Panic Attacks

Having a panic attack can be an extremely scary experience. During a panic attack you may feel as if you have no control over your body and the sensations that are arising. You may fear that you are dying, having a heart attack, that you will humiliate yourself, or even that you might be going crazy.

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A panic attack is a sudden rush or an episode of uncomfortable physical symptoms and debilitating fear and distress. A panic attack is an episode of intense anxiety and panic that reaches a peak within minutes and can last from several minutes to hours. In order to be diagnosed with panic disorder, you must have excessive worry and preoccupation with a recurring attack, not just have an attack.

 

Panic disorder develops when an individual develops a persistent fear and preoccupation with having recurrent panic attacks and therefore avoids certain people and situations.

Panic disorder is a fear of physiological symptoms. The individual learns to perceive the bodily sensations of the fight-or-flight response (sensations like increased heart rate, sweating, and lightheadedness) as dangerous, and then becomes frightened of the sensations and avoids situations in which the fear may get triggered.

We will work together with you to provide you with a clear understanding of the root of panic and the behaviors you engage in that maintain your symptoms as well as the key role of avoidance. Treatment will include tracking and monitoring your triggers, thoughts, feelings, and the behaviors you engage in during the week. You and your therapist will build an exposure hierarchy of your feared situations and gradually take steps towards experiencing the bodily sensations that you have been avoiding. To prepare for this, you will learn how to utilize helpful coping tools like deep breathing, safe space, and mindfulness. Using these tools will enable you to both experience your physiological reactions and to build a new relationship with your bodily sensations.

 What are the signs?

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness, feeling faint, or lightheaded
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Chills or hot flushes
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Palpitations, pounding heart, accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain

How we can help:

  • Learn effective coping strategies to minimize panic attacks
  • Decrease avoidant behaviors
  • Prevent future panic attacks
  • Cultivate mindfulness and self-compassion skills