Using therapy to overcome panic attacksExperiencing a panic attack can be a terrifying ordeal which can leave us feeling confused, vulnerable and low.  Panic attacks (also known as anxiety attacks) are part of our natural survival system that is being activated at the wrong time.  They can have a huge impact on a person’s life and the lives of those around them.

You may also want to read the Anxiety section of this website.

Panic Attack Treatment

Panic Attacks can be treated in a number of ways and working together we’d use the techniques that you feel will fit best with you.

A talk therapy such as Counselling can give an insight into the roots allowing you to be aware of what triggers are likely to affect you and how and put the right coping mechanisms in place.  Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) we can begin to see how your thought patterns are affecting you and seek to challenge these as well as allowing you to develop new coping strategies.

Anxiety and panic is experienced by each individual in there own unique way, hence it’s very important that we work collaboratively to assist you in finding the solutions and strategies that fit for you.

About Panic Attacks

A panic attack is the body’s natural reaction to a perceived threat.  It can be described as the sudden onset of intense fear and apprehension, therefore, the experience can be terrifying.

The physical symptoms of panic attacks can be very severe, can vary from person to person and can commonly be: –

  • Hyperventilating
  • Tingling or Pins & needles
  • Shaking
  • Strong feelings of fear
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Unable to draw breath
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of being mad or mentally ill
  • Hot or cold flushes
  • Sweating

Panic Attacks are trigger the Flight or Fight Syndrome (also known as the Stress Response) which is part of our natural defence systems which reacts to a perceived threat to enable us to either flight or flee the threat.  This is an archaic part of us that helped protect our distant ancestors from dangerous situations (when we were out hunting for example).

The response consists of the secretion of certain hormones, the inhibition of others and the activation of particular parts of the nervous system.  It’s purpose is to mobilise energy, blunt pain, sharpen thoughts and ensure energies are fed to the right areas such as the major organs and major muscles.  In doing this blood is diverted from other areas (such as our extremities like hands a feet, hence a tingling sensation is common) and bodily repairs and the digestive system is halted as in that moment, they are not necessary to help survive the perceived threat.

What happens –

  • Glucose and proteins come out of fat cells to be delivered to the appropriate muscles.
  • Heart and Breathing Rate with Blood Pressure increases to deliver fast.
  • Any long term building plans are halted.
  • Digestion, Growth, Immunity and Re-production is inhibited.
  • Perception of Pain is blunted

Panic attacks can vary in frequency and can be triggered by certain situations or circumstances. These situations and circumstances again will vary from person to person but are often associated in being around other people however, the actual triggers can actually be much deeper and may be resultant on long periods of extreme stress.

Situations that can bring on a panic attacks include: –

  • Eating out
  • Driving
  • Public speaking
  • The anticipation of going out
  • Going out
  • Being in the situation when the first panic attack was experienced

Each attack can potentially create a new situation to avoid. For example, suffering an attack in a supermarket can result in the avoidance of going to supermarkets. Having a panic attack whilst driving could spell the avoidance of driving and so on.

The amygdela holds responsibility for people experiencing  panic attacks.  The amygdela are a pair of small organs in the temporal lobe of the brain is part of the limbic system whose primary role is the processing of emotional reactions such as the stress response or flight or fight response.  They form and store memories associated with anxiety which means that for each panic attack experienced, it remembers this to apply to similar situations.  Therefore once we’ve experienced a panic attack, we can then often experience them again in similar situations and the number of places we experience them can quickly grow.

Panic attacks can be treated in a number of ways.  Often, self education is a good start to allow you to gain an understanding of what is happening.  Both CBT and counselling can be very effective to build new coping strategies, look at causation and develop longer term maintenance mechanisms.