Joe and Michele have suggested that CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) might help, and I agree. There is another approach which I find effective in my work: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I’m guessing that you’ve probably tried lots of things to lessen your panic and anxiety in thunderstorms. Maybe distraction, relaxation, positive thinking, self-reassurance, avoiding driving in storms. If they were working for you, you probably wouldn’t have written this post. There’s a paradox in our efforts to control panic: it often makes things worse. Fear is normal. It’s an alarm response that makes us take some type of protective action when our health or safety appears to be threatened. Fear is not intended to be controlled. The problem occurs when our aversion to the normal experience of fear causes us to struggle with that feeling. The struggle is the problem, not the original fear.
If your panic or anxiety (or avoidance of situations that cause panic or anxiety) is getting in the way of doing the things that matter to you, then seek professional help. Consult your GP about whether you’d qualify for a medicare subsidised referral to a psychologist.
ACT would involve developing your skills to mindfully notice your bodily sensations of anxiety, to disentangle yourself from your fear-related thoughts/worries, to see yourself as the context within which thought/sensations/emotions arise (perspective taking), to identify your core heartfelt values and commit to actions that serve those values.
If you’re interested in this approach, you can find an ACT psychologist in the therapist listings at actmindfully.com.au
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