Psychodynamic Therapy an Option for Panic Disorder
> 5/30/2008 12:04:00 PM


Panic disorder, often thought of as a less common behavioral health concern, accounts for as many as one in five emergency room visits. The most common treatments for the disorder are applied relaxation training (ART), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications, but new studies indicate that a less popular form of emotion-based therapy may be a more effective response. Where CBT often focuses on routine, discussing external panic triggers and exposing patients to these elements as part of a carefully laid-out plan to help them learn to relax mechanically and prevent potentially crippling avoidant behaviors, psychodynamic therapy aims to uncover the roots of the disorder. In many cases, this process entails diving into the personal and emotional histories of the patients involved.

Though inherited tendencies make panic disorder much more likely, it can also stem from a number of life experiences such as prolonged substance abuse, military service, and childhood trauma. Many panic disorder sufferers do not achieve their desired improvements with medications, whether taken alone or combined with behavioral therapies, and other individuals choose not to take them because of unwanted side effects. In one specific psychodynamic therapy study, which appeared in the March 2007 edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers did not directly consider CBT, instead comparing the psychodynamic approach to relaxation therapy combined with various pharmaceutical regimens. ART is similar to CBT in some ways as it often utilizes breathing exercises and quick response techniques with the ultimate goal of allowing patients to resist attacks. The 2007 study's results were very clear, as the number of patients responding favorably to treatment was twice as high among those undergoing psychodynamic therapy.

This study's most significant effect may be the drawing of newfound attention to psychodynamic therapy, which has been practiced for many years but is often a less-considered therapeutic option. Like general psychotherapy, psychodynamic therapy often involves attempts to plumb the unconscious mind and find explanations for difficulties with behavior and mood, but its courses tend to be shorter in duration and more direct in their focus. Relieving phobias is one of psychodynamic therapy's primary functions, making it especially relevant to patients dealing with panic disorder. For those suffering from the disorder who've yet to find an effective form of treatment, this new information provides evidence of another option that could offer greater chances of success.

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