Do you sometimes struggle with overwhelming fear and intense anxiety attacks? Perhaps you experience physical symptoms like sweating, pounding heart, and dizziness. Or your ability to think is suddenly interrupted, and you are gripped with a feeling of impending doom.
Everyone struggles with anxiety from time to time – feelings of restlessness, fear, and worry are normal when they stay within a mild or moderate range. However, when these symptoms interfere with your normal functioning and make you afraid of experiencing them again in the future, you might suffer from a type of anxiety called panic disorder.
Even if this disorder affects your mental well-being, treatment options can now help you better manage these symptoms. Therapy is an efficient, research-based tool that helps individuals who struggle with panic disorder discover the causes of their conditions while working towards the relief of their symptoms. How can you benefit from panic disorder therapy, and what should you expect from this type of intervention?
Panic Disorder Symptoms
Individuals with panic disorder have recurrent fear attacks that affect their lives. These attacks can be short or might last for longer than several minutes. During a typical panic attack, the individual feels an uncontrollable fear even in the absence of a real threat or danger. The intense anxiety leads the person to feel like they are losing control over their thoughts, emotions, and reactions.
Another aspect that makes panic disorder so frightening is its associated physical symptoms. The dizziness, racing heart, and trembling can make someone believe they are experiencing a stroke or that their lives are in danger.
Some other symptoms that characterize panic disorder are:
- Sudden and recurring anxiety attacks that occur at any time
- Feeling completely out of control and unable to change one’s thoughts or emotional state
- Intense worry about when the next panic attacks will occur
- Anticipating an anxiety attack at any time and not being able to get out of this thinking loop
- The tendency to avoid people, places, and circumstances that one may associate with a previous panic attack
Do I Need Therapy for Panic Disorder?
If the symptoms listed above sound familiar to you, there’s a chance you’re suffering from panic disorder. The best thing you can do for your mental well-being is seek support as soon as possible. Panic disorder can disrupt your normal functioning and decrease your ability to enjoy a normal and fulfilling life.
Furthermore, seeking support for panic disorder is even more important because delaying the treatment of this condition puts you at a higher risk of developing other mental health issues.
For example, research shows that individuals with anxiety are more likely to develop depression symptoms. This makes the treatment of panic disorder even more complicated. You might also develop chronic stress in the long run if your anxiety symptoms are left untreated. In turn, chronic stress can increase the risk of other physical diseases.
Online Therapy for Panic Disorder: Is It Effective?
If you are seeking panic disorder treatment, you also have the option to choose online therapy if seeing a therapist face-to-face is not feasible for you. This new approach has been used more and more often since the pandemic began. For example, before the spring of 2020, only 2% of the population reported using online therapy.
These days, a staggering 85% of people admit resorting to online therapy for their mental health concerns 76–100% of the time.
Therefore, the global changes created by the current pandemic widened the possibility of conducting therapy sessions in a more flexible fashion and changed peoples’ perception towards the efficiency of this approach.
Research concludes that online therapy works for various mental health diagnoses, even for panic disorder. For example, a recent study measured the efficiency of remote treatment through telepsychiatry versus face-to-face treatment for patients who scored high on the Hamilton Depression Rating scale. The results demonstrate no significant difference in the efficiency of the two treatment types. Patients who were given remote therapy showed a similar improvement in their depressive symptoms as the ones who were administered in-person therapy.
Despite the challenges that online therapy presents, it is a highly efficient therapy delivery method, particularly in cases where physical contact is impossible. However, online therapy might present benefits and advantages, besides remote flexibility, that many people are not aware of yet.
How does Panic Disorder Online Therapy Work?
Online therapy can be an excellent tool for panic disorder treatment. After getting in touch with an online therapist or counselor, you will first discuss your worries and concerns and familiarize yourself with the therapist.
After that, your therapist will design an intervention plan tailored to your symptoms and needs. Every session, you will learn about the nature of the panic disorder and discover its root causes. Your therapist might help you set up simple exposure experiments in which you will gradually learn to approach new situations in life with more confidence and relaxation.
Building a therapeutic alliance
During online therapy for panic disorder, your therapist will work with you to build a strong therapeutic alliance. This will be the basis of your treatment, helping you gain trust in your therapist and their tools. A good therapeutic relationship ensures that you view therapy as a safe space where you can open up and discuss your fears.
Using CBT for anxiety and panic disorder
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most researched therapeutic approaches. It is based on the principle that mental illness arises from our dysfunctional core beliefs that influence our mood and behavior. Therefore, to improve our symptoms, we must first adopt healthy and adaptive thoughts.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is highly efficient for anxiety disorders, phobias, and panic disorder, and has been found by research to be an excellent treatment option for these conditions. Patients reported a significant decrease in their anxiety levels in situations that previously created mental distress. Given these findings, you can consider online therapy an effective solution for panic disorder symptoms.
Matt Campion made an interesting speech on TEDx about panic attack:
Panic Disorder Treatment Alternatives
Given that not everyone can afford the time or financial resources to attend therapy regularly, things you can do by yourself to help with your panic disorder symptoms are valuable to know.
Besides therapy, you can improve your mental well-being by making small changes in your lifestyle. Some things to consider are:
- Breathing exercises – Such exercise can reduce stress and regulate the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” reactions present in panic disorders.
- Exercise – This was shown by research to improve overall mental health and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. The neurotransmitters released during exercise regulate cortisol and adrenaline, two hormones involved in anxiety and panic attacks.
- Journaling – If you love writing, you may find that writing your thoughts down can help you reduce worry.
- Seeking social support – Having a close social circle is highly beneficial for everyone, especially those who undergo a challenging time in their lives due to a mental illness. When you struggle with panic disorder, it is helpful to speak to someone you trust and ask for their support when you feel most vulnerable.
Although panic disorder is a serious psychological condition that impacts your quality of life, online therapy can definitely help. Given its proven efficiency in treating panic disorder, online therapy is a reliable tool you can use from the comfort of your home. You no longer have to travel to appointments or struggle to schedule a session due to time constraints. Online counseling offers the same benefits as in-person therapy with the advantage of increased flexibility and reduced cost.
If you have never had therapy before, the empathic and kind therapists at DoMental are here to help you overcome your panic disorder. You can start by getting in touch and they will help you familiarize yourself with how therapy works.