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Panic Disorder-The Mind-Body Connection

by Dr. Blumberg on May 22, 2011

This educational information should be used in consultation with your doctor to confirm a diagnosis and to review available treatments for panic disorder.


Do You Fit The Panic Profile?

  1. Do you live in fear of panic symptoms?
    Do you wake up in the morning wondering “Will my heart pound today?”
  2. Worry about panic symptoms can trigger symptoms
    Sometimes can you worry so much about getting heart pounding that you trigger it?
  3. Trapped situations where you can’t get out trigger symptoms
    Do you worry about getting sick when you are far away from home?
  4. Distraction, getting busy, getting your mind on something else leads to a lowering of symptoms
    When you distract yourself, does your heart pounding lessens?
  5. When you feel symptoms, does worry about the symptoms make them stronger?
    When you get afraid that your heart pounding will damage your heart, does your heart pound faster?

One of the cardinal features of panic disorder is the phobia of normal bodily sensations. Panic sufferers have a “heart pounding phobia, a dizziness phobia, a there/not there disorientation phobia.” Panic disorder is very different from a simple phobia where the individual fears a specific type of situation like heights, dogs, or air travel. In simple phobias, the catastrophic thinking is about a disaster triggered by facing the situation. For example, it is very common for the person with a dog phobia to think, “What if the dog attacks me?”  The fear of being attacked by a dog does not make the dog more massive, more aggressive, or have sharper teeth.

Panic Disorder-A Phobia of Normal Bodily Sensations

In panic disorder, when you react with fearful thinking about what is happening in your body, like “my heart is pounding so fast I think I am having a heart attack,” this fearful (catastrophic) thinking actually causes the heart pounding to intensify. With panic disorder, the fearful focus is completely centered inwardly on how you feel in your body. Your fearful attention on your body actually can cause the heart to pound faster. This special feature of panic disorder – “The Fear of Fear” (Claire Weekes “Hope and Help for Your Nerves”) – leads many patients to start using distraction (listening to the radio, calling a friend or family member) as a temporary relief from panic attacks even before they learn the TakeControl Training Method.

Distraction Feeds The Body Phobia

The problem is that distraction is an incorrect method of taking control of panic. You are feeding your phobia by trying to run from your body.  Just as running from a dog is not the treatment for a dog phobia, running from your body is not the treatment for panic disorder. However, the point of the Mind-Body Checklist is to demonstrate the relationship between fearful thinking and your bodily sensations.  Once you see this relationship you come one step closer to confirming a diagnosis of panic disorder.

The ideas in this Blog are developed from Dr. Blumberg’s panicLINK Program.  PanicLINK is a twelve session, four phase, multi-media educational, comprehensive program on panic disorder. The material in this Blog and the panicLINK Program are copyright protected by Out of the Blue Network, LLC.  No permission is granted to reproduce this Blog for commercial purposes. For more information about panicLINK connect at




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