Panic attacks are extremely frightening and are an exaggerated form of Anxiety.
They can seem to come out of the blue, strike at random, make people feel powerless, out of control, and as if they are about to become unconscious, die or even go mad.
Many people experience panic attacks, but many also learn to cope and, eventually, to overcome them successfully.
Panic attacks are a kind of exaggerated version of the body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement.
When faced with a situation seen as potentially threatening, the body automatically gears itself up for danger, by producing quantities of Adrenalin for ‘fight or flight’.
This would have prepared our ancestors to fight or run away from danger, but it’s much less appropriate to the stresses or dangers that we encounter today.
However, our body can still respond in this way to both real and imagined dangers.
- muscles tense up
- breathing becomes faster to take in more oxygen, which muscles need to help them transform sugar into energy for action
- the heart pumps harder to get blood to where it’s needed
- blood is diverted to the muscles, away from areas that don’t need it, so you become pale
- digestion slows down and salivary glands dry up, causing a dry mouth
- your senses become more alert; the slightest sound or touch provokes a reaction
- sweating increases.
These reactions occur in just fractions of a second and can happen in moments of pleasurable excitement, as well as in fear-provoking and threatening situations.
When Adrenalin floods your body, it can cause a number of different physical and emotional sensations that may affect you during panic attacks.
Symptoms of Panic Attacks
The flood of Adrenalin may lead to the following physiological effects:
- very rapid breathing or feeling unable to breathe
- very rapid heartbeat
- pains in your chest
- feeling faint or dizzy
- ringing in your ears
- tingling or numbness in your hands and feet
- hot or cold flushes
- feeling nauseous
- wanting to go to the toilet
- feelings of absolute terror
- feelings of unreality
Panic attacks generally come on very quickly with symptoms usually peaking within 10 minutes.
Most panic attacks last for between five and 20 minutes although they can often feel like they are longer.
How Long Do Panic Attacks Last?
Some people report attacks lasting for up to an hour, but they are likely to be experiencing one attack after another, or a high level of anxiety after the initial attack.
You may have one or two panic attacks and never experience another. Or you may have attacks once a month or several times each week. Panic attacks can come in the night when you are asleep.
These night-time attacks occur as your body is on ‘high alert’ and can detect small, normal changes in your body which it then takes as a sign of danger.
Night-time panic attacks may be particularly frightening, as you may feel confused and helpless to do anything to spot it coming.
This is one of the most distressing aspects of suffering from panic attacks – they may seem completely unpredictable, and therefore uncontrollable.
During an attack, you may fear that the world is going to come to an end, or that you are about to die or go mad.
The most important thing to remember is that, however dreadful you may feel during an attack, this is not going to happen.
The bodily effects of panic attacks, such as breathlessness, are just part of the panic.
It is very important that you rule out any biological reason for your panic attacks, and we strongly advise that you consult your GP before consulting us so that you can be sure that the problem is Psychological.
What Sorts of Things Can Produce Panic Attacks?
There are a number of physical causes that could be causing or contributing to your panic attacks:
- Unstable blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia) can be the result of poor eating habits, dieting and fasting or some diabetic conditions
- Over-breathing (hyperventilation) happens when you are under stress, though you may not be aware of it. Your breathing becomes more rapid, in order to meet the body’s demand for more oxygen for the muscles. As a result, you breathe out more carbon-dioxide than normal, which can bring on panic symptoms.
- Digestive problems, particularly food allergies, may be to blame.
- Excessive Caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, and certain street drugs (such as LSD, marijuana and cocaine) can bring on a panic reaction.
- Withdrawing from any drug that has a sedative effect, such as nicotine, alcohol and tranquillisers, can do the same.
- Some prescription medication, including some amphetamines, steroids, anti-asthma drugs, and even nasal decongestants have been reported to increase anxiety.
- Being in chronic pain can be another cause of panic attacks, as can simple jet lag.
Psychological Factors in Panic Attacks
It has been well established that there are two significant psychological components associated with panic attacks.
These are (1) generally held ‘perceptions’ about what constitutes danger, and (2) the ‘appraisal’ of bodily sensations linked with the tendency to ‘catastrophise‘ about likely outcomes.
Understanding and changing these ‘cognitive’ (thinking) process can have significant ameliorating effects on panic attacks and their severity.
Psychotherapy for Panic Attacks
Tranceform Psychology can offer a range of different psychotherapy solutions for panic attacks which you can read about below.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Panic Attacks
If you’re committed to overcoming your panic problems then we highly recommend following our Tranceformental CBT 10 session programme.
The Tranceformental programme is a highly successful & pragmatic psychotherapy course, run over 10 sessions, that will teach you everything you need to know to understand your problem, identify how unhelpful thinking and limiting beliefs might be reinforcing the issue, and then show you how to make any changes to your unhelpful thinking styles or maladaptive safety behaviours that you may have developed as part of your coping strategies.
The programme is also available as an online self-help CBT programme.
Our Tranceformental CBT programme is an empirically supported approach used by mental health practitioners around the World.
Teach Yourself CBT and Overcome Panic Attacks for only £149!
Our online CBT course has been designed to teach you the fundamental tools and techniques of clinically proven Cognitive Behavioural Therapy without having to see a therapist.
Structured over TEN, in-depth modules, this self-managed course will teach you everything you need to know to change the way you think about and experience your problems without having to visit a therapist.
Click Self-Help CBT to find out more.
Alternative Therapies for Panic Attacks
Although our preferred form of psychotherapy for panic disorders is Tranceformental CBT we also offer alternative psychotherapies for those who might prefer a different approach.
General Counselling which is less structured but still provides a safe and non-judgmental environment to discuss issues which is therapeutic in its own right.
Free Initial Consultations for Panic Attacks
We offer all prospective clients a FREE initial consultation to discuss your panic problems prior to commencing any treatment plans.
The consultation is free and lasts around 50 minutes.
During this consultation we will discuss the various therapy options that are available to you and make a considered recommendation based on your individual personal circumstances.
Initial consultations are also available as part of our online therapy service.
At Tranceform Psychology we recognise the importance of the therapeutic relationship in helping people to bring about effective change, so its important to be able to ‘meet’ to discuss any therapy treatments BEFORE proceeding.
Our policy is to help people make a fully balanced & considered decision about undertaking work with us, including both the financial and personal implications.
Overcome Your Problems with our CBT Course
Our 10 session course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is clinically proven to be effective across a range of different psychological problems.
Using an online learning platform, it is available with 2, 5 or 10 sessions of clinical support either face-to-face in the Wombourne offices, or using Zoom video facilities.
It can also be taken as a self help CBT course that will teach you the fundamental tools and techniques used throughout the mental health profession.