Panic attacks are the sudden onset of numerous physiological symptoms which may include one or more of the following: chest pain, racing heart, shakes, sweats, chills, dizziness, light headedness, trembling, tingling hands, and trouble breathing.

Ruling Out Medical Causes?

According to most reports, they typically last between five and 20 minutes and are fairly intense. Given the severity of them, most people present to an emergency room thinking they may be having a heart attack. At this point, medical personnel can run several tests on the heart, such as an EKG, to rule out any complications or problems with the heart. Once all possible medical issues have been ruled out, doctors will talk with clients about having had a panic attack. They are typically referred to mental health providers to explore causes and treatments further.

What Does a Psychiatrist Do for Panic Attacks?

Psychiatrists generally have at their disposal medications designed to mitigate symptoms of panic attacks. Some people have very isolated and specific panic attacks, such as only when flying. In some of these instances, a psychiatrist may prescribe a benzodiazepine medication such as Xanax intended for limited use. Benzodiazepines are a central nervous system depressant and work quickly and effectively to reduce anxiety and lower the probability of having a panic attack. Other people may be experiencing regular panic attacks and have no clear idea about what seems to be triggering them. A psychiatrist may prescribe an antidepressant, which is also very effective at treating anxiety, to assist with global anxiety issues, which will hopefully reduce the frequency of possible panic attacks. They may also prescribe a benzodiazepine in short supply for situations when a panic attack is occurring. This is often done early on, while an antidepressant may not have reached its full effect yet. In some instances, an antihistamine called Hydroxyzine can be a relatively quick and effective alternative to benzodiazepines, which come with no risk of abuse or dependence.

 

What Does a Psychologist or Therapist Do for Panic Attacks?

Psychotherapy, at its heart, is generally about exploring underlying drivers for mental health symptoms and conditions and trying to help resolve what may be going on with a given person. This could be living in an abusive relationship, dealing with an overwhelming job, or conquering social anxiety and fear of judgment. In many instances, changing circumstances in our lives can alleviate anxiety and panic attacks. For some people, their panic attacks are more subtle or relate to circumstances that are not easily changed. In those cases, therapists will help clients log and track panic attacks and look for triggers, many of which may be driven by inner dialogue and belief systems about how a person is interpreting things. Counselors can teach clients tools and strategies for dealing with panic attacks as they are building up and occurring, such as diaphragmatic breathing or progressive muscle relaxation techniques. They will also work with clients on more proactive tools intended to keep panic attacks from manifesting in the first place. Often at the heart of this is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is designed to help clients eliminate irrational belief systems and distorted conclusions they come to that often fuel anxiety and panic attacks. These long-term changes can effectively put an end to panic attacks.

Both psychiatrists and therapists achieve great success independently or working together to alleviate anxiety and panic attacks. If you want to meet with a psychiatrist or therapist to explore treating your anxiety or panic attacks, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an appointment with one of our psychiatric providers for a more thorough assessment.  Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough evaluation and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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