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CBT + Exposure Therapy for Panic Disorder

Denver, CO and Beyond

Exposure therapy is a highly effective, evidence-based treatment specifically designed for managing panic disorder and panic attacks. It's considered a cornerstone in the treatment of panic disorders due to its proven ability to break the cycle of fear and anticipatory anxiety that leads to panic attacks. This method operates by gradually exposing you to the physical sensations of panic in a safe and controlled environment, without the actual danger.

As you progress through treatment, you will begin to notice a change in how you respond to these sensations, which often mimic the symptoms of panic attacks, such as rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath. The frequency and intensity of panic attacks will start to decrease, and the overwhelming fear of them happening will lessen. After several sessions, you will experience a significant transformation in your relationship with the triggers and symptoms of panic disorder.

Through controlled exposure, you learn to manage and eventually reduce your fear response to the sensations associated with panic attacks. This leads to a profound sense of control and empowerment. The therapy provides you with tools and strategies to face and accept these feelings without the usual response of fear or escape. Ultimately, engaging in exposure therapy can significantly improve your ability to handle potential panic-inducing situations, giving you a lasting sense of confidence and freedom from fear.

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In-person sessions available throughout the Denver, CO area. Online sessions offered throughout CO, NV, AZ, NJ, WA, UT, and IL


Panic Disorder

Panic disorder can often feel like being lost in a perplexing, chaotic world. It's a condition that preys on your deepest anxieties, fooling you into believing that you are in constant danger of a catastrophic event, such as a heart attack or losing control. But here's the twist: the more you fear and avoid the symptoms of a panic attack, the more entrenched the panic disorder becomes. It's a cycle where the dread of another attack provokes extreme anxiety, leading to behaviors aimed at avoiding that fear. However, each time you avoid a feared situation or use safety behaviors to escape discomfort, it only reinforces the panic disorder, making the fear of future attacks seem more inevitable and intense.

This cycle can start small, but it often expands over time, progressively encroaching on more aspects of your life. You might begin avoiding places or activities where previous panic attacks occurred, such as driving or shopping in crowded stores. It's as though panic disorder is cornering you, compelling you to live in ways that contradict your true aspirations and interests. You might find yourself foregoing enjoyable experiences or necessary tasks because they might trigger an attack.

These behaviors and the limitations they impose can significantly disrupt your daily life. You might avoid certain job opportunities because they require travel, or you might skip social events because the fear of having a panic attack in public is too overwhelming. It's important to recognize these patterns as symptoms of panic disorder, not as personal shortcomings or eccentricities. They are indications of a treatable disorder, not reflections of your character. Acknowledging this is the first step toward reclaiming the life that panic disorder has been gradually stripping away.


Exposure therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) work together to treat panic disorder by addressing both the thoughts and behaviors that fuel panic attacks. CBT helps you recognize the thoughts that arise before or during a panic attack, like "I’m going to die" or "I can't handle this." You learn to challenge these thoughts by evaluating their accuracy and looking for evidence that contradicts them. For instance, recalling past panic attacks that were uncomfortable but not life-threatening. You then replace these negative thoughts with more realistic and balanced ones, such as "Panic attacks are uncomfortable, but they are not dangerous."

Exposure therapy gradually exposes you to the physical sensations of panic in a safe and controlled environment, without any real danger. You might intentionally induce physical sensations that are similar to those experienced during a panic attack, like rapid breathing or heart palpitations, under the guidance of a therapist. Starting with less intense exposures, you gradually work up to more challenging scenarios. This controlled exposure helps you become less sensitive to these sensations over time. By repeatedly facing your fears without the expected catastrophic outcomes, you learn that these sensations can be managed and are not inherently harmful. This repeated safe exposure reduces the fear associated with these sensations and decreases the overall anxiety about experiencing panic attacks.

Together, CBT and exposure therapy help you understand and manage your thoughts and physical reactions related to panic disorder, reducing the frequency and intensity of panic attacks and improving your ability to cope with them.

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What can I expect from CBT and Exposure Therapy for Panic Disorder?

After completing a course of exposure therapy combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for panic disorder, you're likely to experience a significant reduction in the frequency and intensity of your panic attacks. For some individuals, these episodes might become much less frequent or even cease altogether. For others, the overwhelming sensations of panic become less intense and more manageable. You'll also notice that the dread of impending panic attacks begins to fade, freeing up more time and reducing worry about when the next attack might occur.

Many people emerge from this therapy with a greater sense of control over their responses to anxiety-triggering situations, learning that they can handle intense emotions and physiological responses without resorting to avoidance or escape behaviors. This boost in confidence and autonomy typically improves how you function in daily activities. Plus, the skills you develop in therapy—such as facing your fears, managing anxiety effectively, and staying composed during stress—are not only applicable to dealing with panic disorder; they prove beneficial in various aspects of life. You might find improvements in your relationships, professional performance, and social interactions because you are no longer constrained by the fear of panic attacks.

Overall, engaging in exposure therapy and CBT for panic disorder can provide a profound sense of relief and empowerment, equipping you with the tools to maintain your progress and face future challenges with increased resilience and confidence.

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