Living With “Fear Of Fear”, Waiting For The Next Dreadful Episode?
Have you ever experienced a panic attack? A panic attack is a sudden attack of fear or anxiety, accompanied by physical symptoms of arousal, in a situation where others would not be affected. Do you feel overwhelmed and drained as a result of this experience? Are you suddenly overcome with a sense of fatality, dreadfulness and intense fear that come out of nowhere? Are some of these symptoms: racing heart, breathing difficulties, dizzy, fear of fainting, tingling or numbness in hands and fingers, sense of intense terror or impending doom or death, chest pains, feeling loss of control, feeling sweaty, trembling, heart palpitations, among others? Have you ever landed in the Emergency Room (ER) for fear of having a heart attack or dying, and then told that it’s a panic attack or just too much stress? After experiencing a panic attack, do you live in fear waiting for the next unpredictable “attack” to happen? Does this become “fear of fear”? Perhaps this is making you stay at home or avoid places or activities for fear of having another episode. And, of course, this can result in severe limitations to a full, care-free, happy lifestyle. The worst part is not being able to anticipate or predict when it’s going to happen, a total sense of loss of control!
Also, some people undergo panic attacks under certain conditions. Panic disorder with agoraphobia involves fearing and avoiding places or situations where you can feel trapped, without the possibility of escape, feeling helpless or embarrassed. When agoraphobia is not present, panic attacks can set in at any time, under almost any condition. Regardless of the conditions associated with panic attacks, the symptoms are severe and crippling.
After experiencing the first panic attack, the risk is high for attacks to persist because of the tendency to enter into a negative cycle of its own. The negative cycle can be triggered anytime there is a physical symptom of tension or “alert” that bring scary thoughts and “escape” behaviors. All these feed into each other.
Regardless of the source or cause, living with this fear may become overwhelming and debilitating, making us retreat, isolate, and limit our quality of life. The good news, is that there are solutions to these symptoms, using methodical protocols as an effective way to treat and eliminate this. I am here to help you work through this and to help you recover your life, and sense of confidence!
Panic Attack Symptoms Hurts
A large number of people experience some type of panic attack(s) during their life. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), close to 5% of the adult population experience a full blow panic attack during their lives. This statistic can be under reported as some people are too overtaken by these symptoms and for various reasons never seek help. Also, sometimes, these symptoms can be mistaken with other medical conditions. For some reason, females appear to be more affected than males (this can also reflect a tendency for males to be less inclined, at times, to seek help and, this, resulting in under-reporting). Panic attacks affect adults and also children. In children, panic disorder can be difficult to diagnose and can lead to multiple visits to pediatricians and other physicians. Without treatment, adolescents can drop out of school, withdraw, and become reclusive and suicidal.
Of those who report having a panic attack, about 45% report symptoms as serious, 30% as moderate, and the rest, approximately, 25% as mild. Regardless of the reported or perceived intensity, the symptoms are significant and affect the person psychologically and functionally at work, relationships, and/or socially.
Panic attacks can be caused by several factors: biological, psychological, stress, and/or medical conditions. Genetics can be one of the causes for experiencing panic attacks. The inheritance is most likely a tendency or vulnerability that increases the chances of developing panic attacks. However, genetics don’t make panic attacks inevitable. Maybe, if not, your beliefs about some physical symptoms being potentially harmful can contribute to having panic attacks. This can result also from a “Flight or Fight” situation where there is a perceived danger, and where our thoughts and beliefs can play a role on how we respond. However, for most people, the first panic attack occurred when undergoing intense stress (e.g. divorce, loss of job, health concerns about self or a loved one, financial pressures, marital or family discords, etc.). Coping when facing stressors can become more challenging that makes us feel as the world being threatening or dangerous. This, in turn, can result in some level of fear and loss of confidence. Finally, there are some medical conditions that can also trigger a panic attack such as: hyperthyroidism or a tumor on the adrenal gland (rare), certain medications (e.g. amphetamines), or even excess consumption of caffeine (coffee, energy drinks).
Whether you have experienced full-blown panic attacks or some of its symptoms, your life can feel like being held back. Often, the constant fear or worry of having another “attack” fuel a cycle that debilitates mental energy and that often results in remaining isolated or avoiding many healthy day-to-day activities or situations in an effort to avoid these painful symptoms. This cycle can then contribute to other mental health complications such as generalized anxiety, depression, loss of self-confidence, and performance decline across different areas.
Based on my professional experience in clinical and private settings, and with the right treatment approach and tools, any person can find ways to overcome these symptoms and regain control of their lives. Working as a team, I can help you cope and control these thoughts, beliefs and physical sensations so you can live free of any fear limiting your life and performance.
Panic Attack Therapy Helps Regain Control And Confidence
The first element I offer is a safe place where you can start your journey by first feeling understood and validated. In our safe space, we can review your unique situation. My approach consists of providing both a professional and respectful service always keeping in mind that you are a human being worthy of being treated with dignity and who deserves living a full life. As part of the Clinical Interview we can help identify potential sources of your panic attacks. This is critical to determine the best treatment approach. For example, if a medical condition is identified as a potential source, the course of treatment will be very different than if from other sources. As we narrow the sources, the treatment is then discussed to help you better understand course of treatment and expectations. The goal is to provide peace of mind, hope and assurance by outlining a specific course of action.
In our space of trust and safety, we will both uncover the most important information related to your unique situation and will identify what symptoms are typically present and under what conditions.
In a space of compassion and acceptance, we’ll help uncover any critical information about important milestones, relationships, and experiences in your life that have contributed to who you are today. Because some events may be more difficult to talk about than others, I respect your authority to ultimately control what we discuss as well as the pace at which we proceed.
The most proven methods for treating Panic Disorder include CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and/or medication. The CBT approach consists of understanding the specifics of your situation (symptoms and when/where they manifest), providing psychoeducation on panic attacks, identifying ways to diminish and eliminate the fear of physical sensations (e.g. breathing, relaxation) and to challenge some unhealthy beliefs (fear of dying). As part of the treatment, at the right time, a key target is “avoidance”. Avoiding feared situations or places further feed into this “avoidance”. In gradual steps, combined with the proper guidance, protocol and relaxation, we counter the avoidance with exposure (imaginal and real). Result of CBT are very positive. For example, according to the American Family Physician Journal, 73% of treated patients were panic-free within 3 to 4 months, and 46% of the patients remained panic-free after two years. Part of the treatment is to provide you with the right self-managed tools that will help prevent future incidents. Medication is also an option. However, most people prefer to approach most life challenges without the use of medication. Usual medications are anti-depressants (61% of patients were panic-free after six to 12 weeks). Benzodiazepines can also be used but these may cause depression. Overall, several meta-analyses suggest that antidepressants are less effective that CBT in reducing panic symptoms. In any case, medication would need to be assessed with your family physician or psychiatrist.
As part of our Clinical Interview we can discuss the treatment options and help you decide what approach is best based on your situation and preferences. The most important goal is to help you improve your quality of life and regain your sense of control.
I have worked with many panic attacks (formally called Panic Disorder or Agoraphobia with Panic Disorder) cases, each with a unique presentation and set of challenges. It’s key for you to feel at ease expressing your concerns and symptoms while also identifying specific steps to help you go back to your life free from fears and be able to live fully without restrictions. By working with a qualified, professional therapist, trusting yourself and getting involved in the process of treatment, you can regain your sense of control, live fully, perform at your full potential and participate in all activities that life offers!
As you are considering panic attack therapy you still have some questions and concerns…
Does this really work?
Yes, as shown above, CBT offers a clear path to significant, positive results in a relatively short period of time. The different components of CBT treatment are part of a proven protocol that works. It is important to establish a positive alliance with your therapist, and for you to be motivated to follow through on steps, homework, and efforts. In addition to the result shown by research, my experience in dealing with panic attack cases has been very positive resulting in the affected person recovering their life and sense of control.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but rather it shows courage, and making the call is the first step in your journey. Working together with a professional can guide you back to your full potential and happiness. I am here to help you in this process, working on your side to ensure the happiness, joy and sense of security that you deserve.
Do I need to take medication to stop panic attacks?
Often, medication is not necessary to eliminate panic attacks and live a panic-free life. CBT has proven to be extremely effective that reduces or eliminates symptoms both in the short and in the long run. Medication sometimes is a personal decision depending on your needs and preferences. In some situations, medication and CBT can help in extreme situations, especially to help alleviate severe symptoms. Part of our discussions will cover potential benefits of medication that you would ultimately need to assess with your physician or psychiatrist.
The most important goal to keep in mind is to reduce or eliminate the symptoms that are affecting your life and your confidence. By working together with a professionally trained therapist, panic attacks and its symptoms can be reduced and, in many cases, eliminated through the use of proven methods with a custom approach. The goal is for you live a panic-free life, full of confidence. To achieve this, I look at each situation taking into account the unique factors affecting you to ensure the best possible approach to treatment.
Let’s Work Together In Living Panic-Free, Full Of Confidence
If you would like to know more about how to go about your situation, please call me to discuss. I answer ALL calls myself (no staff, third party or answering service). I believe that your situation deserves a confidential, caring, and professional discussion to help determine next steps, set an appointment, and begin the journey to the life you deserve!