Panic Attacks & Panic Disorder Treatment – How Therapy & Counselling Help

Therapy for panic attacks and panic disorder treatment can significantly reduce the impact of the debilitating effects of these anxiety-related conditions.

With around 40% of Australians experiencing at least one to two panic attacks in their lives, panic attacks are much more common in today’s society than most realise.

Fortunately, with the right therapist, there are effective ways to manage panic attacks and treat panic disorder. Not everyone who experiences a panic attack has a panic disorder. So, what does counselling look like for someone who experiences panic attacks, and what’s involved in panic disorder treatment?

If you’re looking to learn more about how seeing a psychologist for panic disorder works, we’re here to help. As Sydney’s leading provider of effective and compassionate counselling, New Vision Psychology is here to provide a comprehensive guide on therapy for panic attacks and panic disorder. 

In this article, we’ll highlight how therapy and counselling can act as effective treatment for managing and reducing panic attacks, especially for individuals who suffer from frequent or constant occurrences. 

Table of Contents

  • What is Panic Disorder?
  • What Causes Panic Attacks?
  • Signs and Symptoms of A Panic Attack
  • Counselling for Panic Disorder – What’s Involved?
  • How Does Panic Disorder Treatment Help?
  • Seeking Support with New Vision Psychology
Panic Attacks & Panic Disorder

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is a condition where affected individuals experience constant and recurring bouts of panic attacks. Not everyone who has panic attacks will develop panic disorder, but those who do often have their lives significantly disrupted by frequent panic attacks. 

This condition can only be diagnosed by a GP, psychologist or psychiatrist, and will require specialised treatment for management and recovery.

What Causes Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks are a sudden and overwhelming feeling of dread or fear. These attacks can happen very quickly, causing individuals to experience a great deal of distress all of a sudden. When they occur, panic attacks can last between 5 minutes to an hour, depending on the individual. 

Panic attacks usually happen in response to an external trigger, such as physical shock or injury, or when learning about a piece of bad news. It is also possible for panic attacks to occur unexpectedly without any obvious triggers. 

Most people will never experience a panic attack in their lives; some will experience them occasionally; whereas others may experience them regularly to the point where their quality of life is significantly affected. They may develop new fears due to the frequency of their panic attacks and become more isolated from society and their loved ones.

Signs and Symptoms of A Panic Attack

When experiencing a panic attack, individuals most often feel physical symptoms that are paired with emotional or mental distress. Some common symptoms include:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Discomfort in the chest
  • Sensations of nausea or stomach pain
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
  • Apprehension about dying
  • Experiencing hot or cold flushes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Perspiration
  • Sensations of choking
  • Anxiety about losing control or going crazy
  • Derealisation (losing touch with reality)
  • Experiencing a sense of detachment from oneself

Counselling for Panic Disorder – What’s Involved?

To help individuals with panic disorder, treatment typically involves regular counselling sessions with a clinical or registered psychologist. These counselling sessions allow these individuals to express their concerns to a professional who can listen empathetically. At the same time, these sessions will provide useful and effective strategies that help with both minimising the occurrence of panic attacks and managing their symptoms.

In professional panic disorder therapy, individuals will attend counselling sessions where they can have open conversations with a psychologist. These counselling sessions are designed to provide a comfortable and safe environment without judgement, allowing individuals to reveal their vulnerabilities while discussing their thoughts and feelings about their lives. 

Based on these conversations, the psychologist may introduce any of the following during the sessions: 

  • Psychoeducation — teaching individuals about the potential triggers that cause panic attacks, as well as how to identify and avoid them. 
  • Breathing exercises — helpful exercises that can help manage panic attacks when they occur.
  • Relaxation exercises — exercises that bolster the individual’s mental state, such as meditation.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy — CBT or other forms of therapy that involves changing negative thought patterns for more positive ones.
  • Lifestyle changes — reducing harmful activities like smoking or alcohol dependence, and increasing healthy activities like exercise or hobbies.

It is important to know that panic disorder treatment is largely a two-way effort that does not solely depend on the actions of the psychologist — it requires a cooperative effort from affected individuals to exercise the recommended treatment actions as prescribed by their psychologist.

How Does Panic Disorder Treatment Help?

With panic disorder treatment, individuals can potentially feel more confident in themselves, as well as experience much fewer panic attacks. 

Multiple clinical studies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy trials published by the American Family Physician and the Bergen 4-Day Treatment for panic disorder, show that improvement rates from panic disorder can be as high as 70-80% with effective and continued treatment. 

Here are some potential benefits of panic disorder treatment:

  • Enhanced emotional well-being
  • Improved quality of life
  • Reduction in the frequency and severity of panic attacks
  • Enhanced ability to cope with stress and anxiety
  • Restoration of daily functioning and productivity
  • Strengthened relationships and social interactions
  • Increased self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Prevention of potential complications or comorbidities
  • Long-term mental health stability
  • Greater overall life satisfaction

Seeking Support with New Vision Psychology

When dealing with panic disorder, early treatment plays a big role in how effective treatment can be. If you personally struggle with frequent panic attacks or know someone who does, it is important to seek help as soon as possible to regain control over your life. 

New Vision Psychology offers panic disorder therapy and counselling in Sydney for anyone suffering from the effects of regular panic attacks. If you are someone who experiences panic attacks or think you may be suffering from panic disorder, we encourage you to book an appointment with our team of experienced psychologists. With clinics across Burwood, Chatswood, Castle Hill, Hurstville, and Sydney CBD, our psychologists are here to help.

Looking for a Psychologist near you?

New Vision Psychology can help.