Panic Disorder is the experience of panic attacks followed by ongoing concern and worry about having another panic attack and/or worry about the possible consequences of a panic attack. There may be avoidant behaviors associated with, and secondary to, the panic attacks. Often associated with a panic attack is a catastrophic misinterpretation of a physical sensation. These catastrophic misinterpretations include thoughts such as “I’m having a heart attack” “I’m going to die” or “I’m having a stroke”. These catastrophic thoughts further create anxiety which increases the physical sensation and strengthens the catastrophic misinterpretation.
Cognitive/behavioral therapy has shown to be effective in the treatment of Panic Disorder. Therapy consists of parental and adolescent instruction in relaxation exercises and teaching adolescents to identify evaluate and alter the thoughts that are associated with their panic attacks. This is often combined with systematically approaching situations or experiences that are being avoided because of fear of having a panic attack.
Outcome studies have shown that cognitive/behavioral psychotherapy is very effective in treating Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder in adolescents and adults. Panic Disorder rarely occurs in children.