Panic disorder causes a sudden onset of unexpected physical sensations that are mistaken for signs of illness, fainting, heart attack, insanity or impending death. The sudden onset of multiple feared physical symptoms is called a panic attack. When patients with panic attacks begin to avoid situations that they believe might trigger a panic attack, then they are diagnosed as having agoraphobia. People with agoraphobia avoid activities that they believe might trigger a panic attack. These can include situations in which there is no easy escape, such as driving in expressway traffic, sitting in crowded restaurants, going to the movie or traveling outside their “safety zone.” Children and teens might avoid attending school or large group activities. People might also avoid interpersonal situations that they believe will trigger the physical arousal associated with panic, such as exercise or emotional distress.
Treatment for panic disorder includes interoceptive exposure. Interoceptive exposure practices inducing the physical symptoms associated with panic unit a patient gets used to them and stops feeling anxious. Treatment may also include exposure therapy to practice overcoming the real life situations that panic makes you avoid. Cognitive therapy helps identify the mistaken beliefs that promote anxiety and avoidance and replaces them with adaptive thoughts. The Anxiety Treatment Center of Greater Chicago is also one of a few sites in the United States to offer a new breathing retraining system that helps people learn to prevent panic attacks by increasing their blood levels of carbon dioxide.
The Anxiety Treatment Center of Greater Chicago staff will help you prevent panic attacks and overcome your agoraphobia by practicing the real life situations that panic makes difficult. Staff will accompany you during driving, shopping, exercise or other activities that panic prevents. Our staff will also work with parents and school staff to help children and teens who panic comfortably return to school and full social functioning. Our goal is to ensure that you learn to regain your lifestyle regardless of panic.
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