Panic disorder remains a common, debilitating condition, accounting for a large percent of hospital emergency room visits. Patients with the condition are plagued by sudden, uncontrolled symptoms such as panic, dizziness, and heart palpitations, as well as chest and abdominal pain.
“Right now, two therapies – cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and the use of antidepressant or anti-anxiety drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – are the main forms of treatment for panic disorder. However, studies suggest that up to half of patients may not respond to either of these approaches. What is more, many patients, such as women during pregnancy, prefer not to take a pharmaceutical therapy, lending urgency to the notion that patients need effective, non-pharmaceutical options in treating panic disorder
That is why there has been a renewed interest in psychodynamic psychotherapy. This form of talk therapy has actually been around since the beginning of the 20th century. Unlike CBT – which relies on exposure to panic triggers, and a highly structured set of exercises aimed at easing attacks – psychodynamic psychotherapy has a different focus.
It’s really aimed at getting patients to understand the underlying emotional meaning of their panic, its root psychological causes. Once that is achieved, patients can acknowledge previously unacceptable feelings and ideas, which have led to panic, as they arise. Once acknowledged and accepted, the feelings begin to loose the power they once had to provoke panic. This opens the door to new and creative responses to the challenges life presents to us.