Panic attacks can actually feel very normal and healthy in context. For example, if you were about to bungy jump or if you were being chased by a lion or if you were standing at the egde of an exit door of a plane with a parachute ready to jump out when a few kilometres in the sky for the first time, then the panic attack would feel very normal. In these instances it is the situation, rather than our response to the situation, that stands out as the concern. In all these examples we would most likely be feeling panicy… but it would make sense and seem reasonable enough to feel that way under the circumstances.
So a key issue when having a panic attack is that we usually don't know why we are having it. Because of this, it will most likely seem out of context to what we are facing at the time and so therefore will usually feel quite weird and freaky. We wil start worrying what is wrong with us and why we are feeling so incredibly freaked out for no apparent reason.
But the amazing thing about the human mind is that it doesn't have to be faced by something as obvious as a bungy jump, parachute drop or hungry lion to get in to a state of panic. As humans we have so many things a lot less obvious than that to concern us and worry us whereby we can end up feeling threatened or scared by it.
We can end up with lots of fears. For example, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of worthlessness, insignificance,… fear of not being able to cope or manage under the stressors that pile up… These are just some examples of lot's of different things that can evoke within us a panic response.
So one aspect of treatment is to come to understand and reassess those things (fears) that can trigger a panic response and deal with them accordingly through the therapeutic process.
Another aspect of treatment is to learn how to bring the panic response back down toward a more relaxed state. Body and mind calming/relaxation exercises that can be applied when the panic response kicks in is one aspect of this.
Another aspect is to build awareness of associated avoidance behaviours related to panic responses in order to nip in the bud any snowballing of avoidance. This is because when ever we feel panicy we also then want to avoid or stear clear of the thing(s) that have us feeling that way. But because we are not 100% sure of what those things are that make us feel panicy, we often will just make them up as we go along. So we can start avoiding people and places in an attempt to try and keep away from what ever it is that makes us feel that way. So curbing this avoidance behaviour is also very important.
These are just some brief introductory overviews of key concepts that should be worked through in more detail in therapy.
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