What is a Panic Attack?
A panic attack can be described as an intense and overwhelming feeling of fear that something awful is going to happen. If you have experienced a panic attack you might have thoughts such as ”What if I’m dying?’ or ‘What if I’m going crazy?’.
Symptoms of panic can include a racing heart beat or palpitations, sweating, trembling, shaking, shortness of breath, choking sensation, chest pain and dizziness. A panic attack can come out of nowhere and feel like it is going to last forever. Going through a panic attack feels awful and we may dread the thought of having to go into situations that might trigger off another attack.
These symptoms of panic are the result of heightened adrenaline levels in the body, whereby the body goes into it’s fight or flight mode. It is part of the same system that is triggered off as if we are being attack by a predator and our survival instincts have taken over. The problem with panic is that the brain has set off a false alarm that something extremely bad and immediate is going to happen. However, it is a perceived threat rather than a real one, but it feels so intense and frightening that you will start to avoid activities that where you fear you may have a panic attack.
It can be extremely distressing and debilitating for someone to experience recurrent panic attacks. It can really prevent you from doing the things in life that matter to you.
How can CBT help?
CBT Treatment involves gaining a fuller understanding of the causes and triggers of a panic attack in your life. Panic is like a vicious cycle and if we are able to interrupt certain aspects of this then we can start to reduce your symptoms.
What usually keeps this vicious cycle going is the tendency to avoid certain places where you may fear you will have a panic attack. If you do have to go to these places you may do certain things to reduce your fear of having a panic attack. For example, sit close to the nearest exit, keep hold of a bottle of water or focus on using your phone helps to distract from the unpleasant sensations of anxiety in the body. These are known as avoidance and safety seeking strategies. We do them to control our anxiety or get rid of anxiety in the short term. However, when you try to resist, control or avoid these sensations of anxiety in the body, the fear centre of the brain found in the amygdala will assume that it is a threat. Engaging in this vicious cycle of trying to continuously control or get rid of anxiety keeps it going in the long term. We never get the chance to learn something new, that perhaps there are other ways to cope with anxiety and panic.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or if you would like to to book an appointment don’t hesitate to get in touch on our contact form below, or phone us at 086 840 3722.