the best therapy methods. Panic attack victims are given 50% of all
angiograms, which are unnecessary and quite expensive. So seek a
panic disorder specialist, if possible, by calling your Mental Health
Center or the Phobia Society of America. The therapist should insure
that there is no physical problem, possibly prescribe anti-depressive
drugs (not minor tranquilizers), and provide psychotherapy involving
relaxation, exposure to the frightening situation, and cognitive
The causes of panic attacks are not known. Some psychiatrists
think the body is simply malfunctioning--sending a false message that
it is suffocating (being unable to breathe is terrifying); thus, these
theorists see it as purely a physical problem (actually, the onset of
panic disorders are often associated with major stressful life events).
Other theorists believe panic sufferers were born shy, nervous children
with over-demanding, suffocating parents. Later, as over-dependent,
eager-to-please but resentful-of-authority young people, they
frequently have an intense confrontation with an authority. Their anger
leads to the first panic attack, according to this theory. More recently,
three major theories about panic have evolved:
Catastrophic thinking: heightened anxiety in a stressful
situation may cause bodily sensations which lead the person to
falsely conclude he/she is having a heart attack, going to faint,
about to die, going to lose control, going crazy, etc. These
thoughts lead to panic. So, the thoughts need to be corrected.
Hyperventilation: anxiety causes some people to
hyperventilate, which, in turn, leads perhaps to too much
carbon dioxide, dizziness and panic. So, better breathing habits
must be developed (this is the approach taken by How to Treat
first week is online; it costs $98 for the rest of the program).
A conditioned panic: a scary experience (or hyperventilation)
may cause certain feelings, such as rapid heart beat, sweating,
shaking knees, etc., that are paired with the first panic attack.
Thus, conditioning occurs and, subsequently, noticing a rapid
heart beat and sweating while under stress may arouse a
strong fear--a panic attack. So, in this case, the person may
need, for example, to experience a rapidly pounding heart
several times in a safe place in order to find out that nothing
awful is going to happen.
An astonishing 10 million (about half of all people with Panic
Disorder) Americans are afraid to leave home (agoraphobia),
sometimes because they fear panicking and losing control away from
home. About half the time agoraphobia is preceded by a panic attack.
As a child, 42% of adults with agoraphobia experienced separation
anxiety from a parent (home), suggesting a long history for this fear.
Panic attacks are more likely to first occur during a stressful period
involving a loss, like a divorce, a conflict or a death (Pollard, Pollard &
Corn, 1989). But, many occur without any obvious precipitating