Treating Anxiety And Panic Attacks Through CBT
December 12, 2021

Background

As someone in the mental health field, I help people from all walks of life deal better with past and present challenges. In my practice, I use cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a form of psychological treatment that helps deal with your problems by changing your way of thinking. It is based on the concept that a person’s perception towards their problems affect their way of thinking and behavior. Unlike other forms of psychotherapy, CBT focuses on the present and works by altering the person’s negative thought pattern into the positive one. The patient works with the psychologist to identify his negative thoughts and work on changing these unhelpful thoughts.

I have a postgraduate degree in clinical psychology and I am currently carrying out my own practice both online and in-person. My experience with CBT traces back to the time when I was practicing in a hospital. During my practice, I dealt with a number of patients suffering from different psychological issues. Using various therapeutic techniques, I have these patients overcome their blocks by identifying their positive and negative feelings about their situation. Among all those techniques, the technique I mostly use to treat my clients is CBT. I have applied this technique successfully on many of my clients, helping them overcome unproductive vicious thought cycles.

Case study

Two years back in 2019 during my clinical practice in a hospital, Sam, a 32 year old woman came to me saying she was feeling restless and edgy all the time, getting dizzy and sometimes having blurred vision. She also felt nauseous at times, and experienced muscle aches and fatigue. Upon exploring her background, she revealed that her home conditions were not optimal.

She had a toxic relationship with her family, with the exception of her husband, who was usually on her side. She feared eventually losing her husband, who was her only pillar. I also discovered that she took medications for migraine. Different doctors attributed Sam’s migraine to stress. After a few initial sessions, I came to the conclusion that Sam had a generalized anxiety disorder with panic attacks. I wanted to approach Sam’s anxiety with CBT since it was helpful in other somewhat similar cases. With this in mind, we got to work.

Challenging negative thoughts

One of the components that can make sessions very successful is the patient’s willingness and interest in the sessions. Thankfully Sam had high motivation in following through on the sessions as she was painfully aware of the distress this was causing in her life. The main focus of my initial sessions was to help her better understand her own condition and the environment around her.

First, I helped her to identify her own thought pattern. After a few conversations, Sam was able to recognize that she was overgeneralizing the behavior of her family. She had a distorted thinking that her family was plotting against her. Her own thoughts were becoming a source of distress for her. Sam and I worked together and listed down these thoughts and challenged them by questioning their evidence.

I also challenged the concerns regarding losing her husband, which was a major stressor contributing to the panic attacks. Using CBT worksheets for coping with anxiety, Sam was able to restructure her thoughts and replace them with realistic ones. Along with that, I used relaxation techniques on her to alleviate her emotional disturbances and desensitize her anxiety. These techniques also helped her to become more aware of her emotional state and learn to let go of the anxious thoughts. I also gave her homework to practice the coping skills to change her own thinking during problematic situations.

Sam’s recovery

After a few months, Sam felt much better and her symptoms were now infrequent. All the CBT techniques we used were successful in addressing her anxiety and panic incidents. She had great motivation to keep going, and therefore her prognosis was very good. I also saw great improvements in her thinking pattern and behavior. She was now a more positive person with no recurrence in panic attacks. She had now learned how to deal with her old stressors by changing her way of thinking. 

Mai Saghir

Clinical Psychologist

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