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Panic Attacks and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

by Melissa Bell
5 minutes read

A panic attack is a type of anxiety in which fears and worries provoke intense mental and physical symptoms without any reason. People can suffer through a panic attack during any stressful episode in their lives, but that does not automatically categorize them as suffering from a panic disorder.

Panic is the extreme level of anxiety-causing physical symptoms. Experiencing anxiety at the time of the first job interview or during a presentation in front of an audience is normal, and it settles down on its own.

Anxiety disorder, however, is when a person feels fear and worry that does not subside on its own, lasting long and affecting the quality of life. Anxiety is a vicious cycle- fear of a fear, where you think more, get panic, and it cause you more attacks.

Anxiety and stress

The most common panic attack symptoms are palpitation, dizziness, nausea, perspiration (sweating) chest pain, breathlessness, trembling, hot flushes or chills, numbness in extremities, stomach ache.

The duration of panic attacks ranges from 5 to around 20 minutes, but it can be prolonged up to an hour.

Understanding the aetiology of panic attacks:

A panic attack is usually unpredictable and can occur due to sudden but overwhelming stressful event. Psychiatrists note there is always some reason behind those panic attacks, which are addressable and relievable. However, there can in rare cases also be no obvious cause for the panic attacks.

The exact aetiology causing panic attacks is not known. But medical science links panic attacks with a genetic predisposition. Panic attacks can be provoked by drugs use such as cocaine and by drugs withdrawal, too. Similarly, caffeine, certain medications, less blood sugar levels, and hypothyroidism can also cause panic attacks.

Statistics about panic attacks:

Every year, 3-5% of people worldwide suffer panic attacks, and most of the time, the aetiology is unknown.

Research reports note that nearly 4% of Canadians experience a panic attack in their life.

Panic attacks are usually experienced in the late teenage or by young adult years. But the elderly and children could be affected by it as well. Also, females experience more panic attacks than males.

One can always try to self-control anxiety and panic. However, often people suffering from panic attacks look for a permanent solution that will stop those attacks.

How to prevent panic attacks?

Curing panic attacks is well documented. It is easy to calm anxiety by using anti-anxiety drugs and talking therapy (CBT).

CBT is the most effective treatment for anxiety and panic disorders. Its efficiency is up to 75% in curing anxiety-prone panic attacks, and the results become evident after 15 sittings.

CBT therapy – Effective for panic attacks?

CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, is just like talking therapy. It helps people cope with their mental health problems such as anxiety, panic attacks and depression. CBT therapy familiarizes you with a unique way to deal with the life stressors positively.

How does CBT therapy work?

During the session, the therapist will help you realize that your negative and anxious feelings have no connection with your physical body symptoms. In other words, there is nothing but your thoughts making you anxious and causing panic, trapping you in a vicious cycle where more fear results in more anxiety and panic attacks, which then result in more fear, and so on.

How long one should take CBT therapy for panic attacks?

There will be a total of 5 to 20 sessions of CBT, lasting for half an hour to one hour. You will be required to attend one session per week, or one per two weeks with a therapist.

You can do a few things yourself to maximize the CBT effects, such as:

  1. Try to stay where you are;
  2. Take slow and deep breaths;
  3. Keep reminding yourself that the condition is not deadly, and this attack will be soon resolved;
  4. Fill your mind with positive thoughts, good memories and moments from your life.

Advantages of Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT):

  • CBT helps to treat mental issues which might be non-manageable with medicine alone;
  • CBT is more efficient, taking less time to finish sessions compared to other counselling therapies;
  • You will be taught self-applying strategies that you can use even after finishing the treatment.

Disadvantages of Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT):

  • Attending regular session can be difficult for full time employees that have a full schedule;
  • CBT enhances individual capacity to deal with mental health issues, but it cannot help with the surroundings that cause mental stress and have their roots in the cause;
  • CBT only helps curb problems with recent life events, and it wouldn’t work to address past issues such as disturbed childhood.

What happens when people do not receive treatments for panic attacks?

If a person does not take treatment, it could result in complications and worsening of symptoms such as:

  • Advancement to excessive fear or phobias;
  • Problems to socialize at work, school or in public;
  • Experience a downfall in overall health;
  • Financial issues;
  • Miss enjoyment and pleasure in leisure activities;
  • Become dependent on drugs and alcohol abuse;
  • Think to end up their life.

Take away:

A panic attack is an intense fear or worried thought causing physical symptoms. It is easily curable if one willingly steps forward towards getting the treatment. Not treating panic attacks can develop later complications which would disturb and decline the quality of life. Medications and counselling therapies are among the treatment options, while Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) works best when drugs might not work.

CBT is like a talking therapy, converting negative thoughts into positive ones as a weapon against unrealistic fears. Anxiety and panic attack are not life-threatening. Worry and stress cannot directly take your life, except in cases when there is an actual underlying condition. Remember, your fear is but a figment of your imagination.

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