Do you ever have the feeling of uncontrollable panic? Are you looking for ways to manage episodes of intense panic?

Feelings of extreme panic can be very distressing and debilitating. Many individuals who experience a panic attack fear experiencing another one due to the intensity of the accompanying physical sensations.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder involves the experience of panic attacks followed by ongoing fears of experiencing further panic attack episodes. Panic attacks can trigger very intense physical symptoms, and individuals often believe they are experiencing a cardiac event. As such, the psychological distress associated with a panic attack is often intense.

A panic attack may generate the following physical symptoms:

  • Racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Feeling short of breath leading to rapid shallow breathing
  • Choking
  • Chest discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Change in sensations (numbness, tingles)
  • Fear of losing control
  • Afraid you are dying

Panic occurs when your physical state stops you from dealing with a situation. The overwhelming anxiety at a psychological and physiological level stops the part of our brain responsible for logic, reasoning and problem solving from functioning. Feelings of panic can be brought on by a specific situation or by a sudden emotional feeling. Thoughts can also trigger one. The key is to identify the source of your panic attacks and address it.

Do you have any questions for us? Get in touch with us through our online contact form.

Call Bayside Psychotherapy on (03) 9557 9113 to find out if we’re able to help you. Your call is completely confidential, and there’s absolutely no obligation.

You can also book an appointment by using our online booking form for online appointments. Or, if you prefer, you can book an in-clinic session.

Self-hypnosis may also work well when used in conjunction with counselling. You can download our Panic Disorder Self Hypnosis recording from our website.

Frequently Asked Questions

A panic attack is an extreme surge of terror defined by its unexpectedness and debilitating, immobilising intensity. The signs of a panic attack begin abruptly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. They seldom last more than 60 minutes, with most ending within half an hour. Panic attacks can occur anywhere and at any time.

The most characteristic symptoms of a panic attack include shortness of breath or hyperventilation, heart palpitations, or feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings. You may also feel like you're going crazy or dying. 

Panic Attacks often happen out of the blue, without warning, and sometimes with no apparent trigger. They're different from an anxiety attack as these are usually brought on by a perceived stressor or threat, while panic attacks typically occur without a trigger. 

A panic attack may be a one-time occurrence, although many people experience repeat episodes. Specific situations in which you feel endangered or unable to escape usually trigger recurrent panic attacks - primarily if that situation has caused a panic attack before. 

Although the exact causes of panic attacks and panic disorder are unclear, the tendency to have one usually runs in families. There also appears to be a connection with major life transitions such as graduating from school, starting a new job, getting married, or having a baby. Severe stress, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss, can also trigger panic attacks. Medical conditions and other physical causes can also cause panic attacks.

While many people experience just one or two panic attacks without further episodes, some people may develop panic disorder. Panic disorder is characterised by repeated panic attacks, combined with significant changes in behaviour or persistent anxiety over having further attacks. 

No matter how powerless you may feel about your panic attacks, it's important to know that there are many things you can do to help yourself. Simply learning as much as you can about panic and anxiety can go a long way towards relieving your distress. It's also recommended to stop smoking and stop drinking alcohol and caffeine as all these substances can provoke panic attacks in susceptible people. Another helpful tip is to learn to control your breathing, as hyperventilation is a major symptom of a panic attack.

Treatment for panic disorder is collaborative between the client and practitioner. It may involve a combination of talking therapy (counselling or psychotherapy) and medication. There is no psychological therapy that is specifically more effective than another although some research has indicated that interventions including CBT (Andrews et al 2018), and psychodynamic psychotherapy may provide assistance.

Treatment may involve talking through the difficulties you are having and developing skills to better manage the physiological components of panic disorder such as deep breathing and relaxation and also exploring the specific factors triggering panic with each individual.

While medication may be an important part of treating panic disorder effectively in certain circumstances, we encourage you to seek advice from your GP or psychiatrist about this as we are not able to prescribe or advise on medication.

Call us on (03) 9557 9113 or use our contact form to enquire. 

This information is informative only and is not to be used for diagnosis or substitution of appropriate assessment and/or treatment by a registered practitioner.

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Therapists who do online

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Therapists who do in-clinic

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  • Natalie Szmerling
  • Georgina Delamain