Imagine going through your life, always afraid that at any moment – wham! – a wave of absolute terror and panic will overtake you. Welcome to the life of a panic attack sufferer.
People who suffer panic attacks describe them as intensely unpleasant, overwhelming and even debilitating. They can last from short intense ‘moments’ to long, continuous sessions of panic and fear.
Panic attacks usually fall within the ‘anxiety’ cluster of experiences. Often the way people describe panic attacks closely resembles the way people describe severe anxiety.
Many people have no idea where their panic attacks come from, or what they are related to. Whilst some sufferers can identify when and how their panic attacks began, it can be extremely discomforting for others as they can’t identify a ‘reason’. Even the presence of a specific trigger is variable – often people are not even consciously aware of what sets the attack off.
It is important to realise that panic attacks don’t have to have a ‘root cause’ to be significant and impactful.
The physical reaction to panic attack is based on the release of adrenaline and the typical ‘fight or flight’ reflex. This can be experienced as racing heart rate, flushing, racing thoughts, shallow breathing and sweating. These feelings can escalate into sensations that drive overwhelm and severe physical discomfort.
However it is caused, panic attacks are based on a consistent pattern of how people think. It is really the case that is not the person that is the ‘problem’, but rather the ways of thinking and evaluating their circumstances that causes them the problem. Any person that ran their thinking like someone who suffers panic attacks would end up with the same outcome. By altering these processes of thinking and evaluation strategies, people can gain relief.
Common patterns that are present in the thinking of clients with panic attacks include distinction errors, particularly around how people evaluate the ideas of safety and control. When the person cannot, or incorrectly, determines when they are safe, or determine what they are really in control.
Is it any wonder a person would panic when they don’t feel ‘safe’, or, don’t feel in control? If they have trouble distinguishing when they are safe, or what they have control over, then they are likely to feel overwhelmed by uncertainty and panic is a likely outcome.
For some people, that could be stimulated by being in crowds, by being outside the home, by being on a plane. Where the person feels unsafe, or out of control, overwhelm and panic can ensue. For each person, the definition of where they feel safe or where they feel in control is completely subjective, and they may not even be aware of their distinctions in this area.
The great news for sufferers is that panic attacks respond really well to treatment using strategic therapy and hypnosis. This all natural approach can allow people to reshape the way they think about things, and importantly change the distinctions that they make. Often with very few sessions, powerful, long term changes can be achieved.
In the short term, if a panic attack strikes, breathe, get somewhere where you feel in control and safe, and do something that you like which can distract you. Meditation, reading a book, or listening to music can be great circuit breakers for your panic attack.
If panic attacks are making your life a misery, then perhaps it’s time to do something about it. Drop me a line and we can discuss your unique circumstances and how the Reflective Resolutions approach can help you now.