Panic Disorder

The term panic is derived from the name of the Greek god Pan.  According to mythology the cloven footed dwarfish Pan was lonely and moody.  He had an impish sense of humour and if a human passed his cave he would jump out with a shrill and terrifying scream.  The acute terror felt by the human came to be known as Panic.

Ok so we know where the name panic comes from, but what happens when we experience panic…

Many of us in our lives will have suffered with some form of panic attack. Panic attacks can be brought on by all sorts of things, but they typically begin abruptly, may reach a peak within 10 minutes and can last anything from a few minutes to hours.  Panic attacks that continue for a longer period are often triggered by a situation from which the sufferer desires to escape, with some making frantic efforts to escape, which maybe violent if others attempt to stop them. 

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder: severe recurring panic attacks

The effects of a panic attack, for the first time, often lead the sufferer into fearing they are having a heart attack or a nervous breakdown, prolonging the attack itself. It is said that experiencing a panic attack is one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences of a person’s life. Now imagine, what it is like to suffer with a form of panic attacks on a regular basis? This is exactly what people have to endure who suffer from a panic disorder. A panic disorder is an anxiety disorder, which is characterized by the individual suffering severe recurring panic attacks.

It is estimated that at least 2 million people in the UK alone suffer from panic attacks, for some, these attacks become more regular and lead to more challenging cases of panic disorder.


Signs and Symptoms

Some of the common symptoms of an attack include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Perspiration
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • Uncontrollable fear
  • Sweating
  • Chocking sensation
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Numbness or tingling,
  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Faintness
  • A sense of altered reality

In addition, the sufferer also has thoughts of impending doom and catastrophe, this can be expressed as “something awful/terrible is happening to me, I’m in real danger.” 

According to DSM IV (American Psychiatric Association 1994) a panic disorder is defined by recurrent, unexpected panic attacks followed by at least a month of either:

  1. Persistent anxiety about having more attacks
  2. Worry about the possible implications or consequences of the attacks
  3. A marked change in behaviour as a result of the attacks (e.g. avoiding situations associated with attacks, such as quitting a stressful job)
  4. During the episodes, at least four of the sensations/feelings are experience as listed in the common symptoms of a panic attack above
  5. These attacks are not directly caused by a drug or a general medical condition


Beating Panic Disorder

Treatments that are best effective against panic disorder offer a full a response as possible, and minimise the chances of relapse – this is imperative. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association primarily recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for treating panic disorder. Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CBH) builds on the structure provided by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and introduces a hypnosis and hypnotherapy element. This use of hypnotherapy is another tool in the fight against panic disorder.

It is worth remembering that sufferers are individuals, and as such, a case by case approach to treatment is required. This is something the College of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CCBH) strongly believes in.

Therapists who attend one of the Colleges Master Classes in treating panic disorder are given not only the background knowledge they require in psychopathology and natural history of panic disorder, but information on how best to identify the right treatments for individuals. Therapists who attend one of the Colleges Master Classes in Treating Panic Disorder will learn:

  • Major theories when dealing with Panic Disorder
  • Available treatments and reviews of these treatments (including drug treatments)
  • How best to formulate an individual case
  • Hypnotherapy protocol – session by session treatment
  • Strategies and guidelines for dealing with challenging cases

CBT and CBH provide a full treatment for panic disorder and provide the sufferer with the tools to help them beat panic attacks and stop them re-occurring. By doing this, the individual has the tools at their disposal to beat panic disorder.

If you want to learn how to use Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy to successfully treat panic disorder, then you can attend one of the Master Classes that specialise in Treating Panic Disorder, held by the college.

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