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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What treatments are there for panic attacks and anxiety?

    I suffer from panic attacks after intense feelings of anxiety, I start to feel all sweats and hyperventilate. This usually occurs when i feel stressed and under pressure like when I am sitting an exam at uni or public speaking. How can I treat this?
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    With a passion to see people move forward and break free from the barriers holding them back, Grant is a highly experienced counsellor with over … View Profile

    Hi, these attacks can really impact your ability to function in certain situations and therefore prevent you from achieving many things. Often people end up avoiding those situations completely so miss out on opportunites and experiences. The good news is Panic Attacks can be treated quite effectively. I'd suggest you see a therapist or pschologist who is experienced in this area and uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). I know a number of people who have gained control over their attacks through CBT. I don't use CBT but have had a few clients who have been through CBT and not gained control so came to me, in these instances we needed to address underlying emotional issues through Emotionally Focused Therapy. Try the CBT first as it is generally effective.  

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    Joe Gubbay

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    I have worked in public hospitals as well as private practice over the past 25 years. As a clinical psychologist I treat depression, social anxiety, … View Profile

    Panic attacks are horrible. Panic and anxiety aren't diagnoses in themselves; they're part of another problem, such as social anxiety (or Social Phobia), where the concern is limited to social or performance situations, such as public speaking.  Panic is also a feature of Panic Disorder, where the focus of anxiety is the panic attacks.  The good news is that anxiety is probably the most readily treated of the emotional conditions.  Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the preferred approach, with hundreds of research studies showing it to be very effective for the vast majority of patients. My personal experience as a clinician is that it nearly always provides excellent results for anxiety.  Of course everyone is different, and anxiety can also be part of other problems that need differents types of treatment. 

    If you have Medicare cover, I'd suggest seeing your GP and asking for a referral; that way you should be eligible for Medicare rebates which makes it a lot more affordable to see a clinical psychologist or other psychologist or counsellor.  If you don't have Medicare cover, you can approach a therapist directly. The Australian Psychological Society has a referral database:
    http://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/

    You can have a look at my website for a little more information about anxiety from a cognitive behavioural perspective, including a brief overview of the approach to treatment.

    Remember there are plenty of options out there if CBT doesn't work for you, including other psychological and counselling appriaches as mentioned by Grant.

    BeyondBlue has some good information and links to other resources.
    http://www.beyondblue.org.au

    B
    est of luck with it!

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    Ralph Graham

    Counsellor

    Ralph Graham, Counsellor, Psychotherapist, helping those who are affected by:grief, loss, anxiety, phobias, panic attack.And those who have been traumatised by:crime, assault, sexual abuse and … View Profile

    Another approach to panic attacks is to investigate the possibility of them originating from earlier traumatic event (perhaps in a sense, they all do).

    One example: a student had his first attack in a university exam. Unable to do the exams he sought therapy and found to his surprise the panic had its source in a traumatic childhood event and some stimulus was triggering the attack once he entered the exam room.  TIR* was used to find, address and resolve this early incident where the reason for the triggering became apparent and the client was able to do exams without further reaction and the attacks did not return. 

    Approaches that arguably address the effects rather than the cause (symptom management, learning to neutralise the panic before it takes hold, training to avoid letting the panic begin etc) may be the only way if a ‘cause’ cannot be found.  Let us know what works for you.
     
    *Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR) is useful for tracking and neutralising the current effects of past traumas in anxiety situations including PTSD.

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    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    Often panic attacks have a purely physiological basis (not meaning to invalidate you here).They can arise from hyperventilation (= breathing too shallowly so the CO2 levels in your blood get messed up).A breathing exercise can help:(1) Sit quietly, with your hands around your navel, fingers just touching.(2) Breathe in deeply so your stomach expands and your fingers move apart.(3) Count to three.(4) Breathe out deeply so your stomach contracts and your fingers touch again.(5) Count to three.(6) Repeat (2) - (5) for about ten minutes.It usually works.

  • Ralph Graham

    Counsellor

    Ralph Graham, Counsellor, Psychotherapist, helping those who are affected by:grief, loss, anxiety, phobias, panic attack.And those who have been traumatised by:crime, assault, sexual abuse and … View Profile

    If the above can be done to permanently arrest the attacks then Dr Easterbrook-Smith's solution will be great and can be done at home. I presume this is to be practiced regularly to bring an end to attacks that have this particular cause. Of course, doing the above as a response to an attack or impending attack may be untenable due to the anxiety and the activity one might be doing.

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    Stephen Lockley

    Hypnotherapist

    Stephen will soon be returning from lecturing in the UK on his eclectic style of hypnotherapy and its effectiveness on clients with anxiety and depression. View Profile

    Good advice from the people who have responded so far. However have you used or considered using hypnotherapy to help you? As part of a treatment team I work with medical professionals using hypnotherapy. Predominantly my work is with people who have been medically diagnosed suffering with anxiety. My clients report after their sessions that they feel a great change within themselves. Firstly I install a tool that helps the client quell the panic attack. Then we work on the cause of the anxiety. Once this is completed we move onto dealing with the cause and reprograming the subconscious. A number of my client where in the same situation as you, where the conventional course of treatments they were using did not appear to be working for them. As with any therapy, different people can experience different degrees of change. Whatever therapies you choose use a therapist that you feel comfortable with. Also visit my website as I have uploaded a number of video testimonials of my clients talking about their experiences. So that you can know there is always hope.

  • Bruni (Brunhilde) Brewin

    Counsellor, Hypnotherapist

    Bruni Brewin is President Emeritus of The Australian Hypnotherapists’ Association (AHA), the oldest and largest National Registration Body for hypnotherapists in Australia founded in 1949, … View Profile

    It goes without saying that each person should have themselves checked out for their physical health - if they are on medication/the side effects with their health specialist.  If everything is fine there, then we look at feelings and emotions and what has caused these.

    I am a Clinical Hypnotherapist, Counsellor that has worked in a trauma and pain management clinic.  I use lots of modalities within the hypnosis trance state.  So I can validate TIR (Traumatic Incident Reduction) - a viewing process does work.  Then for some people the Cinema viewing process of NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming), is kinder as it is more removed from the happening.  But as has been mentioned, what if you don't know what the first and original trigger was that caused the happening?  Then I would opt for one of the energy psychology treatments such as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing), plus there are a host of other therapies - Gestalt, Parts Therapy, Transactional Analysis/PAC and so forth.  As a hypnotherapist I use all these in the trance state, where the roots of your feelings and emotions come from.  I mention all the above as people are often not aware that these things exist, and as a rule, you would not get a referral from a GP for these.  Same as has been mentioned by Stephen Lockley above I have a number of video's on my website where clients have kindly allowed me to share their thoughts about their therapy - a few of which cover anxiety.

    The thing to remember is that mostly the event that originally caused the panic is over, so all we are really doing is releasing this stuck energy from that event, which when released is no longer a problem.  Fear of failure is a big thing when it comes to Uni, however if you have done your homework, you will remember enough to get a pass mark.  Speaking infront of people was a huge issue for me - there was a reason.  There always is.  Finding the right therapy for you is a case of trial and error, there are many things in life that work exactly the same way.

  • Ritchie Wong

    Psychologist

    Ritchie is a Psychologist and EMDR Practitioner in Melbourne who has been working with people of all ages from diverse cultural backgrounds who present with … View Profile

    I think Bruni explained it well above and I can't agree with her more! Certainly seek a therapist trained in helping you release the trauma that is underlying your panic attacks and anxiety. That way, you won't have to just 'manage' your anxiety for the rest of your life which is an idea some other therapies may make you feel like you have to do. I am an EMDR therapist and my patients have found EMDR very effective in addressing and resolving chronic anxiety problems as it gets to the root cause/s and resolves it once and for all, so the chance of relapse can be close to none. You can visit my website at www.emdrclinic.com.au for more info on how EMDR can help you.

    All the best!

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    Kirsty Woods

    Exercise Physiologist

    Hi I’m Kirsty Woods,I would like to use my experience, expertise and passion to help you reach your weight, energy and health goalsI have been … View Profile

    Engaging in regular physical activity and improving food quality ie: real food and reduced sugar can help some with anxiety. Pharmacies also sells something called rescue remedy which you may also find useful.

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