For many, panic attacks can feel frightening and debilitating. They can stop you from leading a full and happy life.
Most people feel anxious or panicky at some point in their lives and like many mental health conditions, the reasons behind the anxiety and panic getting worse will vary from one individual to another. They could stem from a stressful or traumatic life experience or from a build-up of not addressing certain emotional issues: like repressed anger or sadness.
A therapist can help you explore the root causes, feelings and the story behind why you are experiencing the panic attacks, giving you the space to work through them. They can also give you tools to manage a panic attack through breathing, meditation and stress management, also helping you to understand behaviours and ways of thinking that might be contributing to the onset of a panic attack.
There may be certain places or times that a panic attack is more likely to happen and a therapist can help you explore those patterns and look at ways to cope and reduce the anxiety.
I thought panic attacks could only be helped by taking medication …
Yes, your doctor may prescribe you medication to help you deal with the anxiety and they may carry out a physical examination to rule out any other conditions, so it is always advisable to visit your GP. They may also suggest that you combine
psychological therapies and counselling with your treatment so that you can identify the underlining causes of your anxiety and work through it. Medication may help with the symptoms but it does not address the cause.
How can a panic attack be a psychological issue when I feel it so strongly in my body?
Anxiety and fear can cause you to panic which in turn can make your body go into a ‘fight or flight’ response. This is easy to understand if something dangerous is running towards you, like a wild dog. Our response can either be to run away or to fight the dangerous animal. Whilst your body goes into this mode, it activates hormones which increases blood pressure, your heart rate as well as your breathing rate, all meant to assist you to survive the situation you find yourself in.
However, panic disorder can be triggered when there appears to be little, or no, underlying risk. This causes many people question why their body has gone into the “fight or flight” mode. Past trauma can cause this intense fear that leads to panic disorder. Therapy offers a safe space to work through the trauma.