Coral Springs

 

1725 N. University Drive

Suite 350

Coral Springs, FL 33071

Telephone: (954) 227-2700

Fax: (954) 227-2704

Linda Berlin, Psy.D.

&

Psychological Associates

Boca Raton

 

7000 W. Palmetto Park Road

Suite 407

Boca Raton, FL 33433

Telephone: (561) 347-0997

Fax: (561) 347-0996

 

Facts About Anxiety Disorders

NUMBERS AND PERCENTAGES REFER TO ADULTS AFFECTED IN U.S. POPULATION

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

6.8 million, 3.1%

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

2.2 million, 1.0%

Panic Disorder

6 million, 2.7%

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

7.7 million, 3.5%

Social Anxiety Disorder

15 million, 6.8%

Specific Phobias

19 million, 8.7%

Source: Anxiety Disorders Association of America

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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TREATMENT OF PANIC ATTACKS

By: Linda Berlin, Psy.D., R.N., Clinical Director

In our practice, Dr. David Barlow’s cognitive behavioral program is the treatment of choice for panic disorders. The program consists of approximately 16 weeks of treatment that focuses on physiological, cognitive and behavioral aspects of a panic disorder.

If you are reading this page, it is likely that you or a significant other is suffering from panic attacks. Fortunately, much research has been done in this area and successful treatment is available. For a general overview of  panic disorders, please see Dr. Lawrence Burstein’s article on this website by clicking here. The following article will deal more specifically with the treatment of panic disorders.

The trigger to a panic attack is a sudden change within an individual’s body that is characterized by certain sensations. Imagine walking down the street in Manhattan, coming to a curb, looking both ways before crossing the street, deeming it safe and beginning to cross the street. Suddenly, while in the middle of the street, you see a bus looming down at you. You quickly become mobilized to jump back on the curb. Once safe on the curb, you notice your heart racing, perhaps some shaky knees, a sweat, a feeling of momentary weakness .These sensations are understandable to you after becoming suddenly frightened or feeling threatened. Because these sensations “make sense” to you,  you do not become frightened of them and will continue on walking down the street. Within a few seconds these sensations will disappear without any further incidence.

Now imagine sitting in your living room and suddenly getting those same exact sensations out of the blue. Your heart begins racing, you are breaking into a sweat and feeling shaky and weak.  These are the same sensations as on the streets of New York, but with one big difference…..there is no bus. Because our basic nature as human beings is to look for reasons for the things that are happening to us, as you sit in your living room having these sensations, you will immediately attempt to somehow find a logical explanation to this sudden, extreme discomfort. Because there will be no bus around or any other logical external explanation, your tendency will be to look inside your body and MISINTERPRET  these sensations as something seriously wrong with you physically. You may think you are having a heart attack, about to faint or lose control. While you could understand these sensations and NOT BE AFRAID of them when you were able to attribute the BUS as a logical reason, in your living room the exact opposite is true.

Without a logical reason for the sensation, you introduce FEAR into this already very uncomfortable experience. It is at this precise moment that the future course of this experience will be charted. Once FEAR of the sensation is introduced, you are highly likely to spiral into panic. If you are able to accept these sensations WITHOUT FEAR, this experience  will NOT result in panic. Instead, these sensations will dissipate without further incidence. Herein, lies the key to successful and lasting treatment of  panic disorders.

In addition to the fear phenomenon, another dynamic is operating during the course of a panic disorder. Panic attacks seem to occur in settings such as malls, public transportation, elevators or escalators, theaters, supermarkets, waiting on lines, driving (often on highways, bridges or tunnels) and restaurants. Interestingly, the individuals who experience a panic attack in any of these settings begin to believe that if they revisit that setting they will once again get a panic attack. They, therefore, begin to fear and/or avoid that setting. Subsequently, over the course of time, the scope of settings that elicit avoidance mechanisms tends to broaden. The individuals then find themselves avoiding more and more situations, thereby limiting their ability to fully function within their lives.

Very basically, the following graphs the dynamics of a panic disorder with and without treatment.

Pre-Treatment

Sensation   →   Fear of the Sensation   →  Panic   → Avoidance

Post-Treatment

Sensation   →  Acceptance and Relaxation

The core to the treatment of a panic disorder is to ELIMINATE THE FEAR OF THE SENSATION.  Once this is accomplished the entire panic system breaks down. As it is physiologically impossible to be fearful and relaxed at the same time, treatment centers on replacing the fear response with a relaxation response.

About 18 years ago I had the great fortune of stumbling upon an article in a medical journal by David Barlow, Ph.D. describing a new cognitive behavioral program he had devised to treat panic disorders.  I was fascinated with his treatment ideas and decided to send for the program. I did not know then, that I was shaping the course of my own career forever.

Dr. Barlow is one of the leading researchers of anxiety and panic disorders in the world. He is the director of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University in Massachusetts.

After using this program since 1989 on hundreds of patients, I am continually struck by how powerful and effective this program actually is. As described above, it targets the fear and, by doing so, interrupts the process. With the rewarding results of this program as a motivation to be able to reach more individuals who are suffering with a panic disorder, I have trained several therapists in our practice in the use of this program.

If you have found this article informative and helpful and feel that you might be interested in further exploring Dr. Barlow’s program,  please contact Dr. Linda Berlin at (954) 227-2700 or at (561) 347-0997.

 

Read Dr. Berlin's article on Depression.

Read Dr. Berlin's article on Life Coaching.

To learn more about Anxiety & Panic Disorders read Dr. Lawrence Burstein's article What is a Panic Attack?


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