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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a panic attack?
What does it mean to have panic disorder?
What is agoraphobia?
What does this program involve?
Is this treatment successful?

Q: What is a panic attack?
A: A panic attack is an abrupt rush of intense fear or discomfort accompanied by a number of physical and cognitive symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath or smothering sensations
  • Heart palpitations or a racing or pounding heart
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Feelings of choking
  • Sweating
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feelings of unreality or detachment
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Fears of dying
  • Fears of going insane or losing control

Q: What does it mean to have panic disorder?
A: Having panic attacks does not necessarily mean you have panic disorder. Occasional panic attacks are common and usually occur in response to a stressful situation or as part of other anxiety disorders. To have panic disorder, you must experience panic attacks that occur unexpectedly or for no real reason AND for at least one month you must have persistent anxiety or worry about the recurrence of panic attacks or their consequences, or made life changes as a result of the attacks.

Q: What is agoraphobia?
A: Agoraphobia refers to anxiety about, or avoidance of, situations where panic attacks or other physical symptoms are expected to occur, for example, being in crowded places, traveling, or being home alone. In most cases, agoraphobia develops after panic attacks, however, some people with panic attacks never develop agoraphobia and, occasionally, agoraphobia is present without panic attacks.

Q: What does this program involve?
A: This program uses cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches skills to manage anxiety and panic. Specifically, you will be taught ways of slowing your breathing, ways of changing the way you think, and ways of facing the things that make you anxious so that they no longer bother you. Each set of skills is introduced with educational information and accompanied by exercises for practice. In addition, homework is an important part of completing the program.

Q: Is this treatment successful?
A: Yes, research conducted by the authors over the last 20 years shows this treatment to be very successful. The percentage of people who report that they are free of panic at the completion of a program similar to this one is 70"90%. Similarly, the authors have found treatment programs focused on agoraphobia to produce significant improvements in 60"80% of their patients. Furthermore, both of these results seem to persist over time " up to two years after treatment completion (which is the longest period examined by the authors).

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