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William Macaulay

Counsellor & Psychotherapist

Perth, Western Australia

Phone 0401 316 977

for enquiries or appointments

Panic Attack Counselling Perth

 

Do you regularly suffer from panic attacks? These sharp increases in anxiety are often a scary and overwhelming experience. Conveniently located north and south of the river in Perth, I offer counselling and psychotherapy services to help people combat and manage this debilitating condition.

What are Panic Attacks?

Up to 40% of Australians will experience a panic attack at some point in their lives. A panic attack is a sudden surge of intense fear or terror without the presence of danger. They can last from a few minutes to half an hour. While panic sensations are a natural response to danger, panic attacks are usually out of proportion to any actual danger you might be facing. The belief that you are in danger may result in increased anxiety, which then leads to more sensations and more catastrophic thoughts, creating a vicious cycle between bodily sensations, distorted thoughts, and anxiety, which can rather quickly increase the unpleasant sensations experienced during the panic attack.

 

People who regularly experience repeated and unexpected panic attacks may experience some of the following impacts on their lives:

  • The avoidance of certain activities or situations to minimise or avoid the possibility of a future attack.

  • Ongoing anxiety about experiencing further panic attacks and their consequences.

  • Other complications such as phobias, depression, substance misuse, self-harm or suicidal ideation.

 

Panic Attack Symptoms

 

A panic attack is usually accompanied by some or many of the following physical sensations and feelings:

Physical sensations:

  • pounding heart

  • dizziness, faintness or light-headedness

  • difficulty breathing

  • chest pains

  • numbness or pins and needles

  • sweating

  • trembling or shaking

  • nausea

  • choking sensations

  • increased heart rate

  • feeling faint

  • hot flushes or chills

Feelings of:

  • being out of control

  • dying

  • going crazy

  • being detached from yourself or your surroundings

 

It is important to note that despite many of the above physical sensations being real they will quickly subside. Catastrophic thinking or exaggerated interpretations of the physical sensations may escalate them and cause a prolonged panic attack.

 

Causes of Panic Attacks

 

While the exact causes are unclear, there is evidence to suggest that they appear to be connected to a combination of:

  • Genetic predisposition

  • Extreme ongoing and unrelenting stress

  • Stressful life events such as sexual abuse, loss of employment or bereavement

  • Reaction to a traumatic event

  • Personality factors such as having a highly anxious temperament

  • Anxiety sensitivity - a tendency for a person to fear anxiety-related body sensations

  • Physical illness

 

Strategies to Manage a Panic Attack

 

Techniques to ease your panic attack, or to prevent one from getting worse:

  • Breathe in as slowly and as deeply as you can, and exhale completely

  • Breathing into a paper bag for a short while may be helpful

  • Challenge your fear by asking yourself “Am I in any immediate danger?”

  • Don’t fight your feelings - the attack will more than likely pass in a few minutes

  • It may be helpful to remind yourself that you are in this anxious state “for now” and not forever

  • Avoid self-medicating - get appropriate medical advice before taking any medication

 

Addressing Recurrent Panic Attacks

 

The above strategies to manage a panic attack may help you calm down in a crisis. However, they don’t address the underlying causes. The following strategies may help reduce the underlying causes of panic attacks.

 

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT):

CBT is recognised as the most effective type of therapy for most anxiety disorders. CBT aims to help you understand that your negative thinking patterns and irrational beliefs about your symptoms will significantly impact your experience. With the guidance of a mental health professional, these thinking patterns and beliefs are challenged and replaced by more rational and helpful ones, which then, in turn, reduces your anxiety symptoms and experience.

 

Exposure Therapy:

Exposure therapy helps you to confront your fears in a safe and controlled environment. Through repeated and gradually increased exposures, either in your imagination or in reality, to the feared object or situation, you gain a greater sense of control. As you face your fear without being harmed, your anxiety gradually diminishes.

 

Relaxation:

Daily relaxation techniques may help to keep you calm and relaxed, such as deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and light exercises like walking or yoga.

Featured Articles About Anxiety

I have written the following anxiety themed articles. Click on the following links to learn more about:

 

Counselling

 

If you're struggling with panic attacks or would like to talk about anything raised in this article, please feel free to contact me to make an appointment. Counselling can be highly effective for managing panic attacks. Early treatment is best. Don't let this debilitating condition stop you from living a fulfilled and enriched life.