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Panic Attacks & Panic Disorder

Updated: July 23, 2022

Panic attacks are relatively common in the UK, and more prevalent in women. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people will have at least one panic attack in their lifetime, with 2-3% of the UK population impacted by panic disorder, which entails recurring and unexpected panic attacks.

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What Is Panic?

Panic relates to an intense discomfort or fear that comes on suddenly. A panic attack is when this fear is accompanied by physical symptoms, which vary between people. Some typical symptoms include increased heart rate, sweating, and rapid and shallow breathing. Panic attacks can peak within minutes and happen unexpectedly, or are triggered by specific situations.

 

Panic disorder is a mental health condition and one of the anxiety disorders.  Those affected experience a sudden onset of panic symptoms which recur. Due to the fear and distress associated with having an attack, people who experience the condition tend to worry about having another attack. This means they may avoid certain situations because they believe it will trigger an attack. This kind of avoidance can impact daily life, relationships, and life quality.

What Are The Symptoms?

Typical Panic Symptoms Include:

  1. Discomfort or pain in the chest
  2. Palpitations (rapid heartbeat)
  3. Feeling short of breath, or as if you’re choking
  4. Cold chills or sweating
  5. Shaking or trembling
  6. Light headedness or dizziness
  7. Nausea or abdominal problems
  8. Fear of losing control or that you’re going crazy
  9. Feeling detached from oneself or reality
  10. Fear of dying

What Causes Panic Disorder?

As with most mental health conditions, there is no known direct cause for the development of panic disorder. Research suggests a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. For example:

 

  1. Genetic inheritance: Panic disorder can run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition to the condition.
  2. Brain chemistry: Abnormalities in brain chemicals like norepinephrine and serotonin may contribute to the development of panic disorder.
  3. Environmental factors: Stress, trauma, and major life transitions, such as bereavement or the loss of a job can sometimes trigger panic attacks in people.
  4. Cognitive factors: Certain thinking styles, such catastrophising or misinterpreting body sensations as harmful can increase the likelihood of developing panic disorder.
  5. Substance misuse: Drugs, including alcohol might trigger, or exacerbate panic symptoms in some people.

How Phinity Therapy Can Help

Even though panic attacks or panic disorder can be challenging to live with, they are treatable. At Phinity, we will start my conducting a holistic psychological assessment towards development of a suitable treatment plan. This can result in the option of various psychological treatments that have proven effective for panic disorder. These include:

 

  1. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT is an evidence based therapy which helps people identify, manage, and change negative thought patterns and behaviours that impact panic attacks. This may involve learning about your triggers, relaxation techniques, and facing feared situations in a managed and paced way.
  2. Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is a type of CBT that involves gradually exposing an individual to the situations or objects that they fear. This can help desensitize them to these triggers and reduce the likelihood of panic attacks.
  3. Mindfulness-based interventions: Mindfulness-based interventions, such as mindfulness meditation or yoga, can help individuals learn to be more present in the moment and reduce stress and anxiety.
  4. Psychodynamic therapy: Psychodynamic therapy can help individuals explore the underlying emotional and psychological factors that may contribute to panic attacks and develop strategies for managing these feelings.
  5. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): ACT aims to reduce stress and anxiety by helping individuals learn to manage and accept their thoughts and feelings instead of trying to avoid or control them. This can improve overall mental health.
What Causes Panic Disorder?How Phinity Therapy Can Help

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