Panic Attacks

What are Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks are episodes of intense, paralysing fear as a result of the “fight or flight” response. The body is flooded with stress hormones which normally are released when a real world danger demands a fight or flight response.

Panic attacks can be triggered suddenly and unconsciously, usually this “unawareness of cause” adds to the stress of the situation. Before the sufferer has been able to identify the symptoms as a panic attack, the sufferer can believe they are having a heart attack or think that they are dying. After having a panic attack, the sufferer can become overly sensitised to the symptoms. They can last anything from a few seconds to several minutes, sometimes presenting as increasing waves of intensity.

Causes of Panic Attacks:

  • Medical or physical causes e.g. certain heart conditions, overactive thyroid, low blood sugar, medication withdrawal and stimulant overuse.
  • Major lifestyle changes e.g. changing jobs, divorce, moving house, getting married, having a baby or suffering a bereavement.
  • Family traits e.g. genetic traits or learned responses.
  • Phobias or stressful situations e.g. suddenly seeing a spider or being forced to speak in front of an audience. The panic attack may also happen through anticipation. This is when the presentation is planned say next week and the sufferer accumulates an increasing amount of anxiety as the presentation nears. Your anxiety then “takes” you to your panic attack, near to or during the presentation. These situations can accumulate more fear of panic attacks (fear of fear). An example is when the phobic person feels increasingly embarrassed about having a panic attack around people. A social phobia develops until they enter a state of helplessness. The sufferer then believes that by staying at home, they can prevent a panic attack. The situation evolves into agoraphobia.

Symptoms of Panic Attacks:

  • Intense sweating (armpits, hands, forehead or complete cold sweat)
  • Shaking, trembling or feeling petrified
  • Chest pain or tightness, heart pounding, beating faster, palpitations
  • Thoughts of dying or impending doom
  • Sudden intense anxiety or fear of danger
  • Shortness of breath or shallow, rapid breathing
  • Nausea, faintness or dizziness, hot flashes
  • Fear of losing control
  • Dry mouth, problems swallowing, throat feeling constricted
  • Mind going ‘blank’, dreamlike sensations or perceptual distortions
  • Ringing ears
  • Muscle tension
  • Weakness, fatigue, feeling of powerlessness
  • Tummy upset or nervous diarrhoea
  • Heightened alertness to danger, constantly feeling on edge

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How Can Hypnotherapy Help?

  • Hypnotherapy can provide and teach relaxation techniques.
  • Hypnotherapy can release negative beliefs that can cause the panic attacks.
  • Hypnotherapy can help de-sensitise the sufferer from the panic triggers.


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