Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of counselling. It is based on
the theory that by changing habitual thoughts and behaviours, you can control
and improve the symptoms of your condition.
During cognitive-behavioural therapy for
panic attacks, you learn about
panic disorder, its symptoms, and how to predict when
a panic attack may occur. Your therapist will help you learn appropriate
behaviours for responding to a panic attack and help you work through the fear
of having another attack. You and your therapist work together to identify and
change your patterns of thinking and behaviour that may trigger your panic
disorder or make it worse.
You may be taught exercises to help reduce the physical symptoms of
the attack. For example, when you start to experience the symptoms of a panic
attack, you consciously change the way you respond. Instead of thinking, "My
heart is pounding, and I feel like I can't breathe. I think I am going to die,"
you might instead think, "My heart is pounding, and I feel like I can't
breathe, so I must be having a panic attack. Even though it is uncomfortable, I
know I will be okay and the symptoms will pass." When the effects of a panic
attack seem less severe, anxiety about having another attack is
Cognitive-behavioural therapy is helpful if you also have
agoraphobia, which occurs when you fear and avoid
public situations or places that you think may trigger a panic attack. After
you are able to handle the symptoms of panic disorder, you will be exposed to
controlled situations or places that have triggered panic attacks in the past.
This type of treatment, known as exposure therapy, takes longer for people who
have many fears, especially people with
social anxiety disorder (a fear of certain social
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine Donald Sproule, MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerLisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health