I have been experiencing panic attacks lately. I had them several years ago and now they are back. They are worse when I go into a store but I worry that something will happen to me or my family constantly. I do not want to take medication for it. Is there something else that I can do? What is causing this to happen? How can I get myself out of this. I have not been sleeping well lately and I noticed that it mainly happens when I am alone. Sometimes it feels like I am going crazy and my family thinks that I should just “snap out of it”, but I can’t.
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Your description is similar to a condition called Agorophobia, which is an anxiety disorder characterized by frequent panic attacks, and a fear of being out in unfamiliar places (for fear of having a panic attack there). Anxiety disorders like Agoraphobia are quite treatable without medicine – using a form of psychotherapy called ‘Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy’. CBT for anxiety and panic is well studied and is known to work very well – often as well as or better than any medical therapies. CBT is available from a therapist (usually a psychologist) trained in CBT methods. It will take approximately 12-18 weekly one hour sessions to administer properly, and will involve your doing a lot of homework. CBT for panic attacks and agoraphobia has become highly standardized affair. One of the best manuals out there for engaging in this therapy is called Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic – there is a workbook for you and a therapist manual that your doctor can follow if she is so inclined.
p> Before you go off to the psychologist’s office you ought to get yourself checked out physically by a medical doctor. Sometimes the origin of panic attacks can be found in subtle physical problems (minor heart conditions and such). It is worth knowing if you might have anything like this going on so that you can received proper treatment.