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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Panic Disorder

The most effective treatment for Panic Disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), with about 80% of patients experiencing a significant reduction in symptoms after 12 sessions. Follow this link to a chart comparing the effectiveness of CBT to other treatments for Panic Disorder. CBT teaches people different ways of reacting to thoughts and feelings, helping them to behave in ways that reduce fear and anxiety. Click for more information about What CBT is and How It Works.

CBT for Panic Disorder usually includes some combination of the following treatments: 

Relaxation Training. This intervention involves teaching people ways to reduce their overall level of anxiety through breathing re-training and progressive muscle relaxation. With practice, patients learn to condition a powerful relaxation response that can be evoked in a few seconds. 

Mindfulness Strategies. Mindfulness, a practice borrowed from Buddhism, helps people develop a different relationship to their anxiety-producing thoughts. Through mindfulness, the patient can learn to objectively observe their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, rather than attempting to avoid or change what is being experienced. 

Cognitive RestructuringThis technique helps people re-evaluate their fears, leading to significantly fewer panic attacks, and less anxiety overall. 

Exposure therapy. This therapy helps people face and control their fear. It works off the idea that anxiety is maintained by avoiding feared situations. This therapy exposes patients to situations they would otherwise avoid until anxiety ceases in the face of the feared situation or event.  

Doctors also commonly prescribe medication to help treat panic disorder. The most commonly prescribed medications for panic disorder are anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants. Anti-anxiety medications are powerful and there are different types. Many types begin working right away, but they generally should not be taken for long periods. The latest research suggests the relapse rate for individuals taking medications is much higher than that of individuals using only CBT. Interestingly, there is evidence to suggest the combination of medication and CBT also leads to high relapse rates, indicating CBT is the treatment of choice for Panic Disorder. Click for more information on Symptoms and Treatment of Panic Disorder