breathing exercises, ways to overcome negative thinking, or other skills that may help alleviate anxiety and panic-related symptoms. Your therapist can also assist you in processing difficult emotions and self-defeating ideas that may be contributing to your condition.

Continued Success After Treatment has Ended

As you begin to develop healthy ways to cope with your condition and panic attack symptoms become more manageable, you may begin to slowly end treatment at the recommendation of your treatment providers. As treatment comes to a close, you should have returned to previous levels of functioning and an improved overall quality of life.

From treatment, you will take with you the skills you’ve learned to continue to cope with panic disorder. However, to maintain success after treatment, you will need to continue to practice what you have learned and know what resources are available should your symptoms once again become unmanageable. To continue your success, you should build upon these skills through reading self-help books or attending support groups. Through continued work and diligence, you will be able to cope with panic disorder even after treatment has ended. 

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