What are the symptoms of a panic attack?
Not all people experience the same symptoms, but most will experience a combination of several physical and psychological symptoms including:
- Shortness of breath
- A pounding heart
- Chest pain
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Nausea and/or stomach problems
- Chills or hot flushes
- Shaking or trembling
- Numbness or tingling
- Feeling detached from oneself or from reality
- Fear of dying
- Fear of “going crazy”
What is panic disorder?
Panic disorder occurs when someone experiences repeated panic attacks. Because a panic attack is very unpleasant and can be frightening, the person begins to fear the next panic attack. Because of this fear, the person may begin to change their behaviour to avoid experiencing another attack, such as avoiding a situation where a panic attack has occurred previously, or constantly carrying anti-anxiety medication. These behaviours are referred to as safety behaviours, as they help the person to feel safer, but they are not helpful to overcome their fear of panic attacks. Panic disorder is quite common, with approximately 5% of people experiencing it at some point in their lives.
Treating panic attacks and panic disorder
An effective treatment for panic is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Research has shown that CBT more effective in treating panic symptoms than medication, although there are medications available that your GP can recommend that can be used in combination with psychological therapy.
CBT focuses on how our thoughts, assumptions and beliefs (cognitions), and our behaviours effect mood and mental well-being. It aims to help identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts and behaviours, and to learn to think and behave in more helpful ways. In treating panic, your psychologist may teach you relaxation and breathing techniques and/or help you to work through graded exposure. CBT is a short term therapy and usually goes for around 10-20 sessions, depending on the individual’s needs.
For more information or to make an appointment, contact us.