Panic attacks are amongst the most dreaded of mental health problem. The most effective strategy for relieving panic attacks is interoceptive exposure (IE) which involves systematically bringing on the symptoms such that the person habituates and desensitizes to them.
Other mechanisms may also account for improvement (e.g. being in control of i). IE combined with other exposure therapy and coping strategies is 88% effective in completely eliminating panic attacks even after one and two year follow-ups. The remaining 12% still experience a significant reduction in the frequency and intensity of those panic attacks. Another strategy, mindful acceptance is very effective for a subset of patients.
For these individuals, it's nearly magic in eradicating a panic attack after which the frequency and intensity of subsequent attacks drop dramatically and sometimes even stop. The combination of these treatments easily leads to a 90% improvement.
Unfortunately when medication is added to IE and coping strategies, the effectiveness drops from 88% to 58% (Westen & Morris, 2001). Benzodiazepenes are contraindicated for numerous reasons, which will be discussed. However,SSRIs and SNRIs are very effective for a subset of patients and do not generally interfere with the more effective treatments.
Nonetheless, some patients experience an increase in panic attacks when the side-effects mimic panic thereby triggering an increase in attacks. Other concepts about the genesis of panic attacks and ways to treat them will be discussed.
Why should you Attend: Due to the physiological nature of panic, many patients are convinced that they have a medical condition. Therefore they typically first seek help at an ER or from a physician where they usually get a prescription.
However, medication is only about 40% effective in treating panic. Furthermore fast acting benzodiazepenes (e.g. Xanax, Ativan) negatively reinforce anxiety, create a risk of addiction, and interfere with the most effective treatments.
Unfortunately, not only are most physicians unaware of the most effective treatment for panic attacks, in my experience training mental health care professionals, less than 5% of providers use the most effective treatments for panic.
Areas Covered in the Session: