Panic Attacks with Agoraphobia
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Q:  Dear Dr. Phelps:

I have Bipolar II and panic attacks with agoraphobia. I have trouble with open spaces and driving a car. I cannot drive to work by myself. I was wondering your thoughts on emotional support or service animals for such disorders.

Thank you

Dear Terri -- 
Although it won't necessarily be a miracle or the complete answer to your overall situation, there is a psychotherapy specific for panic disorder (including with agoraphobia, just as you describe) that has better results in the long run than medications. In one study 80% of participants were panic-free after 12 sessions. The method was developed by a psychologist named David Barlow, and is usually referred to by the name of the manual he and colleagues wrote for this program, which has been very widely used (and would be even more widely used if the psychologists had as much marketing money as the antidepressant manufacturers, whose product works, but not as well -- and can make bipolar disorder worse, where the therapy cannot). 

Here's a link to my webpage on this treatment, called cognitive-behavioral therapy for panic disorder. It explains how to find a therapist and how to get the manual. Even people who have had something similar before, but haven't used this manual before, are likely to benefit.  And it helps avoid antidepressants that can potentially make bipolar disorder worse. Talk with your doctor about using this approach. \

Dr. Phelps

Published July, 2006


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