What is panic disorder?
If you repeatedly suffer from spontaneous panic attacks and try to avoid certain situations for fear of having a panic attack, or find that once you have had an attack you are constantly anxious about having another one, then you may have panic disorder.
Unsurprisingly, panic disorder can be a severely debilitating condition that restricts what you believe you can do, and significantly impacts upon your quality of life.
According to the DSM 5, panic disorder involves recurrent, unexpected panic attacks, where at least one of the attacks has been followed by at least one month of one of more of the following:
- Persistent concern about having additional attacks
- Worry about the implications, or consequences, of the attack (e.g. ‘going crazy’ or losing control)
- A significant change in behaviour (e.g. avoiding certain situations or activities)
The frequency of attacks can vary from several a year to several a day. As might be expected; the longer that your panic goes untreated, and the more attacks you have, the more likely you are to feel anxious between attacks (‘anticipatory anxiety’) as you worry about when and where the next one will occur.
You may also begin to adopt certain strategies that you believe will help you to prevent further panic. This might involve employing ‘safety behaviours’ to prevent what you consider to be imminent catastrophe. For example; if your legs start to feel weak, and you believe that is a sign you will collapse and panic, then you may immediately sit down. Or, if you feel short of breath you might start taking deep breaths.
You might also begin to avoid certain places or situations where you have experienced panic in the past, or believe that you might have an attack (‘phobic avoidance’). If your avoidance behaviour continues unabated it may lead to you developing agoraphobia.
Panic disorder with agoraphobia
When you have panic disorder with agoraphobia you fear being in situations from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing, or in which help may not be available if you have a panic attack, such as:
- Leaving home
- Crowded places
- Travelling alone on a bus, plane or train
- Going places without being accompanied by a ‘safe person’
By avoiding more and more situations, your life becomes increasingly constrained and you are unable to live as you would like. Unfortunately, whilst you might think that these strategies are helping, they can actually end up making things worse. This is because you are no longer giving yourself the opportunity to prove that you can cope, and to learn how to overcome your feelings of anxiety and panic.
Treating panic disorder
The first thing to realise is that panic is very treatable. You don’t need to continue suffering these distressing episodes.
If, like many people, your panic is the result of psychological factors, such as what you believe and how you think, then you can deal with this issue by changing these mental processes.
This is where hypnotherapy and psychotherapy can help. Such therapy can:
- Provide you with tools and mechanisms you can use to feel more comfortable in any situation. This starts the process of enabling you to change your perceptions and take back control of your life.
- Facilitate a better understanding of the thoughts, beliefs, behaviours and mental processes that are causing your panic.
- Enable you to find ways of challenging and changing these factors so that you are no longer concerned about situations in which you would previously have panicked.
Contact Us to find out how True Progress can help you.