Psychodynamic Therapy Effective for Panic Disorder
> 3/20/2007 10:10:01 AM

Panic disorder, far from a fringe condition, is a large-scale drain on public health resources, accounting for one in five emergency room visits. The most common treatments for the disorder are applied relaxation training (ART), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication of the anti-depressant and anti-anxiety varieties, 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. Researchers meant to test the hypothesis that patients whose panic disorder stemmed from such factors would not respond well to the more popular treatments, both therapeutic and pharmaceutical. Many patients do not achieve their desired results with medications, whether taken alone or combined with behavioral therapies, and others choose not to take them because of unwanted side-effects. The study did not directly consider CBT, instead comparing the psychodynamic approach to relaxation therapy combined with various pharmaceutical regimens. ART is somewhat similar to CBT, often utilizing breathing exercises and quick response techniques with the ultimate goal of allowing patients to resist attacks. The 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 long suffered as a less-recognized therapeutic option. Like general psychotherapy, it 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 concerned about panic disorder. For those suffering from the disorder who've yet to find an effective form of treatment, this study provides evidence of another option that could offer greater chances of success.

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