Panic can have profound effects on someone’s life, but it is also very treatable.
Panic can often occur with anxiety.
Panic is different to anxiety in some important ways.
Anxiety is characterised by frequent mild to severe worry about negative experiences occurring and mild to strong physical changes in the body such as sweating, increased heart rate and rapid swallow breathing or slow swallow breathing.
Panic involves less thought and more intense physical distress. Some people even report no thought just overwhelming physical distress and fear.
Symptoms of panic:
Panic can include:
- difficulty breathing, hyperventilation
- rapid blood pressure and heart beat
- profound dizziness, fainting
- change in senses- especially vision and hearing changes.
- Throbbing headache
- Numbness in limbs
- Confusion and disorientation
- Thinking you’re having a heart attack
An individual can experience frequent anxiety with intermittent episodes of panic. Alternatively, people can have anxiety without panic and panic without frequent anxiety.
Panic and anxiety are triggered by different parts of the brain and different brain chemicals.
Treatment for Panic
A therapist will help you to understand the difference between anxiety and panic and treat one or both conditions as appropriate.
A range of approaches can be effective in treating anxiety and panic tailored to the type of symptoms experienced.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy are common approaches used to treat panic. CBT can help to reduce anxiety which may lead to experiences of panic. CBT helps you change unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and aims to build skills to manage anxiety when it arises.
Exposure therapy: a treatment in which the psychologist guides the person through a series of real or imaginary scenarios to confront specific fears.
Through this gradual process, the person learns to cope more effectively with these fears, build a sense of resilience and mastery, and with practise, the panic response to the fear decreases.
At Integrative Psychology we aim to help the individual to better understand and regulate panic. Understanding panic and its triggers is key to therapy. For some individuals this may include addressing past trauma and complex current circumstances and relationships that may be serving to maintain high levels of anxiety that lead to panic.