Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Panic Disorder: Symptoms and Treatment

Approximately six million people experience Panic Disorder each year. Panic Disorder often begins in adolescence or early adulthood, with women being twice as likely to suffer then men.

Panic Disorder involves experiencing severe panic attacks (also know as anxiety attacks) with a significant fear of its re-occurrence. Panic attacks can occur spontaneously, in specific triggering situations or sometimes during sleep.

Panic Disorder Symptoms

  • Fear of “Going Crazy” or “Losing Control”
  • Fear of Dying or having a Heart Attack
  • Heart Racing and Palpitations
  • Shortness of Breathe, Difficulty Breathing and Chest Pain
  • Trembling and Shaking
  • Sweating, Over-Heating or Cold Chills
  • Nausea, Stomach Distress and Possible Vomiting
  • Dizziness, Light Headedness and Incidences of Fainting
  • Fear of Choking
  • Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Derealization (experience of your surroundings being “not real”)
  • Depersonalization (experience of begin detached from oneself or of having lost one’s identity)

Because of the severity of Panic Disorder symptoms, people will often go to great lengths to avoid ever having to experience panic again.

People with Panic Disorder or panic attacks will often perform the below compulsive behaviors:

  • Avoid locations they previously had a panic attack (elevators, airplanes, malls, cinemas, sports arenas etc).
  • Ask for reassurance from family members to confirm that they will not panic.
  • Avoid events where they previously had a panic attack (large gatherings, public speaking, interviews, intimate dates etc).
  • Ask or demand family members and friends to stay with them, in case they have a panic attack.
  • Mentally plan out future events to avoid possible chances of panic.
  • Repetitively call or visit doctors and medical professionals to be sure they will not die or that something is not “wrong” with them.
  • Go to the emergency room when experiencing a panic attack.

It is important to note that Panic Disorder and Panic Attacks often occur concurrently with other physical illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, depression, substance abuse and other anxiety disorders. Having some of these illnesses does not automatically qualify you as having a Panic Disorder diagnosis. Please see a qualified Mental Health Professional or Medical Doctor for assessment.

If you have some or all of these symptoms and you feel that the above information describes you, see a qualified mental health professional for assessment. Click here (LINK) to contact Kimberley Quinlan, LMFT


As mentioned above, in some cases, people with Panic Disorder avoid returning to situations or places where they previously experienced a panic attack. In severe cases, this is called Agoraphobia and can sometimes become so severe, people are unable to leave their home.

Panic Attack and Panic Disorder Treatment

Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia are successfully treated using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness. Treatment involves, learning how to identify the distorted thoughts and restructure them into a more reasonable and rational thought process, commonly called Cognitive Therapy. Treatment also involves Exposure and Prevention (ERP), which is a component of Behavioral Therapy, used to help a client in desensitizing their feared stimuli. Using a hierarchy (created by the client), the client will slowly expose themselves to their fear and learn mindfulness tools to manage their anxiety and panic symptoms (Read more about Mindfulness here).

If you have some or all of these symptoms and you feel that the above information describes you, see a qualified mental health professional for an assessment. Click here to contact Kimberley Quinlan, LMFT