Panic disorder is characterized as the “fear of having fear”. A panic attack may be triggered by things or situation, such as giving a speech to a large group of people or encountering a phobic trigger. For some people, a panic attack may have no apparent trigger. Rather, it seems to come “out of the blue”. A panic attack is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Intense and rapid fear that peaks in about 15 minutes
- Heart palpitations
- Gastro-intestinal distress
- Tightness in the chest and throat
- Perfuse sweating
- Dizziness or light headedness
- A feeling of being disconnected from ones body or from reality
For some, the fear of having a panic attack (the type that seems to come out of the blue) becomes so troublesome, that it develops into a disorder. It becomes a disorder when a person:
- Organizes their life to attempt to control the panic symptoms from happening
- Avoids situations that previously seemed to trigger the panic symptoms
- Hypervigilance of bodily changes or signs of something “not feeling right”
- Visits the hospital or doctor to get help for the panic (often, the healthcare provider does not find anything physically wrong)
Some people begin to associate panic attacks with locations or situations. They conclude that the environment triggered the panic attack. Over time, they avoid these locations and situations for fear of having another panic attack. In its extreme, this leads to agoraphobia – fear of open or public places.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is helpful in teaching people with panic disorder strategies to overcome the fear. The therapists at Pacific CBT have experience treating sufferers of this and other types of anxiety. Call today to speak with a therapist who can determine if CBT will help.