Panic Attacks

Panic Attacks are sudden periods of intense fear or extreme anxiety that includes some of:

  • feelings of overwhelming panic or fear
  • increased heart rate
  • difficulty breathing (feeling that there is not enough air)
  • excessive perspiration
  • nausea / butterflies in the stomach
  • dizziness, light-headedness or feeling faint.  When extreme this can feel like you or the world around you is not real.
  • the thought that you are dying, choking, ‘losing control’ or ‘going mad’

They appear to happen without warning and can last for a few minutes or up to half an hour. After the attack, it might take some time to feel ok again.

They can occur several times a day or may happen only once every few years. They can even occur while people are asleep, waking them up during the attack.

Many people (up to 40%) experience a panic attack once or twice in their lives.  About one in twenty people will have ongoing problems with Panic Attacks during their lifetime.  It is slightly more common in women than men and usually begins in the early to mid-20s or in mid-life.  It can occur at any age but it is rare in older people and children.

There are lots of causes including:

  • Family history – People with panic disorder tend to have a family history of anxiety disorders or depressive conditions.  There may therefore be a genetic component.
  • Biological factors – Some medical conditions (cardiac arrhythmias, hyperthyroidism, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and irritable bowel syndrome) are associated with panic attacks.
  • Negative experiences – Extremely stressful life experiences, such as childhood sexual abuse, redundancy or bereavement, have been linked to panic attacks. Periods of ongoing, unrelenting stress are also linked.

Treatment can be very effective in reducing the number and severity of panic attacks in most people.  The first obstacle can be overcoming a belief that there is a physical illness causing it (most common are beliefs of there being heart disease).  Medication is sometimes helpful to reduce symptoms but psychological treatment is the treatment of choice.

Kiora Psychotherapy’s Clinical Psychologists follow a treatment plan that has been developed and researched over many years.