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One to one help with Panic Attacks

in Bristol and Bath 

If you are suffering with Panic Attacks you have my sympathy. Panic Attacks by definition are an experience of pure fear. If you've understood what anxiety is generally (click here if you want to know more about anxiety), then you can understand that panic is simply a very intense dose of anxiety that hits you all at once. Panic attacks can feel so intense that sufferers can often be convinced that they are about to die. 

Symptoms can include but are not limited to. 

  • Headaches/Dizziness/Spaced out or dissociated perception. - The blood supply to the head is decreased as the blood is pumped to major muscles (thighs, arms, buttocks) to ready the body for evasive action. 
  • Blurred Vision - Pupils dilate/widen to let in more light, sharpening vision to see the source of danger. 
  • Dry Mouth/ Difficulty Swallowinq. Body fluids i.e. saliva are redirected to the blood stream to help pump blood to the major muscles. 
  • Aching neck/Backache/Shakes - Neck and shoulder muscles tense - large skeletal muscles contract ready for action. 
  • Chest pains/ Palpitations/ Breathing Difficulties - breathing becomes faster and shallower, supplying more oxygen and energy to the muscles to get ready for action (often mistaken for a heart-attack!) 
  • High Blood Pressure - Heart pumps faster to send blood to major muscles to get ready for action. Therefore BP rises. 
  • Indigestion/Butterflies/Nausea - Digestion slows down or ceases as blood is diverted away from the stomach to major muscles ready for action . 
  • Involuntary Urination/Vomiting/Diarrhoea - Muscles at opening of anus and bladder are relaxed. The body needs to be as light as possible to be ready for evasive action. 
  • Sweating/Cold Chills ... makes the skin more slippery so that it is harder for a predator to grab. 
  • Blushing/Blotchy skin/Pale The body cools itself by perspiring. The blood vessels and capillaries move close to the skins surface. 
  • Altered perception of reality - Adrenaline (Epeniphrene) is a powerful chemical stimulant which is released into the bloodstream when fear is triggered. Norepeniphrene is also released and this is considered to be psychoactive, meaning that it literally changes perception. These are powerful drugs and put simply, they can make us feel really weird! Their release is temporary though and when the arousal levels decrease so too do the levels of these drugs in the bodily system.

The simile I use is that a panic attack is like an elephant sized dose of fear exploding through a mouse sized hole. Think of the air rushing out of a balloon bursting and you get some idea of what's going on. So the first thing to understand is this. Panic attacks are caused by an overload of anxiety built up over time. You don't have panic attacks if you're not anxious generally. What is happening with panic is that the frontal lobe (the part of the brain that exerts "control" over the emotional brain) is doing its very best to keep a lid on the general overload of anxiety that is being generated in every panic sufferers life (whether they recognise it or not). Ordinarily this day to day anxiety is discharged through the REM sleep process, but when anxiety levels get too high generally the sleep process cannot cope with it all and anxiety builds in the background like steam in a pressure cooker. With panic, the pressure simply builds until it can no longer be contained and then it explodes, causing a "panic attack". Sometimes something specific acts as a "trigger" and sometimes it is triggered just because the bubble finally bursts. To the sufferer this is terrifying because it seems that this awfulness just fell out of nowhere for no reason at all. This can leave a person feel extremely unsafe, and at the mercy of panic. The assumption then is that we could have one of these attacks anywhere, anytime! With the added worry that we might now have an inappropriate "attack" we can become anxious about many things, thinking things like "What if I have a panic attack at work and lose my job?", "What if I have a panic attack on a bus and can't get off?" What if, what if, what if......? This of course adds to the overall general anxiety levels making further attacks even more likely. It IS a pickle for sure and no fun at all.

Part of the reason that panic attacks are experienced as being unbearably intense is because we panic about the panic. Once you've had the panic experience once, you can become hyper sensitive to any feelings that feel like panic. This means that as soon as you start to feel anxious you become more anxious because you're convinced that you're about to have a panic attack. Your limbic system (emotional/instinctive brain) reads this alarm as a signal that something awful is about to happen and provides fear because it believes that this is an appropriate response (to get you away from the perceived danger) and this makes you feel worse, not better. Now you become more alarmed because you're feeling more anxious, and the brain basically gets more alarmed because you're alarmed, and so on. Within moments the panic attack has developed into a full blown imaginary crisis. This anxiety increase is exponential, meaning it doubles and doubles again and again and again until the anxiety overload is discharged and the "attack" subsides.   

The good news - Panic Attacks can be successfully treated. Treatment involves helping you to reduce your overall levels of anxiety whilst teaching you how to successfully handle anxious feelings so that they don't escalate into panic. We use hypnotherapy, relaxation, CBT, psychotherapy, and NLP to supply you with all the tools you need to take control of your panic and restore your confidence in life. 

If you'd like some help with panic then you're in the right place. Don't suffer in silence. Contact me to make an appointment today. 

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