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Panic Disorder. Designed by: Regina Crews Secretary of Student Support Services. Press enter to continue. What is Panic Disorder?.

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Panic disorder l.jpg

Panic Disorder

Designed by: Regina Crews

Secretary of Student Support Services

Press enter to continue


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What is Panic Disorder?

  • Symptoms include: racing or pounding heartbeat, chest pains, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, difficulty breathing, tingling or numbness in the hands, flushes or chills, dreamlike sensations or perceptual distortions (déjà vu), terror – a sense that something unimaginably horrible is about to occur and one is powerless to prevent it, fear of losing control and doing something embarrassing, fear of dying.

  • A panic attack typically lasts for several minutes and is one of the most distressing conditions that a person can experience. Most people who have one attack will have others. When someone has repeated attacks, or feels anxiety about having another attack, he or she is said to have panic disorder.

  • Panic disorder is a serious health problem in this country. At least 1.6 percent of adult Americans, or 3 million people, will have panic disorder at some time in their lives. The disorder is different from other types of anxiety because attacks are sudden, appeared to be unprovoked, and are often disabling.


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Is Panic Disorder Serious

  • Yes. Panic disorder is potentially disabling, but can be controlled with specific treatments. Because of accompanying symptoms, panic disorder may be mistaken for heart disease or some other life-threatening medical illness.


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What is the Treatment for Panic Disorder?

  • Thanks to research there are many types of treatment available, including several effective medications and specific forms of psychotherapy. Improvement usually takes 6-8 weeks.

  • People who suffer from panic disorders usually need treatment for depression or other emotional problems.


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What Happens if Panic Disorder is not Treated?

  • If left untreated, it may worsen to the point where the person’s life is seriously affected by panic attacks and by attempts to avoid or conceal them.

  • Many people have problems with friends, family, and lost jobs while struggling to cope with panic disorder.


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What Causes Panic Disorder?

  • According to one theory, the body’s normal “alarm system”, the set of mental and physical mechanisms that allows a person to respond to a threat tends to be triggered unnecessarily, when there is no danger.

  • Often first attacks are triggered by physical illnesses, a major life stress, or perhaps medications that increase activity in the part of the brain involved in fear reactions.

  • Heredity can also play a strong role in determining who will have panic attacks. If one family member experiences panic disorder then it is likely that others will also.


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Golden Rules for Coping with Panic

  • Remember that although your feelings and symptoms are very frightening, they are not dangerous or harmful.

  • Understand that what you are experiencing is just an exaggeration of your normal bodily reactions to stress.

  • Do not fight your feelings or try to wish them away. The more you are willing to face them, the less intense they will become.

  • Do not add to your panic by thinking about what “might” happen. If you find yourself asking, “What if?” tell yourself, “So what!”.

  • Stay in the present. Notice what is really happening to you as opposed to what you think “might” happen.

  • Label your fear level from zero to ten and watch it go up and down. Notice that it does not stay at a very high level for more than a few seconds.


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  • When you find yourself thinking about the fear, CHANGE YOUR “WHAT IF” THINKING. Focus on and carry out a simple and manageable task.

  • Notice that when you stop adding frightening thoughts to your fear it begins to fade.

  • When the fear comes, expect and accept it. Wait and give it time to pass without running away from it.

  • Be proud of your self for your progress thus far and think about how good you will feel when you succeed this time.


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Anxiety Management Program “WHAT IF” THINKING. Focus on and carry out a simple and manageable task.

  • We will try to accept the fact that we have a phobia, on which has limited our lifestyle because of feelings of panic and loss of control. By accepting the fact that we are phobic without passing judgment on ourselves we have taken our first step toward recovery.

  • Our self-talk, which is non-permissive and self-shaming, has been partly responsible for our phobia, and continues to be a problem in that it affects the intensity and duration of our anxiety. It will help if we practice an inner dialogue which is self-nurturing. We could begin by giving ourselves permission to be anxious.

  • We will try to allow strange sensations or feelings of panic, just letting them happen rather than resisting them. It will help if we do not attach any danger to these feelings, allowing ourselves to focus on solutions rather than symptoms.

  • During the process of our recovery, we can reach a point where we are more receptive to the occurrence of panic attacks. By letting go of the fear the feelings of panic will eventually subside.


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  • With the onset of panic, our first reaction is to try to stay in control. It will help if we practice letting go. The less we attempt to stay in control, the more control we will actually have.

  • We will try to take risks rather than continually trying to avoid places and situations where we feel anxious, reassuring ourselves that we can function well even when we are uncomfortable.

  • When catastrophizing with the “what ifs”, it will help to realize that they are only thoughts and chances are they will not happen. It might also help to affirm that we carry our safe place within.

  • We will try to have a more positive attitude toward our phobia by learning more about it thereby removing the veil of mystery, and by talking about it, thus lifting the burden of a deep, dark secret. Having a sense of humor about our situation will help us to keep our perspective.


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  • When approaching a situation where we feel anxious, we will try to take it one step at a time, keeping our expectations low. It will help if we think of it as an opportunity to practice rather than thinking of it as a test.

  • We will try to accept setbacks as a normal and necessary part of our recovery, trying to see them as temporary. It might help to remind ourselves that even though we feel like we’re starting over, we never really go back to “square one”.

  • We will try to take the time limit out of our recovery, seeing it as open-ended. It will help if we try to accept where we are right now without comparing ourselves with past progress, and at the same time try to be accepting of any future anxiety.

  • When feeling anxious we will try to slow down, not only in our actions, but in our thinking as well. When we feel a need to rush ahead, it will help if we try maintaining a slower pace.


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  • Although we sometimes feel helpless, we might try to be receptive to the idea that we each have the inner strength to draw on when necessary.

  • Having improved as a result of this program, we will continue to open doors for others, as doors have been opened for us by giving them the support, help and encouragement that we ourselves have received.


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For More Information: receptive to the idea that we each have the inner strength to draw on when necessary.

  • Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 6000 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, Rockville, MD 20852

  • American Psychiatric Association, 1400 K Street, Northwest, Washington, DC 20005

  • American Psychological Association, 1200 17th Street, Northwest, Washington, DC 2005

  • National Institute of Mental Health Panic Disorder Education Program, Room 7C-02, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857


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  • Thank you for your participation in this workshop. We hope you found it helpful. Do not forget to complete an Academic Enrichment Summary so that we may document your participation. If you are viewing this workshop via the internet you may come by the Student Support Services office and pick one up or click on the link in the directions box on the Workshops page and print one out or e-mail it to: rcrews@wallace.edu . Handouts available upon request.

  • EXIT