Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder FAQ
Because we regularly work with individuals suffering from panic disorder and panic attacks, we find that they often have the same questions. These are some of the more common ones. Click the questions below to read their answers.
If you haven't done so already, it is a good idea to take a look at our online course: How to stop a panic attack.
“Am I going mad” is one of the most common fears of people who start to have panic attacks.
As you will know if you have read through the free panic attacks course, a panic attack is a perfectly natural bodily mechanism ‘going off’ inappropriately.
People often experience their first one at a time of high stress, or perhaps in conjunction with hormonal changes within the body. If you are thinking “Am I going mad?”, it’s a pretty good indicator you are not!
No you do not. Although some drugs can be useful in the short term if panic attacks are very frequent and severe they are not a long term answer.
Appropriate brief psychotherapy incorporating Cognitive approaches, relaxation techniques and ‘deconditioning’ is the most effective, as contained within our Panic Prevention Program.
This sort of therapy will enable you to stop your panic attacks and inoculate you against future attacks. The audio program may be enough for you, or you may need to see an appropriately trained professional near you.
Essentially, to stop a panic attack, your body needs to relax, which is fairly obvious. To stop panic attacks your anxiety levels need to come down, and particularly in situations that currently cause anxiety or panic, but it is sometimes a little more complicated than that.
Conditioning factors can make this more difficult. See Part 2 of the free course for an explanation.
The link between depression, anxiety and panic attacks is explained in this article.
There is no ‘best way’ to handle panic attacks. Your best approach depends on you, the situation at the time, how you feel and so on. However, generally, for long-term benefit, the best way to handle a panic attack is to stay in the situation until it subsides.
There can be many reasons, but the most common is high general levels of stress, which mean that the ‘panic tripwire’ is much tighter, and therefore easier to set off.
If you have high levels of stress and anxiety, panic attacks are more likely to occur.
It’s quite simple really. As mentioned in the panic course (more on this later), you can think of it like a tripwire. The more stressed you are, the more anxiety you experience from day-to-day and so the tighter the tripwire becomes.
Then, any sudden increase in stress or anxiety levels can ‘pull’ on the tripwire, triggering a panic attack.
Your mind is constantly monitoring your state to ascertain when you might need your fight or flight response. When it perceives (unconsciously) that your situation is nearing potential life-threatening levels, it will provide you with the perfect state for survival: a panic attack.
Of course, this does not mean that your situation is literally life-threatening, it simply means that primitive part of your brain has decided it is - either because your general levels of anxiety are so high, or because it spots a pattern in your environment similar enough to one where you have previously had a ‘fight or flight’ response.
Another good analogy is that of a car alarm. With increased stress or anxiety levels, the alarm becomes too sensitive. Then it will go off if the wind rocks the car, or someone brushes it as they walk by.
To stop panic attacks, we need to ‘slacken the tripwire’ or turn down the sensitivity on the car alarm.
One lady we treated had exactly this experience. Click here to see how her stress levels raised her general anxiety and triggered a panic attack.
However, to ensure this is done in a complete way, there are several factors that need to be taken care of. They are covered in the online panic attacks course.
If you suffer from high levels of stress, anxiety or panic attacks, the course should help you do something about it.
You may also find this article on thinking styles useful.
If your question is not answered here, please email us here.