Panic attacks and panic disorder are not typical mood swings.
They are mental health conditions with considerable consequences on a person’s quality of life. We want to give you a chance to learn more, improve your situation, and lead a better life for yourself and your loved ones. In our practice, our clinical psychologists use evidence-based methods to overcome your panic disorder.
What is panic disorder?
Panic attacks occur when the body’s normal fear response is triggered in an exaggerated way. A panic attack causes you to feel highly distressed and out of control. Patients typically feel imminent mortal danger. During panic attacks, it is highly common for people to think that they are about to pass out, faint, have a heart attack or ‘go crazy’ in some way. These thoughts unfortunately only serve to create more anxiety and fear. In turn, this drives more and more panic sensations. As a result, people experiencing a panic attack feel as though they’ve lost control of their bodies, creating what we describe as a fearful, negative feedback loop.
Sometimes panic attacks are linked to certain places. People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might experience panic every time they see a trigger related to memories of the trauma. Individuals with agoraphobia experience panic attacks in wide open spaces. People with a social anxiety disorder might have a panic attack while delivering a speech (or even thinking about it). For some people, panic attacks appear totally ‘out-of-the-blue’ and are not linked to triggers of time, place or person. This issue is diagnosed as panic disorder. This is a mental health condition in its own right where the body enters a hyper-aware state. Small increases in anxiety can themselves trigger fear of an oncoming panic attack. Often, this can be a self-fulfilling situation that starts a full cycle of panic attacks.
Symptoms of panic disorder
Physical sensations connected to the ‘fight or flight’ response are the main panic attack symptoms.
Shaky or ‘jelly’ legs
Trembling or shaking
Feeling nauseous or sick
Extreme tension in chest and muscles
Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
Feeling disconnected or dissociated from your body or the world
Heat and/or pain in the chest
Living in fear or feeling immediate physical danger due to these sensations
Feeling very hot or cold
Diagnosing panic disorder
It is important when assessing and diagnosing panic that it’s considered separate from any coexisting disorders that the patient has. In most cases of panic, other mental health conditions underlie and drive the problem. During diagnosis, a panic-attack specialist will complete a comprehensive, semi-structured interview with you, which lasts up to two hours. We use a range of valid and reliable self-report questionnaires, which we apply as necessary. These support our decision-making process to find the best treatment path for you. At the end of the assessment phase, we will have a clear understanding of how best to treat the issues, which we share with you in full.
Panic disorder treatment
We can provide beneficial treatment for your symptoms of panic disorder, with the highest level of care and respect.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for low-to-moderate severity panic disorder. CBT has been rigorously tested by clinical researchers and has shown to be effective in helping people with panic disorder overcome their problems. At its most basic, CBT is a talking therapy. It encourages you to change your thinking, which influences the way you feel, the way you behave and the actions you take. You’ll be given tasks to do between sessions which are designed to help you continue working on your issues in the weeks that follow.
Where symptoms lie in the severe range, the recommended treatment is CBT alongside antidepressant medication. Speak to your primary care GP or psychiatrist if you wish to explore medication as an option. We are happy to talk you through this process and assist you with your decisions. Where other issues coexist with the panic attacks, we will address these directly to ensure the most effective treatment with the least chance of relapse.
While we offer CBT as a first line of treatment, we also explore other methods when we believe they will help with your diagnosed symptoms.
These include using our expertise in:
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) – an effective variation of CBT that uses mindfulness and behavioural exercises
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy (EMDR)
Narrative therapy – a method for detaching people from their problems and encouraging them to use their own skills to reduce the difficulties they face).
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If you have been experiencing distressing panic attacks, we offer panic disorder treatment to begin the path to recovery. Psychological treatments such as CBT help patients to identify the self-defeating ‘automatic thoughts’ that lead to panic attacks, and correct irrational fears. Our mental health professionals will help cut through the anxiety and depression you may feel, and give you a plan to control your panic attacks. Book a consultation today to discuss the next step and find out more about our treatments.
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