Do You Suffer From Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks create unnecessary fear and suffering. Dr. Fisher, a clinical psychologist, can help you to end the fear and regain control over your life through an effective behavioral treatment shown to reduce or eliminate panic attacks for many people – even those who failed to respond to medication.

 

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How Does Treatment Work?

Dr. Fisher utilizes a research-informed panic attack treatment called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Prolonged Exposure Therapy. This treatment helps patients to better understand and demystify panic attacks, to learn about how automatic thoughts and dysfunctional beliefs contribute to panic attacks, and, in the last stage of treatment, to directly confront the panic attacks.  In many ways, this treatment helps patients confront their fears in a safe and supportive environment.

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Panic Attacks

A panic attack is simply the body’s fight or flight response – an alarm that danger is present.  This fight or flight response is neither good nor bad – instead, it is best to think of as functional versus dysfunctional. What many people do not realize is that panic attack is designed to “save” you, not harm you. The sufferer assumes that there is something wrong with their body since there is no observable danger.

Treatment

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Prolonged Exposure therapy is an effective behavioral treatment (no medications) for panic attacks with or without agoraphobia.  This treatment helps a patient to shed their fear of panic attacks, understand how their thoughts trigger and reinforce panic attacks, and to directly confront panic attacks and avoidance and safety behaviors.

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is a potentially disabling condition that can develop alone or alongside panic attacks. Agoraphobia develops when a person avoids situations where escape might be difficult or help might not be available during a panic attack or other potentially embarrassing symptoms. The successful treatment of panic attacks requires that the agoraphobic condition, if present, to also be addressed in treatment.

Call Dr. Christopher Fisher at (361) 739 – 7696 for additional information or to schedule an appointment

What Is A Panic Attack?

A panic attack (also described by patients as an “anxiety attack,” “out of control anxiety,” or “nerves”) is simply the body’s fight or flight response – an alarm that danger is present.  This fight or flight response is neither good nor bad – instead, it is best to think of this alarm as functional versus dysfunctional.  The alarm is definitely functional when it saves us from a dog attack. However, this same alarm is highly dysfunctional when it sounds with no apparent danger, as is the case with a panic attack. Panic attacks create varying levels of misery in those who suffer from them. Those with panic attacks are often fearful of their own bodies – convinced that they have an undiagnosed medical condition, such as an impending heart attack or stroke. Sufferers can acquire lengthy medical histories, including visits to hospital emergency rooms and extensive medical examinations by numerous medical specialists, in their search for the cause of the symptoms.  The sufferer’s belief that they have a medical condition is actually reasonable given the varied and seemingly serious panic attack symptoms, such as angina (chest pain), dyspnea (difficulty breathing), tachycardia (rapid heart rate), dizziness, hypertension (high blood pressure), and more. Others experience frightening cognitive (thinking) symptoms, such as fear of “going crazy,” dying, or “losing control.”  Who would not think that there is something medically wrong! Ironically, panic attacks do not intend to create harm, but instead tries to “save” you – the problem is that the sufferer does not need to be saved, which makes this a very confusing disorder. In short, panic attacks can be viewed as the “fear of fear” as the sufferer literally is fearful of their own body’s fight or flight response.  Panic attacks can become especially disabling when agoraphobia develops alongside the panic attacks.  Sufferers can experience anger or hopelessness when told that their panic attacks have no medical cause or that, “It’s all in your head.” Sufferers are usually offered anti-anxiety medication as the solution.  Unfortunately, medication is not the long-term answer for many patients, and even when helpful, the panic attack symptoms can return when the medication is stopped. Instead, Dr. Fisher advocates Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Prolonged Exposure Therapy, which is a highly effective treatment that targets the core, underlying causes of panic attacks.

What Is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is a condition that can develop alone or alongside panic attacks whereby feared places are avoided where escape might be difficult or help might not be easily available if panic attack symptoms or other embarrassing symptoms are experienced.  For example, a person who experiences a panic attack when they drive across a bridge might then avoid this bridge due to the fear that the bridge might trigger another panic attack or that they might become trapped in traffic on the bridge during a panic attack. In its severest form, a person with agoraphobia can become a literal prisoner inside their own home.  Agoraphobic behaviors are another form of avoidance that maintains and reinforces panic attacks. Agoraphobia is always addressed alongside panic attacks within the context of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Prolonged Exposure Therapy. Research shows that approximately 1.75% of the population will be diagnosed with agoraphobia each year.  Not every person who experiences panic attacks will develop agoraphobia.

Panic Attack Treatment

Dr. Fisher utilizes a research-informed panic attack treatment called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Prolonged Exposure Therapy. As the name implies, this is a behavioral (no medications) approach to treatment of panic attacks with or without agoraphobia. This treatment helps patients to better understand and demystify panic attacks, to learn about how automatic thoughts and dysfunctional beliefs contribute to panic attacks, and, in the final stage of treatment, to directly confront the panic attacks. Panic attacks are confronted through panic induction techniques whereby panic attacks are willfully brought on within the treatment sessions and then eventually outside the therapy room.  Patients learn to face their fear of panic attacks in a safe and supportive environment. Over time, panic induction become more and more difficult until ideally the patient is unable to experience a panic attack.  CBT with Prolonged Exposure Therapy also helps the patient identify and eliminate avoidance and safety behaviors that maintain recurrent panic attacks.  Avoidance behaviors can take many forms, such avoidance of places that might induce a panic attack and avoidance of panic symptoms with use of slowed breathing, distraction techniques, or medication.  Safety behaviors are strategies the sufferer devises to feel safe in the event of a panic attack, such as keeping 911 on speed dial, remaining in the presence of a trusted friend or family member, tracking the the location of the nearest hospital, or keeping a Xanax on-hand.  Interestingly, healthcare providers can unknowingly suggest and reinforce avoidance and safety behaviors that actually worsen panic attacks! Avoidance and safety behaviors are extremely problematic because they reinforce that panic attacks are dangerous or terrible and that they somehow “saved you” from danger.  The truth is that panic attacks are only uncomfortable and meant to protect you – not harm you.  A patient who successfully completes treatment will typically see a dramatic reduction in or a complete cessation of panic attacks.  In Dr. Fisher’s experience, many patients can experience excellent improvement or end treatment altogether within 10 to 12 sessions. However, patients who present with panic attacks and other psychological conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, etc.) can expect an increased number of treatment sessions. Dr. Fisher will discuss your individual treatment plan after the completion of the initial interview.

Call Dr. Christopher Fisher at (361) 739 – 7696 for additional information or to schedule an appointment

Does Dr. Fisher Accept Insurance?

Dr. Fisher only accepts private payment for services (cash, check, or credit card). However, you will receive receipts for rendered services that can be submitted for potential out-of-network reimbursement with your insurance company. Insurance companies have varied policies for out-of-network reimbursement. Please discuss out-of-network reimbursement rates with your insurance company. You may also be able to pay for your treatment through a health savings account (HSA) as psychological services are typically covered under these plans.

FAQ #1

Why Have I Not Heard About This Treatment?

CBT with Prolonged Exposure Therapy  has existed for many years with strong research support.  There is no exact answer as to why patients are seldom referred for behavioral treatment of panic attacks, especially for those who do not respond to medication.  One possibility may be that few physicians are aware of this treatment option.  Another possibility is that few psychologists are trained in this treatment. Whatever the reason, many patients needlessly suffer when they fail to receive a behavioral treatment referral for panic attacks.

FAQ #2

How Long Does Treatment Last and What is Treatment Cost?

In Dr. Fisher’s clinical experience, many patients can make excellent progress or complete treatment in about 10 to 12 sessions.  The initial evaluation (50 minutes) is $145.00. Individual treatment sessions (50 minutes) are $145.00.   Patients typically attend treatment once per week. Objective psychological assessment is typically not required, but this might be recommended in complex cases; psychological assessment will increase overall treatment cost.

FAQ #3

Does This Treatment Work For Everyone?

In Dr. Fisher’s experience, most patients who enter treatment will experience a dramatic reduction or complete cessation of panic attacks. However, no treatment is effective for everyone – this is true for most treatments for any condition.  As such, some patients may not experience a reduction in panic attack symptoms.  The patient’s regular attendance and completion of all outside “homework” plays a major role in treatment length and success.

FAQ #4

Call Dr. Christopher Fisher at (361) 739 – 7696 for additional information or to schedule an appointment

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About PanicIntervention.com

PanicIntervention.com serves to highlight a panic attack treatment option in the private practice of Christopher Fisher, PhD.  Dr. Fisher is a Licensed Psychologist with a PhD in Clinical Health Psychology & Behavior Medicine and a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology.  Dr. Fisher was motivated to create this website due to his observation that many, many patients suffer needlessly from panic attacks, are rarely offered behavioral treatments for panic attacks, and often told to “just live with it” or “It’s all in your head.” Dr. Fisher hopes that this website will help sufferers come to better understand the nature of panic attacks and to motivate them to seek out a behavioral treatment for panic attacks. To learn more about Dr Fisher’ private practice, please visit www.christopherfisherphd.com

Contact

PanicIntervention.com
Part of the private practice of Christopher Fisher, PhD

Christopher Fisher, PhD, PC
5402 South Staples St., STE 200
Corpus Christi, Tx 78411
(361) 739 – 7696 (new patient line)
(361) 992 – 9624 (established patient line)
www.christopherfisherphd.com

Business Hours
Mon – 9;30am – 6:00pm
Tues  – 1:00pm – 6:00pm
Wed – 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Thur / Fri – 1:00pm – 6:00pm

Patients seen by appointment only.

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