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Finding Help for Panic Disorder

Tips for Getting the Help You Need


Updated April 19, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Finding help for panic disorder can be just a phone call away.

Photo © Microsoft

Panic disorder, panic attacks, and agoraphobia are difficult, if not impossible, to manage on your own. If you are struggling with the symptoms of panic disorder, you may be wondering where you can find treatment. Perhaps there are some barriers to getting help that have held you back, such as feeling embarrassed about seeking professional help or uncertainty about where to turn. However, the sooner you find the treatment that you need, the quicker you may begin to feel better.

Where To Go For Help

One of the most common sources for help with panic disorder is through your medical doctor or family physician. If you believe that you are experiencing panic disorder, you can schedule an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to evaluate your symptoms, rule out any other potential medical or co-occurring conditions, and discuss your treatment options. Your doctor will also be able to provide you with a diagnosis and make appropriate referrals if needed.

Your doctor may refer you to one of the many qualified professionals who treat panic disorder. Common mental health providers include psychiatrists, psychologists, professional counselors, and social workers. These providers are also listed in directories, such as the yellow pages, under “Mental Health Services,” “Mental Health Clinics,” or “Community Mental Health.” When you call to make an appointment with a mental health specialist, office administration will be able discuss insurance coverage and payment policies with you over the phone.

Another option that is growing in popularity is internet counseling for panic disorder. Online counseling has several important advantages and disadvantages. For example, communicating with a therapist online may feel less intimidating than meeting in person and can be extremely helpful for those who are homebound due to agoraphobia. However, internet counseling is not typically covered by insurance companies, misdiagnosis of panic disorder can occur more easily, and online counseling can pose challenges to rapport-building compared to face-to-face interactions. Examine the pros and cons of online counseling for panic disorder to determine if this option is right for you.

Starting the Treatment Process

Once you have scheduled your initial session with a mental health provider, you may be wondering what to expect at your first session. There are several things you can do to be a little more prepared for your initial session and get the most out of the entire therapy process.

At your first session, your provider will want to collect as much information as possible to make an accurate diagnosis. Be prepared to talk about your medical history, descriptions of your symptoms, and overall functioning. It can be helpful to bring a list of your current medications, symptoms, and any questions you may have.

The amount of information that you discuss at your initial session can be overwhelming, so it may be valuable to take notes or bring along a trusted friend or family member. Your therapist may also provide you with brochures or other information regarding your condition that you can take home and review on your own time.

After your first session, your therapist will continue to build rapport with you and work with you on developing a treatment plan. To get the most out of therapy, make sure that your questions and concerns are addressed, follow through with your appointments, and continue work on your treatment goals both in and out of your therapy sessions.

There is no need to try to deal with your panic attacks and other panic disorder symptoms on your own. Seeking out help for panic disorder and agoraphobia may seem confusing and intimidating at first. However, once you have found a qualified professional, you will be on your way to recovery.

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