What is a panic attack?

Let’s try and simplify what an anxiety attack or panic attack actually is?

If we take all the emotion and fear out of the equation, a panic attack is actually an overwhelming sub-conscious (out of your conscious control) physiological response that kicks off the bodies natural and animal “fear” responses – but, at the wrong time or in response to a non-threatening trigger. For example having a panic attack in a superstore whilst grocery shopping, in a crowded train, driving on motorways or visiting an airport.

You perhaps could view it as the body, unconsciously responding appropriately but to the wrong stimulus – then you consciously wonder why it happened and begin a huge internal chat about why it’s happening and what you can do to end the anxiety or to stop it from happening again. Therefore, as you begin to understand more about panic attacks you’ll begin to realise that it is a classic fight between the unconscious mind and body versus your conscious thinking mind!

And the unconscious usually wins, leaving you feeling afraid and silly!

Understanding the symptoms of panic attacks

There is a more detailed list of the symptoms of panic attacks here – the headline panic attack symptoms tend to be a mixture of:

  • A rush of fear running up through your stomach and chest
  • A tightness across your chest
  • An out of control racing mind that darts around fearfully
  • A dissociated feeling from the surroundings (or even yourself)!
  • Lightheaded and dizzy feeling
  • Scary racing and thumping heart
  • Sweaty and clammy hands, head, chest or back
  • An extreme need to escape the situation or a feeling of being trapped and frozen
  • A need to rush to the bathroom
  • Nauseousness
  • Indescribable fear that you can’t actually articulate

Remember, in any other “real” scary situation these would be appropriate responses, like if you were trapped in a building that was on fire or you were in the middle of an earthquake. What is happening to you is a real emotion, at the wrong time and at the wrong intensity! And this is the beginning of interrupting anxiety and panic attacks and when we work together I teach you how to understand the symptoms of anxiety, and then, detach from these emotions, we then work on removing the out of date unconscious responses that are causing the panic attacks to kick off.

The trigger for your panic attack is rarely the real problem

For most individuals that experience anxiety and panic attacks they know a few things:

  • They don’t like it
  • They can’t stop it
  • They know what tends to kick off their anxiety i.e. flying, driving, heights, busy places etc.
  • They try to avoid those triggers that make them feel anxious
  • They feel silly that they can’t overcome the anxiety
  • They try to cover up their avoidant behaviours
  • They become quite controlling in their behaviours to avoid the anxiety (covertly or overtly)

 I would like you to consider this……. What if the experience that makes you have a panic attack is not the actual problem? What if, it is just what your unconscious mind has hooked onto and is using to hijack you, or, perhaps, that fear can be traced back to some childhood experiences (that you may or may not remember)?

A more useful therapeutic way of looking at panic attacks is to say the following:

“What if the events of the last 6 months (or longer) have put your mind into overdrive thinking and worrying, and what if, your unconscious body has become extremely exhausted from the continuous thinking. And, what if, your unconscious mind is actually trying to tell you that your body is dangerously fatigued and it does it by freaking you out with a fear that tries to make you stay at home, but using the logic of a child and your inherent fears as targets to sabotage?” But… You consciously ignore that plea for emotional rest and recovery and worry more….!!

For example;

  • The busy executive who becomes panicky when flying so stops travelling
  • The mother who fears germs or vomiting so struggles to take children to school
  • The worrier who becomes hypochondriacal and can’t be left alone
  • The new mother who gets insomnia and fears not being able to look after her child

The list goes on and on……..

What type of person has panic attacks?

In my considerable experience of working with all anxiety disorders and the most complex OCD cases the individual has 3 or 4 of the following qualities:

  • They are very clever
  • They are complex thinkers
  • They (knowingly or unknowingly) are very controlling
  • They are creative thinkers
  • They have complex personalities

You need to learn that you can’t think your way out of anxiety! It is so often a product of thinking too much!

Getting sensible help to overcome anxiety attacks

My anxiety treatment program helps you to understand what is happening to you, how to interrupt it, and then teaches you how to think, behave and respond to life in new ways so the anxiety never comes back. My work teaches you that your anxiety is held unconsciously and agitated consciously and I need to teach you how to get them to work together.

My work is very logical, very structured and very effective, give me a call and let’s get you panic attack free – 01280 860687