The term Panic disorder describes the development of recurrent feared and disabling panic attacks. It is most often characterised by repeated, unexpected and untriggered panic attacks. The person will worry and negatively anticipate for at least a month following the last panic attack fearing another attack is imminent. The worry associated with fear another attack usually revolves around the thought that some more severe medical problem has been undiagnosed – such as a heart problem. Some will pursue lengthy medical testing to assure themselves that something more sinister is not causing their physical symptoms. The continued fear of another panic attack then results in changes on behaviours that reinforce avoidance of any possible triggering of the physical symptoms. These symptoms commonly include : rapid heart rate, tightness in the chest, dizziness or light headedness, tingling in the hands and fingers, nausea, confusion, feelings of being physically disconnected, feelings of choking, difficulty breathing and increased perspiration.
With a panic attack many of these symptoms appear. They can generally peak within the first 10 minutes but can last for upwards of an hour. The sufferer is often left feeling distressed and exhausted. This can be repeated several times a day at its worst. Having a panic attack in a single or even repeated incident does not mean a person has panic disorder.
During a panic attack, you’re suddenly overwhelmed by the physical sensations described above. Panic attacks reach a peak within about 10 minutes and usually last for up to half an hour, leaving you feeling tired or exhausted. They can occur several times a day or may happen only once every few years. They can even occur while people are asleep, waking them up during the attack. Many people experience a panic attack once or twice in their lives; this is common and is not panic disorder.
In our initial assessment we can determine what your needs are and how we introduce the most appropriate treatment option for you. So if you relate to many of the patterns identified above consider seeing your GP for a referral. Panic disorder works best with a CBT approach. For more information see Our Approach and if you feel that we can be of support give us a call and make an appointment.