Anxiety and Panic Attacks
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a human emotion that is directly related to our survival instincts. When it works properly, anxiety warns us of physical and emotional danger, keeps us from losing shelter and food, and helps us to protect ourselves and those we love. When anxiety is too high (or out of balance) then we over-worry, get overwhelmed, dread things that are unlikely to happen, catastrophize (making "mountains out of molehills"), and panic. This is ultimately dysfunctional because it “overdoes” it's intended use and now we become miserable. Anxiety not only affects our emotional well-being but it also affects our physical health as well. This is when you know that you need therapy for anxiety. Some symptoms of anxiety are:
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased sweating
- Fidgeting and twitching
- Panic – Spike in anxiety marked be feelings of imminent danger
- Heart palpitations
- Problems sleeping
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Excessive unrealistic worries and tension about any and all things for little to no reason.
Fear related to specific objects or situations (spiders, snakes, heights, flying, blood, etc.).
The intense fear of leaving or being away from a safe loved one such as a parent.
Nervousness and worry in social situations or around many people.
Spikes of anxiety for little or no reason that lead to an immense feeling of dread or doom. These are panic attacks.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Repetition of intrusive and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions).
What is Panic?
Have you ever misplaced your wallet or purse? Have your child walk out of sight in a store or at a park? This is panic. Panic is the brain's emergency response system or "red alert." It demands that we take action immediately and is a direct response to the importance of what we are worried about - Find your child! Find your ID and money! In this way, panic is functioning as it should. Even though it doesn't feel good at all, it does serve a purpose.
What are Panic Attacks?
Panic Disorder is the clinical term for "panic attacks," which is the dysfunctional or overactive way our brains responds to stress. When you have a panic attack, there may be no real danger around you. No missing child, no missing purse. Instead, people who suffer from Panic Disorder, or panic attacks, feel a sense of dread or doom for no explainable reason. The brain has gotten to a state of high sensitivity, setting off "false alarms." What's worse is once you have a panic attack, you might begin to worry (anxiety) that you will have one again. Additionally, when your anxiety begins to rise for any reason at all, you may start to wonder: "Am I having a panic attack again"? This may actually trigger another panic attack! If you suffer from panic attacks then you may have Panic Disorder and these may be the symptoms you experience:
- Sense of impending doom or danger
- Feeling that the walls around you are closing in
- Tightness in your throat
- Shortness of breath
- The urge to leave your surroundings
- Fear of the loss of control
- Rapid heart beat
- Trembling or shaking
- Chest pain
- Becoming lightheaded
- Hot flashes
If you are suffering from high anxiety or panic attacks, therapy can help ! One of the most difficult aspects of high anxiety and panic attacks is the fear that you will never be able to get better. So, you get into a spiral of worrying that you'll never stop worrying! It seems like a never ending merry-go-round. But now it's time to get off.
Therapy for Anxiety and Panic Attacks
You may have already had therapy for anxiety or panic attacks. You may have been taught breathing techniques, meditation, or journaling - all of which are great techniques! The problem is those techniques only "neutralize" your anxiety - merely just slows it down. Those techniques don't actually fix the problem or reduce your symptoms. To make matters worse, many therapists and outpatient centers view anxiety as "run-of-the-mill" or basic. But your high anxiety is not basic or ordinary! In many cases, it has made your life unbearable.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)
Exposure and Response Prevention is the gold standard of treatment for anxiety based disorders. ERP is a form of Cognitive therapy that focuses on how the mind views anxiety and works on reprogramming the brain's response to it. In therapy, a skilled ERP therapist works on exposing your mind to your fears to desensitize it from your fear. Then this allows your responses (usually avoidance or control) to fears, worries, and panic attacks to change. This change ultimately relieves you from the grueling suffering associated with high anxiety and panic attacks.
If you are suffering from anxiety or panic attacks (Panic disorder), then contact us today so that one our therapists can help you!
Helpful resources for Anxiety and Panic Attacks: