Panic attacks are brief episodes of extreme fear. They may be mistaken for heart attacks or strokes, but are actually psychological rather than physical. Panic attacks can occur suddenly and usually peak within ten minutes. Most panic attacks end within 20 to 30 minutes.
Some symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Feelings of suffocation
Sometimes panic attacks are isolated incidents, but if a person has had at least two panic attacks and lives in fear of having another, they may have panic disorder. A panic attack can happen without an obvious cause, but people with panic disorder may develop phobias related to something they associate with panic attacks, including open spaces, and large crowds.
Panic disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder, and like other forms of anxiety, it is commonly treated with a combination of therapy, medications, and healthy lifestyle changes. Anxiety patients are also encouraged to do breathing exercises, get regular exercise, and to avoid stimulants.
Panic is scary! Clients often report feeling extreme anxiety when they fear and anticipate a possible panic attack; or when they reflect on a previous attack. Therapy for panic is situational. One person may respond well to exposure therapy and facing their fears, especially when the phobia is something they cannot avoid. Meanwhile, others may be in a situation where the fear is not one that needs to faced, rather their feelings just need to be understood and their attached thought-process may need some modification.
In either case, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an evidence-based intervention that suggests the client challenges the way they are currently thinking in an effort to formulate healthier thoughts. By disputing irrational thoughts the client can take advantage of a safe environment while re-training the way they see situations that - outside of their own mind - are otherwise harmless...or no longer harmless.
If you feel anxious about discussing your panic I hope to reassure you that my office is comfortable. I offer comforting aids that are absolutely optional, including but not limited to: fidgeting gadgets; drawing, coloring and doodling tools; essential oil difuser; rock painting; magazines to read or cut and collage; music...and unbiased, nonjudgmental listening.