Do you suffer from Panic Disorders?

The following information may help you to decide if you suffer from a Panic Disorder

What is a Panic Disorder?

A panic attack is a sudden onset of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause.

Panic attacks can be very frightening and when they occur the individual thinks they are losing control or are about to have a heart attack.  The person may be afraid they are going to faint or indeed that they are going mad.  Panic attacks usually last between 3- 10 mins and sometimes can last even longer.

Panic attacks are one of the most treatable anxiety disorders and takes between 8 – 12 Sessions.

What are the Symptoms/Signs of Panic Disorder?

Fear of losing control
Sense of impending doom /danger
Rapid heart beat
Breathing difficulties
Muscle weakness

What is involved in treating Panic Disorders?

Psycho-education – Teaching the client about the human Fight/Flight Response mechanisms.  Learning to identify was “Triggers” a panic attack and these triggers are being maintained

Socialising the client to Cognitive Model of Panic – this involves explaining the CBT approach, developing a case formulation – how the person’s problem developed and how it is been maintained, and setting treatment goals.

Identifying Distorted Thinking Patterns:

  • Catastrophising – ‘I can’t go to a concert because I will be closed in and I won’t be able to get out and I will have a panic attack.’
  • Judgments –‘ I can’t go out with friends to the pub because I will have a panic attack’
  • Emotional Reasoning– ‘ I feel anxious so I must be in danger of collapsing ‘.

Cognitive Restructuring– a classic treatment component of CBT, it describes a range of strategies aimed at helping a client recognise, explore, challenge and adapt the cognitions involved in anxiety.  It provides an opportunity for the client to modify their thoughts and beliefs, based on the best available information, using rational thinking to form a more balanced /accurate conclusions.

Challenging Safety Behaviours and Avoidance –This involves looking at how someone with Panic Disorder uses Safety Behaviours, e.g. Taking her husband with her to the supermarket for fear of a Panic Attack, holding onto a chair if they become dizzy for fear of collapsing on the floor, sitting near a door, carry some Valium.  People will avoid situations that they fear will bring on a Panic Attack, stops going out with friends, avoid crowds, avoids physical activity.

Use of Behavioural Experiments –Behavioural Experiments (BE) are used to test the validity of a person belief that something catastrophic is about to happen. In a panic attack, a person believes 100% that they are about to get a heart attack, about to faint/collapse or that they are going mad /loosing their mind.  BE are used to test out this belief that they are about to have a hear attack if they run up and down a flight of stairs.  The client is asked their belief rate before they run up and down the stairs and then they are asked to re-rate that catastrophic belief, which is drastically reduced  to about 20%

Relapse Management ­– Have I achieved the goals set out at the start of therapy?  What are the objective differences between now and before starting therapy?  What behaviour /feeling /attitude changes have occurred?  What have I learned about myself from the formulation?  What are the typical sorts of cognitive biases I engage in?  What role do my avoidance and safety behaviours play in maintaining the panic disorder?  Identifying early signs of relapse, starts using safety behaviours again, making excuses and avoiding situations

If you feel on reading the above synopsis of Panic Disorder relates to your own situation, please feel free to contact me and we can arrange an appointment.

Maggie Molloy 087 228 3243

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