Panic attacks can occur either as part of any anxiety disorder OR as an issue all on their own. If you’ve been struggling with physical symptoms of anxiety lately such as: feelings of fear or worry, tension, racing heart, difficulty breathing, feelings of choking or difficulty swallowing, tingling or numbness in the hands or legs, or feelings of detachment from reality - please take the free anxiety test below.

While anxiety is a normal physical response in certain types of situations, if you’ve become preoccupied with trying to prevent these sensations from ever happening, it can begin to take a serious toll on your life including your relationships, social life, work, and day-to-day functioning. If this has become your daily life, therapy can help you reclaim the pieces of life you’ve started backing away from.

Panic As Part of Other Anxiety Conditions

For example, someone with OCD might have a panic attack if they are in a situation where too many objects around them feel potentially contaminated or a person with PTSD might experience a panic attack if they hear a song on the radio that reminds them of their trauma. In these examples where panic attacks happen as part of another anxiety condition, the physical symptoms of panic (while uncomfortable) aren’t the main focus for the person. In other words, their goal is NOT to avoid panicking, but rather, remains focused on the source of their anxiety (i.e. such as avoiding contaminated objects or avoiding reminders of their trauma).

When Panic Itself Becomes the Threat

For example, someone with OCD might have a panic attack if they are in a situation where too many objects around them feel potentially contaminated or a person with PTSD might experience a panic attack if they hear a song on the radio that reminds them of their trauma. In these examples where panic attacks happen as part of another anxiety condition, the physical symptoms of panic (while uncomfortable) aren’t the main focus for the person. In other words, their goal is NOT to avoid panicking, but rather, remains focused on the source of their anxiety (i.e. such as avoiding contaminated objects or avoiding reminders of their trauma).

For others, however, panic attacks become a nightmare all on their own. For these individuals, the panic attack itself feels so intolerable, so frightening, that they begin to worry about having another panic attack. As a result, they begin thinking about:

  1. ) situations in which they might potentially get anxious,
  2. ) how the anxiety might lead to panic if they can’t escape the situation in time, and
  3. ) how a panic attack might result in catastrophic consequences (either physically, mentally, or socially).

In these cases, this type of thinking and behavior is commonly referred to as “Panic Disorder” because the focus becomes all about avoiding and preventing potential panic attacks and any related physical symptoms and feelings.

We work with two types of people with panic disorder and physical symptoms anxiety:

Type 1: People who make small changes in their behavior in an effort to avoid panic attacks or the feared consequences associated with them. These clients typically make a lot of small changes in an attempt to decrease the odds of panicking such as:

Type 2: People who have started avoiding a more general list of places or activities because of the fear that it might cause them to experience physical symptoms of anxiety and panic. For these people, the intention is to try and avoid being anywhere where it might not feasible to leave easily or get help if it was needed for some reason. These clients typically avoid a much broader range of activities such as:

If you believe you may be experiencing panic attacks, to take a closer look at some of these symptoms and see which ones you can relate to, please take the free Panic Screening below, beginning with Part 1.

*If you DO NOT struggle with what you believe to be panic attacks, but can relate to some of the difficulties listed for Type 2, please skip ahead to Part 3 of the Panic Screening.

Panic Screening Part 1: Am I Experiencing Symptoms of a Panic Attack?

This portion of the screening consists of a series of symptoms that commonly occur as part of a panic attack. Consider a moment when you’ve experienced a “sudden rush of anxiety or fear”, or if this has happened multiple times for you, consider what symptoms you typically experience in these moments.

The symptoms must occur as a “sudden rush”, meaning they reach their peak within 10 min or less. Other types of anxiety can include similar feelings that occur with more of a “slow build” over a couple hours or days even, but in order to be considered a panic attack, the onset must be quick (10 minutes or less).

Select your score from the options below.

(0-1) Normal or Typical Physical Reactions to Stress

Your responses to this questionnaire indicate that while you may experience sudden changes in physical symptoms, they appear to be limited to very specific changes, rather than a “cluster” of changes all at once as with a panic attack. These changes may be happening in response to physical exertion such as climbing stairs or in response to environmental cues such as loud noises or a scary movie - all of which is typically normal. If you’re concerned about these symptoms or notice they are happening seemingly without any trigger (if your heart starts racing while you’re just sitting in a chair), it may be a good idea to discuss your concerns with your physician to rule out possible medical causes or with a mental health care provider to determine if further assessment is warranted.

If you find that physical symptoms don’t come on for you in the form of a “sudden wave” of anxiety, but rather a “slow build” or they’re more chronic, you may want to consider taking a different anxiety screening that focuses on elements of anxiety aside from just the physical symptoms such as:

(2-3) Symptoms of a “Limited Symptom Attack”

Your responses to this questionnaire indicate that you may be experiencing a few physical symptoms that come on rapidly such as racing heart and feelings of lightheadedness. Because you’ve indicated that you typically experience less than 4 symptoms at a time, it likely wouldn’t meet the symptom threshold for a panic attack. Instead, sudden episodes of 2-3 physical symptoms are often referred to as Limited Symptom Attacks. These episodes can come on as part of an anxiety condition, in response to physical exertion or environmental cues, or as the result of an underlying medical condition.

For this reason, you may want to consider consulting with a physician to rule out possible medical causes or with a mental health care provider to discuss treatment options if these symptoms are concerning to you.

If you’ve already ruled out possible medical causes for these symptoms or would like to further explore these symptoms as a possible result of anxiety, please continue on to Part 2.

(4-13) Symptoms are consistent with a Panic Attack

Your responses to this questionnaire suggest that you may likely be experiencing symptoms of a panic attack.

It’s important to note that panic attacks and panic-like symptoms can also be caused by common medical problems such as thyroid problems, use of certain medications, low blood sugar, heart conditions, asthma, allergies, and IBS among other things. For this reason, before beginning any therapy treatment for panic, it’s important to get checked out by your physician to rule out any possible medical causes. Panic attacks caused by medical conditions typically subside once the medical problem has been addressed.

If you’ve already ruled out possible medical causes for these symptoms or would like to further explore these symptoms as a possible result of anxiety, please continue on to Part 2.

Panic Screening Part 2: Is Avoiding Panic Affecting My Life?

For some people, the physical symptoms, thoughts, and feelings associated with a panic attack feel so terrifying or uncomfortable, that they’ll do anything to prevent another one from happening. Other people are more afraid of the potential consequences of panicking, such as imagining they will lose their job, be hospitalized, or publicly humiliated.

This portion of the screening consists of a series of common control strategies people commonly adopt after a panic attack, in an effort to prevent any future panic attacks. These behaviors include:

  1. ) Efforts to avoid activities that may cause uncomfortable physical symptoms that remind you of panic or that you worry could escalate to panic,
  2. ) Efforts to distract yourself from physical symptoms whenever they come up or in situations where you worry they could happen, and
  3. ) Attempts to rely on certain people, substances, or comfort objects to decrease the likelihood of panic

The following questions specifically focus on the period of time following a panic attack or near panic attack and any changes you make in an attempt to decrease the likelihood of a panic attack.

Select your score from the options below.

(0-25) Other Possible Anxiety Condition

Your responses on this self-report questionnaire indicate that while you may be experiencing panic attacks or limited symptom attacks (described above) you likely are not experiencing symptoms of Panic Disorder. Panic disorder is commonly characterized by at least a month of more of worrying about panic and how to prevent another panic attack from occurring.

However, if you identified with a number of the coping behaviors listed here, but use them to control or manage other types of anxiety, you may be experiencing another type of anxiety condition aside from Panic Disorder. Many of these coping behaviors, also known as safety behaviors, are very common with other types of anxiety in addition to Panic Disorder.

With other types of anxiety conditions, the same behaviors are used to control a different aspect of anxiety (for example, instead of trying to prevent physical symptoms or panic attacks, you might be using these to distract yourself from upsetting thoughts). These can include:

  1. Generalized Anxiety - With Generalized Anxiety, these same methods of distraction and avoidance are often used to distract yourself from worries, upsetting anxious thoughts about how things could go catastrophically wrong, or thoughts that you can’t handle things. If you can relate to this, please consider taking the Generalized Anxiety Screening
  2. PTSD - With PTSD, these same methods of distraction and avoidance are often used to manage feelings of hyper-vigilance about your surroundings, to ward off intrusive thoughts about past trauma, or to distract yourself from uncomfortable feelings that come up whenever something reminds you of a past emotionally painful experience. If you can relate to this, please consider taking the PTSD Screening
  3. OCD - With OCD, many of these methods can become compulsive behaviors depending on the frequency with which they’re used to cope with uncomfortable thoughts or feelings
  4. Social Anxiety - In cases of social anxiety, you might use these methods to distract yourself from anxious thoughts in social situations, to decrease physical symptoms in stressful social situations, or just to avoid them outright. If you can relate to this, please consider taking the Social Anxiety Screening
  5. Illness anxiety - With Illness Anxiety, these methods (particularly the ones related to medications, being far from medical help, and avoiding medical tv shows or documentaries) can be indicative of illness or health related anxiety. If you frequently experience intrusive thoughts about physical symptoms and worry they may be signs of some kind of illness, please consider taking the Illness Anxiety Screening

While this does not mean you are diagnosed with any of these conditions, it is important if you suspect you may be using many of these behaviors to control other types of anxiety, that you consult with a mental health professional to determine if further assessment or possible treatment is warranted.

To explore more general types of avoidance that commonly relate to anxiety, panic, and physical symptoms (more commonly known as Agoraphobia), please continue on to Part 3 of the Panic Screening.

(26-51) Mild to Moderate Impact

Your responses on this self-report questionnaire suggest that while you may worry about panic, the worry may not inhibit your life for significant length of time. Panic attacks are far more common than you think. Approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a panic attack at some point in their lifetime. Afterward, it’s common to worry about panic for a short time, however, the worry may dissipate quickly or may not be a focal point of concern for you.

If you continue to use these “control strategies” long term, however, in an effort to reduce the likelihood of experiencing physical symptoms or a panic attack, you may want to consult with a mental health professional regarding these behaviors and the degree to which they may be affecting your quality of life. Therapy can help to identify behaviors that may be keeping you stuck in the cycle of anxiety and reduce them over time to reclaim parts of your life you may have given up or your ability to be present in certain types of situations. To explore more general types of avoidance that commonly relate to anxiety, panic, and physical symptoms (more commonly known as Agoraphobia), please continue on to Part 3 of the Panic Screening.

(52-77) Moderate to Severe Impact

Your responses on this self-report questionnaire suggest that you may be experiencing symptoms of Panic Disorder and utilizing certain coping strategies or safety behaviors to help reduce the odds of panic and unwanted physical symptoms of anxiety. The higher your score, the more likely you’ve developed a wide range of safety behaviors in an effort to try and control your anxiety. Over time, it’s common for the list of avoided activities to get longer and longer, often leaving people feeling like they’ve had to give up many of the things they once enjoyed, in an effort to control their anxiety symptoms. This can cause significant impacts on relationships, work, family life, and day-to-day functioning over time.

While these results do not mean you are diagnosed with an anxiety condition or Panic Disorder, it is important if you are experiencing symptoms that are impacting your day to day life, to consult with a mental health professional regarding diagnosis and treatment options.

To explore more general types of avoidance that commonly relate to anxiety, panic, and physical symptoms (more commonly known as Agoraphobia), please continue on to Part 3 of the Panic Screening.

Panic Screening Part 3: Reduced Mobility

With anxiety and panic, some people use more general methods to try to control their symptoms, leading to what is more commonly known as Agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is the intention is to try and avoid being anywhere where it might not feasible to leave easily or get help if it was needed for some reason. Most commonly, this can include difficulty with the following types of places and situations:

  • Driving a car
  • Riding in a car as a passenger
  • Taking public transportation (bus, subway, taxi, Uber)
  • Flying
  • On a boat or cruise ship
  • Waiting in line
  • In a crowd (concert, street festival)
  • In a “big box store” (Lowe’s, Walmart, Ikea)
  • Restaurants
  • Movie Theaters
  • Being away from home
  • In an unfamiliar area or place
  • Taking an unfamiliar route
  • Getting a haircut
  • In wide open spaces (parking lots, fields)
  • In closed in spaces (basements, dressing rooms, bathrooms)
  • Staying home alone
  • Auditoriums or Stadiums
  • Elevators or Escalators

This portion of the screening focuses primarily on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to the types of situations listed here. Consider your experiences in these types of situations, in preparation for entering into these situations, or your attempts to avoid these specific types of situations when answering the following questions.

Select your score from the options below.

(0-4) None

Your responses on this self-report questionnaire indicate you are likely not currently experiencing symptoms of agoraphobia or that your mobility is not significantly affected by your anxiety. If you indicated that you do tend to avoid certain situations, engage in safety behaviors to reduce anxiety in certain types of situations, or rely on a support person to accompany you, you may be experiencing avoidance in relation to another type of anxiety condition such as:

  1. Specific phobias - With Specific Phobias, such as a fear of heights, elevators, or confined spaces, these same symptoms can occur in response to triggers. If you find that you only experience these symptoms in response to one of these situations, rather than with multiple, you may want to consult with a mental health provider to determine whether further assessment for specific phobias and possible treatment could be helpful.
  2. PTSD - It is common with PTSD to experience hyper-vigilance and frequently scan your surroundings for exits, however this is typically intended that you could potentially flee in the event of an attack or emergency. This differs from agoraphobia and panic in that the effort is to escape perceived danger, rather than to hide or escape unwanted physical symptoms of anxiety. If you believe you may be experiencing PTSD, please consider taking the PTSD Screening to take a closer look at your symptoms.
  3. Social anxiety - It is common with social anxiety to engage in safety behaviors specifically related to social situations and to avoid social situations in which you’re worried about feeling anxious or awkward. If you believe you may be experiencing Social Anxiety, please consider taking the Social Anxiety Screening to take a closer look at your symptoms.

While this does not mean you are diagnosed with any of these conditions, it is important if you suspect you may be using many of these behaviors to control other types of anxiety, that you consult with a mental health

(5-14) Mild

Your responses on this self-report questionnaire suggest that you may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety and they appear to be having a mild impact on your ability to engage in certain activities and enter into certain types of situations. While this does not necessarily mean you are diagnosed with Panic Disorder or Agoraphobia, it appears these symptoms may be starting to impact your day-to-day life such as your work, home life, or relationships.

If you’re concerned about your anxiety symptoms or your reduced mobility, it’s important to reach out to a mental health professional to talk more about what you’ve been experiencing and to see if further assessment and possible treatment could help.

(15-24) Moderate

Your responses on this self-report questionnaire suggest you are relying on certain avoidance or safety behaviors to manage symptoms of anxiety or fear. While this does not necessarily mean you are diagnosed with Panic Disorder or Agoraphobia, it appears these symptoms may be starting to significantly impact your day-to-day life such as your work, home life, or relationships.

If so, it’s important to reach out to a mental health professional to talk more about what you’ve been experiencing and to discuss possible treatment options. Research has shown therapy can have a significant impact in reducing your symptoms, increasing your ability to cope with certain types of situations, and restoring mobility.

(25-30) Severe

Your responses on this self-report questionnaire suggest you are relying on quite a few avoidance or safety behaviors to manage symptoms of anxiety or fear. At this point, you may feel you have a growing list of things you cannot do (or cannot do freely) because of your anxiety. While this does not necessarily mean you are diagnosed with Panic Disorder or Agoraphobia, it appears to be having a significant impact on your day-to-day functioning.

It’s common at this stage to rely heavily on others to complete tasks you feel unable to do for yourself and to spend much of your time at home focused on maintaining your sense of safety. It’s also common for these behaviors to begin to impact your mood in other ways such as beginning to develop depression as a result of feeling cut off from others or from previously enjoyed activities.

It’s important if you are experiencing symptoms of this severity to consult with a mental health professional regarding diagnosis and treatment options. Research has shown therapy can have a significant impact in reducing your symptoms, increasing your ability to cope with certain types of situations, and restoring mobility.

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Panic Attack CBT Therapy in Orlando

Approximately 5%, or over one hundred thousand people, in the greater Orlando area will experience panic disorder at some point in their lives. We provide a CBT Treatment for Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia, created by the leading researchers Michelle Craske and David Barlow. Studies conducted over the past 20 years have shown that 70-90% of individuals who complete this treatment program are panic-free. Unlike with medication, however, the benefits of CBT have been shown to hold up for years after completing treatment.

After completing a CBT Therapy program for panic disorder, 70-90% of individuals are PANIC-FREE.

We’re here to help.

If you or someone you know is struggling due to anxiety, depression, or trauma – and would like to know more about CBT or how to get started, please reach out. We offer cognitive behavioral therapy for depression, in Orlando and online, with trained CBT therapists.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

This self-report questionnaire is not intended to provide a diagnosis. While you may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety, the proper diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions can only be determined by a mental health professional or physician. Because symptoms of anxiety can sometimes be the result of other mental health conditions or physical health problems, it is important to consult with a mental health professional or your physician if you are concerned that you may be suffering from a anxiety disorder.

Disclaimer

These questionnaires are only for adults and are not designed to be administered to adolescents or children. By clicking on the questionnaire above, you acknowledge that the screen is not a diagnostic instrument and is only to be used by you if you are 18 years or older. Let’s Talk! Counseling and Services LLC disclaims any liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from the use and application of these questionnaires.


References

Adapted from the Severity Measure for Agoraphobia - Adult, provided by APA, which is available in the public domain to be reproduced without permission.

Barlow, D. H., Craske, M. G. (2007). Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic: Therapist Guide. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, USA.

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Anxiety Disorders. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.dsm05

Kessler, R. C., Chiu, W. T., Jin, R., Ruscio, A. M., Shear, K., & Walters, E. E. (2006). The epidemiology of panic attacks, panic disorder, and agoraphobia in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of general psychiatry, 63(4), 415–424. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.63.4.415

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