Panic attack is characterized as a sudden onset of fear and apprehension that is debilitating and disrupts a person’s daily life. A person suffering from panic attack may start to withdraw from his daily routines and lock himself up inside the house if he becomes too afraid to go out for fear of activating the attack. While short term relief may be possible through drug intervention, to cure panic attacks, a person has to undergo therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT, panic attack is treated by gradual exposure to the feared stimulus. Proponents of CBT believe that the fear response experienced by individuals in panic attacks is a conditioned response and that avoidance to the stimulus only reinforces the conditioned response further. Through gradual exposure, a patient unlearns the conditioned response in what is called extinction and habituation.

Cognitive restructuring through group therapy also helps in treating patients who have social phobia. In cognitive restructuring, a patient is helped to unlearn faulty rationalizations and irrational beliefs by teaching the patient to gain awareness of the destructiveness of such thoughts and habits, challenge those negative thoughts and belief, and learn to replace them with positive reinforcing thoughts and habits.

Panic-focused Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Another way to cure panic attacks is through a treatment called panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy. In this mode of treatment, therapy is focused on the role of anger, dependency, and separation in causing panic. Proponents of this treatment believe that panic attack is caused by psychological trauma in early life which leads the patients to be dependent on others and have anger management issues. Therapy involves finding out the causes or the triggers of the panic attack, then finding out the related psychological trauma that caused it, and then counseling the patient as to the true nature of his panic attack and teaching them how to confront those issues.

Interoceptive Therapy

In this method, symptoms of panic attack will be induced in a controlled environment to allow the patient to face his fear and learn to master it. The exercise lasts for one minute and may include the following: body tensing, breath holding, intentional hyperventilation, running in place, spinning in a chair, and straw breathing. These exercises induce the symptoms of physical agitation, shortness of breath, dizziness, palpitation, disorientation, and difficulty in breathing respectively.

These exercises are repeated three to five times per day until the patient no longer experiences anxiety whenever the symptoms are induced. It often takes several weeks before the individual learns through practice that there is nothing to fear from such symptoms and becomes desensitized to it. After enough repetition, and the person learns that nothing bad happens even after the symptoms has been induced, the conditioned panic attack response fades and disappears.

Performing Interoceptive therapy to cure panic attacks has been proven to be effective to 87% of those who took the treatment. For those who fail to respond to this mode of treatment, the two previous techniques mentioned above are resorted to.

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