About 1 in 4 people will experience a panic attack at some stage in their life, however, for about 7% of the population, panic attacks occur more frequently and have more debilitating effects.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is a short burst of extreme anxiety, that peaks within a short time and typically only lasts for 10 to 20 minutes. During a panic attack, the fight-or-flight response is activated causing a range of intense physical sensations such as:
- Heart palpitations, racing or pounding heart
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath
- Feeling of choking
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady or light headed
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Chills or hot flushes
- Fear of going crazy or losing control
- Fear of dying
- Strong urge to flee the situation
These attacks often seem to appear “out-of-the-blue” with no obvious explanation and are very terrifying. Consequently, fear of having another panic attack develops and you may begin avoiding places out of fear of having a panic attack in public.
Here at CBT Professionals psychology clinic, we have been successfully treating panic disorder for well-over 10 years. We know how distressing anxiety and especially panic attacks are, and are here to offer you an individualised treatment plan to help you get back your quality of life.
Signs to seek help include any of the following:
- repeated panic attacks for more than two weeks
- finding yourself avoiding people and places out of fear of having a panic attack
- not being able to go places without a support person with you
- unable to concentrate or complete tasks due to worrying about having a panic attack
- anxiety is interfering with your school, work, relationships, or life in general
- becoming dependent on alcohol, drugs, or medications to get through the day
What does treatment for panic attacks involve?
Whilst experiencing panic attacks can be a very terrifying experience, the good news is that there are very effective evidenced-based psychological treatments for panic attacks. At CBT Professionals, our psychologists specialise in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
Your unique treatment plan is likely to be one involving a number of sessions (between 8 to 10 sessions). The first few sessions will focus on asking questions to explore what triggers your panic attacks, learning breathing techniques to cope with the sensations of anxiety, and educating you on the cycle of panic attacks. Whilst you may experience an initial sense of relief in your symptoms or begin gaining a sense of control once again, this stage is typically not sufficient to treat panic attacks entirely.
The next several sessions involves working with your psychologist to identify your specific fears and beliefs you may have when you are having a panic attack (e.g., fear of having a heart attack). Your psychologist, sometimes with assistance with your doctor, will help evaluate and rule-out any possible underlying medical conditions, and assist you in distinguishing between anxiety symptoms or symptoms of a medical condition.
Once you are feeling confident in your ability to use self-calming techniques to manage anxiety symptoms and are feeling less fearful, it becomes time for your brain to have new learning experiences that demonstrate that situations, places, or sensations, are not to be feared and that you can cope. This involves, with the support of your therapist, facing the sensations of anxiety and panic that you may have previously tried to avoid (this is called “interoceptive exposure therapy”). So if you had a fear of having a heart attack, we would get you exercising to increase your heart rate, and at the same time, encourage you to use your new learnt skills to manage the anxiety your racing heart may trigger. By doing this practice over and over again, your brain learns that a racing heart is not to be feared and eventually the anxiety response triggered from a racing heart is extinguished. Once you have mastered being comfortable with bodily sensations associated with panic and anxiety, you will be feeling confident to start facing places you have been avoiding out of fear of having a panic attack.
Over several months, you will know that our treatment is working for you as you become less fearful and more confident. You will notice being able to adventure out more and to further places. You will gradually feel less dependent and be coping more independently, without alcohol, pills, or safety people at your side. You will feel happier with your life as it becomes less restricted and you feel free to do whatever you wish.
Why choose CBT Professionals?
All of our practitioners are selected based on a uniting set of values that define us as a truly caring practice. We stand against the practice of generic treatments and know that every case is unique and needs our best care and attention to craft a treatment approach specific to your situation. Furthermore, because our clinicians specialise in the treatment of anxiety disorders, they are well-informed on the most recent evidence-based treatments available and consistently deliver outcomes in treating panic disorder.
What will it cost me?
Left untreated, people with panic disorder can develop agoraphobia – an inability to leave the house out of fear of having a panic attack, and/or depression – feeling depressed due to the restrictions the anxiety is placing on your life. You may already be experiencing these further problems, which is more indication to seek treatment sooner rather than later.
CBT Professionals charge a modest fee for service and we are aware that families in need shouldn’t have the added pressure of services that they can’t afford. To find out more about our fee structure you can look at our Fees page of our website linked here.
How to get started
To start overcoming panic, please book your private consultation with one of our caring practice administration staff. Just phone (07) 5551 0330 or email us using the form on our Contact Us page linked here.