What is Panic Disorder/Panic Attacks?
Panic disorder is when we experience a number of unexpected panic attacks, often they may appear to occur for no reason. A panic attack can be very distressing and last approximately 5-20 minutes on average, although often people report they can occur for up to 1 hour.
During a panic attack we have a sudden period of intense fear, and in this time we may experience some/all of the following symptoms in our body:
Following experiencing this sudden surge in bodily sensations, when we have panic disorder, we will misinterpret the body symptoms as a sign of immediate danger. Examples of common misinterpretations include; I'm having a heart attack, I'm dying, im suffocating, I'm going to faint, I'm losing my mind. It is these thoughts which then increases anxiety and thus the body sensations, creating a vicious cycle of anxiety.
Often when we experience panic attacks we try to avoid them occurring again in the future, this may involve avoiding places/situations where panic attacks have occurred in the past. Situations are avoided where we may feel trapped, with little access to help, this is known as Agoraphobia and often exists alongside Panic Disorder.
Impact on Functioning
As with all mental health conditions, for some people the condition impacts many areas of their lives and this is evident, this is something we can see, for example the impact can be on our:
However, for some people we cannot evidently see their difficulties, they may be attending work, engaging socially, continuing their usual activities. In clinic we use a metaphor of a duck swimming on a pond. We can seem to be moving without effort, gliding through life, just like the duck on the water. However, while we may appear fine on appearance, we can be paddling very hard underwater, struggling where people cannot see. No matter the visible impact upon your daily functioning, we are here to support you to overcome the current difficulties you are experiencing.
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