The good news is, panic attacks are highly treatable
And although they can make you feel like you are going crazy or dying, they can’t actually make you lose your mind, and in the short term are actually no more dangerous in the short term than hopping on a treadmill would be. The downside is, that they feel horrible and can really be a burden if you experience them frequently and/or avoid living your life to the fullest because you’re afraid of having one.
The first step in getting past panic attacks is to educate yourself and begin gathering information. We will want to know when they started, how long they last, what they feel like, and whether you have any underlying illness. It is essential to rule out other medical conditions which could be the cause of your panic attacks such as a thyroid disorder or the unpleasant side effects of medication. You will fill out forms like these that provide information on the specifics of your symptoms. We don’t just talk about it!
Next, your provider will discuss the vicious negative reinforcement cycle of anxiety/panic and avoidance. Here’s a hint: AVOID AVOIDING! You will also learn about how the fight-flight system works (it works too well sometimes), the role that sleep and diet play in anxiety, and how to respond when panic creeps in...
Once you are on board with understanding the causes and contributors, your therapist will quickly move on to something that may seem truly insane, interoceptive exposure. This process actually changes some of your deeply ingrained beliefs from the inside out--but no one said it was comfortable! Depending on how fast you jump on board with the whole process (and how much homework you complete) you could be finishing up therapy panic free in 6-10 sessions.
For More information:
Society of Clinical Psychology, Division 12, American Psychological Association Summary & Treatment Resources