Most people experience occasional anxiety, but for some, this feeling can become so overwhelming that it interferes with their daily lives. This is known as a panic attack. While in some cases triggers for panic attacks are obvious – such as a fear of public speaking – the causes of unexpected panic attacks are not fully understood. Even so there are treatments available that can help. Hypnotherapy is one such treatment that has been shown to be effective in reducing or eliminating panic attacks.
In this article we’ll explore what causes panic attacks, some of the symptoms associated with them, and how hypnotherapy can help to either reduce the frequency or eliminate them altogether.
What is a panic attack and what are the symptoms
A panic attack is a sudden onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and can include physical, psychological, and cognitive symptoms. These can include:
- Racing heart
- Chest pain or tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Shaking or trembling
- Dizziness or a lightheadedness
- Feeling unreal or detached from oneself
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
It’s important to remember that the panic attack symptoms highlighted above are are not uncommon and can happen to anyone; they just may be more frequent in those with panic disorder or other mental health conditions.
What’s the difference between a panic attack and a panic disorder?
A panic disorder is diagnosed when an individual experiences recurrent and unexpected panic attacks, as well as anticipatory anxiety (worrying about the next panic attack). This can lead to avoidance behaviors, such as not leaving the house for fear of having a panic attack in public.
Panic attacks can be terrifying experiences, but it’s important to understand that they are not harmful and can be effectively managed with the help of a professional.
What are the causes of panic attacks
Medical professionals still don’t know what causes people to develop panic disorder, but there are a number of factors that may play a role, such as:
- Genetics: Severe panic disorder can run in families, so it’s possible that there is a genetic component
- Environmental factors: Stressful life events, such as a death or divorce, can trigger panic attacks. Post-traumatic stress disorder caused by a traumatic event, such as a car accident, can also lead to panic disorder
- Biological factors: Abnormalities in the function of certain brain circuits and neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit signals between nerve cells) have been linked to panic disorder. There is also evidence that people with panic disorder have a lower threshold for the activation of the
- Medical conditions: Panic attacks can be a symptom of other health conditions, such as thyroid problems, low blood sugar, or asthma
- Substance abuse: Some drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, can trigger panic attacks. As can some withdrawal symptoms.
What are some natural ways to reduce panic attacks?
It is natural to feel panicked in a stressful or frightening situation, humans have evolved and survived thanks to that very system.
There are a number of ways of treating anxiety disorders to help prevent unexpected panic attacks as well as reduce the frequency and severity of attacks when they do occur. Some of these methods include:
- Exercise: Exercise can help to reduce stress and improve your overall sense of wellbeing. It can also take your mind off of the things that are causing you anxiety.
- Relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques, such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation, can help to calm your mind and body.
- Breathing exercises: Learning how to control your breathing can help to prevent panic attacks as well as lessen their severity
- Diet: Eating a healthy diet and avoiding triggers, such as caffeine and alcohol, can help to reduce the frequency of panic attacks
If you feel that you are struggling to cope with panic attacks, it’s important to seek professional help from your GP.
What should you do if you experience a panic attack
A panic attack can be a frightening experience, with symptoms such as racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, and overwhelming fear. However, there are steps you can take to manage and lessen the severity of your symptoms.
First and foremost, try to focus on your breathing. Take slow, deep breaths, counting to five on the inhale and exhale. This can help to regulate your heart rate and provide a measure of control in the midst of panic. Relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or visualization can also be helpful in calming yourself down.
It may also be helpful to write down any thoughts or worries that are causing distress during the attack, as it can provide some relief and perspective.
How can you prevent panic attacks from happening
Unfortunately for some people suffering with panic disorders attacks can occur unexpectedly and often. Luckily, there are steps your GP or a mental health professional can take to help you improve your situation. The most common is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
CBT is a form of therapy that can help you to change the way you think about and react to situations that trigger panic attacks. It can also help you to develop healthy coping mechanisms for when an attack does occur.
Other methods of prevention include:
Exposure therapy: This is a type of CBT that involves gradually exposing yourself to the situations or objects that trigger your panic attacks in a safe and controlled environment. Exposure therapy is not recommended for those who experience extreme anxiety and panic or those where fear overwhelms the patient or for those with mental disorders.
Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed in order to help reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks.
One approach that has been effective for many individuals is hypnotherapy. Hypnosis allows you to access the subconscious mind, where the root cause of your panic may lie.
Hypnotherapy for panic attacks
Hypnotherapy is a type of psychotherapy that uses hypnosis. Although there are several professional organisations for hypnotherapy, it is voluntarily regulated, which means it is not yet accepted as standard medical care in the NHS. However, clinical trials have proven that talking therapies such as hypnosis used alongside Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is an effective method to reduce anxiety and panic attacks.
When you visit a clinical hypnotherapist your initial consultation will begin by talking through your symptoms and how they’re affecting you. The therapist will then explain how hypnosis works. They may also give you a brief guide as to what will happen during the hypnotherapy sessions.
During the first hypnotherapy session, the therapist will encourage you to relax and focus your attention on their voice and words. This state of relaxation and focus is called a trance.
If you feel anxious about going into a hypnotic state, don’t worry. You’ll be fully in control of the situation at all times.
In a trance, your critical faculty (the part of your mind that is sceptical of new ideas) is bypassed. Hypnosis helps to relieve symptoms of social anxiety using relaxation techniques that enable you to enter a deeply relaxed state. Hypnotic induction, just like meditation, enables focused attention allowing your subconscious mind to become more open to hypnotic suggestions.
The hypnotherapist will make a post-hypnotic suggestion that will help you overcome your anxiety. For example, they may suggest that you’ll feel more relaxed in social situations so that your anxiety will no longer stop you from doing things you enjoy.
It’s important to state that hypnosis for anxiety is not suitable for everyone and those with serious mental health problems such as a personality disorder or psychosis could make their condition worse.
How many hypnotherapy sessions are needed for treating panic attacks?
Generally, hypnotherapy will require between 3-6 sessions. However, this may vary depending on the severity of your panic attacks and how you respond to the session.
Probably the most important session is your initial consultation. This is where together the client and therapist will discuss concerns, explore the changes they would lie to make and understand if hypnosis is the right kind of therapy for them. It’s also a great opportunity to get to know the hypnotherapist as feeling comfortable is probably the most important factor towards success.
Ultimately you should walk away with a good understanding of what anxiety is, how it happens and why it causes you to have a panic attack.
Does hypnosis work for panic disorders?
Clinical trials have found that a combination of CBT and hypnosis is an effective treatment for anxiety and panic attacks. In one study, patients who underwent this form of treatment had a significantly lower chance of their anxiety returning compared to those who only received CBT.
Ready to talk about hypnotherapy for panic attacks?
If you’re considering hypnotherapy to stop panic attacks, make sure to visit a qualified and experienced therapist. Check to see if they’re registered with a professional body such as the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis or the National Council for Hypnotherapy.
If you’re not sure whether hypnotherapy is right for you, ask your GP for advice. They will be able to discuss your options and help you to find the right treatment for your needs.
It’s also important to feel comfortable and relaxed with the hypnotherapist. Your feelings matter and hypnotherapy works best when you’re feeling calm and able to trust the person you’re working with.
If you’re considering hypnotherapy for anxiety, I am always happy to help just call 07966 464 005 or via this contact form.
It’s worth noting that clinical hypnosis is not only helpful for treating symptoms of anxiety but can help reduce stress, build self-esteem, help overcome phobias and fears, treat depression and help you feel calmer so you can get on with daily life. Hypnotherapy can also be helpful for dealing with anxiety-related problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.