Designed by: Regina Crews
Secretary of Student Support Services
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What is Panic Disorder?
• Symptoms include: racing or pounding heartbeat,
chest pains, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea,
difficulty breathing, tingling or numbness in the hands,
flushes or chills, dreamlike sensations or perceptual
distortions (déjà vu), terror – a sense that something
unimaginably horrible is about to occur and one is
powerless to prevent it, fear of losing control and
doing something embarrassing, fear of dying.
• A panic attack typically lasts for several minutes and
is one of the most distressing conditions that a person
can experience. Most people who have one attack will
have others. When someone has repeated attacks, or
feels anxiety about having another attack, he or she is
said to have panic disorder.
• Panic disorder is a serious health problem in this
country. At least 1.6 percent of adult Americans, or 3
million people, will have panic disorder at some time in
their lives. The disorder is different from other types
of anxiety because attacks are sudden, appeared to be
unprovoked, and are often disabling.
Is Panic Disorder Serious
• Yes. Panic disorder is potentially
disabling, but can be controlled with
specific treatments. Because of
accompanying symptoms, panic disorder
may be mistaken for heart disease or
some other life-threatening medical
What is the Treatment for Panic
• Thanks to research there are many types
of treatment available, including several
effective medications and specific forms of
psychotherapy. Improvement usually
takes 6-8 weeks.
• People who suffer from panic disorders
usually need treatment for depression or
other emotional problems.
What Happens if Panic Disorder is
• If left untreated, it may worsen to the
point where the person’s life is seriously
affected by panic attacks and by attempts
to avoid or conceal them.
• Many people have problems with friends,
family, and lost jobs while struggling to
cope with panic disorder.
What Causes Panic Disorder?
• According to one theory, the body’s normal “alarm
system”, the set of mental and physical mechanisms that
allows a person to respond to a threat tends to be
triggered unnecessarily, when there is no danger.
• Often first attacks are triggered by physical illnesses, a
major life stress, or perhaps medications that increase
activity in the part of the brain involved in fear reactions.
• Heredity can also play a strong role in determining who
will have panic attacks. If one family member
experiences panic disorder then it is likely that others
Golden Rules for Coping with Panic
• Remember that although your feelings and symptoms
are very frightening, they are not dangerous or
• Understand that what you are experiencing is just an
exaggeration of your normal bodily reactions to
• Do not fight your feelings or try to wish them away.
The more you are willing to face them, the less intense
they will become.
• Do not add to your panic by thinking about what
“might” happen. If you find yourself asking, “What if?”
tell yourself, “So what!”.
• Stay in the present. Notice what is really happening to
you as opposed to what you think “might” happen.
• Label your fear level from zero to ten and watch it go
up and down. Notice that it does not stay at a very
high level for more than a few seconds.
• When you find yourself thinking about the fear,
CHANGE YOUR “WHAT IF” THINKING. Focus on
and carry out a simple and manageable task.
• Notice that when you stop adding frightening
thoughts to your fear it begins to fade.
• When the fear comes, expect and accept it.
Wait and give it time to pass without running
away from it.
• Be proud of your self for your progress thus far
and think about how good you will feel when
you succeed this time.
Anxiety Management Program
• We will try to accept the fact that we have a phobia, on which has limited
our lifestyle because of feelings of panic and loss of control. By accepting
the fact that we are phobic without passing judgment on ourselves we have
taken our first step toward recovery.
• Our self-talk, which is non-permissive and self-shaming, has been partly
responsible for our phobia, and continues to be a problem in that it affects
the intensity and duration of our anxiety. It will help if we practice an inner
dialogue which is self-nurturing. We could begin by giving ourselves
permission to be anxious.
• We will try to allow strange sensations or feelings of panic, just letting them
happen rather than resisting them. It will help if we do not attach any
danger to these feelings, allowing ourselves to focus on solutions rather
• During the process of our recovery, we can reach a point where we are
more receptive to the occurrence of panic attacks. By letting go of the fear
the feelings of panic will eventually subside.
• With the onset of panic, our first reaction is to try to stay
in control. It will help if we practice letting go. The less
we attempt to stay in control, the more control we will
• We will try to take risks rather than continually trying to
avoid places and situations where we feel anxious,
reassuring ourselves that we can function well even
when we are uncomfortable.
• When catastrophizing with the “what ifs”, it will help to
realize that they are only thoughts and chances are they
will not happen. It might also help to affirm that we
carry our safe place within.
• We will try to have a more positive attitude toward our
phobia by learning more about it thereby removing the
veil of mystery, and by talking about it, thus lifting the
burden of a deep, dark secret. Having a sense of humor
about our situation will help us to keep our perspective.
• When approaching a situation where we feel anxious, we
will try to take it one step at a time, keeping our
expectations low. It will help if we think of it as an
opportunity to practice rather than thinking of it as a
• We will try to accept setbacks as a normal and necessary
part of our recovery, trying to see them as temporary.
It might help to remind ourselves that even though we
feel like we’re starting over, we never really go back to
• We will try to take the time limit out of our recovery,
seeing it as open-ended. It will help if we try to accept
where we are right now without comparing ourselves
with past progress, and at the same time try to be
accepting of any future anxiety.
• When feeling anxious we will try to slow down, not only
in our actions, but in our thinking as well. When we feel
a need to rush ahead, it will help if we try maintaining a
• Although we sometimes feel helpless, we
might try to be receptive to the idea that
we each have the inner strength to draw
on when necessary.
• Having improved as a result of this
program, we will continue to open doors
for others, as doors have been opened for
us by giving them the support, help and
encouragement that we ourselves have
For More Information:
• Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 6000
Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, Rockville, MD
• American Psychiatric Association, 1400 K Street,
Northwest, Washington, DC 20005
• American Psychological Association, 1200 17th
Street, Northwest, Washington, DC 2005
• National Institute of Mental Health Panic
Disorder Education Program, Room 7C-02, 5600
Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857
• Thank you for your participation in this
workshop. We hope you found it helpful. Do
not forget to complete an Academic Enrichment
Summary so that we may document your
participation. If you are viewing this workshop
via the internet you may come by the Student
Support Services office and pick one up or click
on the link in the directions box on the
Workshops page and print one out or e-mail it
to: firstname.lastname@example.org . Handouts available