Your stomach clenches…
It may feel hard to breathe…
You may feel clammy, dizzy, or suddenly disconnected from your surroundings…
You may feel a sense of doom or disaster, even a fear of impending death…The mind races:
Am I having a heart attack?
Am I having a stroke?
Am I losing my mind?
Panic attacks are highly distressing but very common.
They are also highly treatable.
What Is It?
Panic attacks are psychological and physical (body-mind) events in which the body’s emergency response system (also called the “fight-or-flight” system) becomes activated at inappropriate times. This natural component of our nervous system is there to help us deal with genuine, life-threatening emergencies that require immediate action. But for some people, the emergency-response system is kicked off in non-emergency situations. The resulting intense physical distress and feelings of fear can be terrifying and disorienting.
What’s the impact?
Although most panic attacks are brief in duration, the distress may cause you to be increasingly anxious about the possibility of having another panic attack, so much so that you are severely distracted from the ordinary tasks and enjoyments or your daily life. You may become so preoccupied with the possibility of further panic attacks that you begin to curtail your activities, avoiding places or situations that you think might provoke the panic again. When panic disorder is this severe, it may limit your ability to function in your personal life and/or your work life.
Most people with panic attacks have visited the doctor or the emergency room to find out if there is a physical illness causing the symptoms, and found out that they do not have an underlying medical illness. Physicians may have provided anti-anxiety drugs, which can help reduce the severity of symptoms of an attack, but which don’t do anything to prevent an attack, and which can be habit forming. Even less severe panic disorder can make life feel like a constant state of fearful anticipation.
What can help?
There are demonstrably effective ways to reduce panic in your life, and reclaim your sense of well-being:
Psychological treatment of panic is a structured, well-proven approach that helps you develop skills to reduce the frequency and severity of panic and to make yourself less reactive to ordinary symptoms of anxiety that inevitably arise for all of us from time to time. Treatment includes careful attention to learning how to calm the body and how how to re-train the mind so that your thoughts (your “self-talk”) can help you (rather than escalate the situation even further) when anxiety rears it head.
Psychological treatment of panic may prevent or eliminate the need for anxiety medications, or can be used along with prescribed medications when that is most helpful.
A shared, supportive effort. You do not have to cope with panic on your own.
Although the core elements of psychological treatment of panic are well-established, our approach will always be based on an assessment of your unique experience of panic. The frequency, intensity, and sequencing of interventions is customized to match your needs, and treatment is provided in the context of a respectful, supportive, and comfortable working relationship with your psychologist. We use well-researched and demonstrably effective tools in a way that is specific to you, your goals, and your wishes.