A panic attack occurs when your body experiences a sudden rush of intense psychological (mental) and physical symptoms. It usually reaches a peak fairly quickly, within a few minutes.
You may experience an overwhelming sense of fear, apprehension and anxiety. As well as these feelings, you may also have physical symptoms such as:
Feeling of choking
The number of panic attacks you have will depend on how severe your condition is. Some people may have one or two attacks each month, while others may have several attacks a week.
Panic attacks can be very frightening and intense, but they're not dangerous. An attack won't cause you any physical harm, and it's unlikely that you'll be admitted to hospital if you've had a panic attack.
The main fear in panic disorder is a fear of having a panic attack and/or its consequences, rather than the fear of a specific situation, activity or object.
Case Study 1: Panic Attacks
Mary came to see me for help in stopping her severe panic attacks. Every morning for the past 5 years Mary would wake up to the feeling of extreme panic. So bad were the panic attacks that she would literally curl up into a ball with fear and shake uncontrollably. She had no clue as to why they happened, the physical symptoms would manifest immediately on awakening. The consequence of this reaction was that Mary would become very much introverted and develop feelings of helplessness and worthlessness.
Mary wanted to waken up in the morning positive, feeling good about herself, and feel she had a day of purpose ahead of herself.
I worked with Mary for six sessions. The approach was stepped and systematic in addressing each stage of her emotional state. I established that the morning panic attacks were just part of the bigger picture which included agoraphobia and a fear of meeting people. She was even afraid to venture into her garden. She was wholly dependent on her husband.
I worked with this client is getting her to undertake both mental and physical exercises to develop her strength and confidence. The steps we adopted and worked on gradually enabled her to achieve more each week, and she became more and more positive as time went on. Each area of progress awarded more confidence to the next. Mary was diligent in taking on board my weekly guidance, and ‘homework’ and this resulted in great success. She effectively took control, and is now living a totally different existence.
Every person is unique, different, and requires a different approach when working therapeutically.