Panic disorder is defined as the awareness of unpleasant bodily sensations, that lead to excessive anxiety. This triggers the body’s fear response; fight or flight. This is a consequence of either our threat detection system nonconsciously detecting something representing a danger or, an external stimulus that elicits a fear-based memory. In the latter case, it is an anticipatory form of fear. It is anticipatory because it is not about a real fear experience in the here and now, but rather about the perception of it at some point in the future, be it, a minute, day or week. There are many forms of anxiety and specific names for the various types, e.g. social anxiety, generalized anxiety, separation anxiety etc. Panic disorder is a specific type of anxiety and is characterized by sudden and repetitive attacks of intense fear that usually last for several minutes, although they sometimes last much longer, maybe hours on occasion. Panic attacks, as they are called, usually make the sufferer experience an overwhelming sense of disaster or a loss of control and mostly when there isn’t any real danger.
The sufferer of a panic attack often experiences some very strong physical reactions during the attack, e.g. pounding heart, sweaty palms, dizziness, pins and needles etc. It is not uncommon for them to feel like they are having a heart attack. The attacks often occur randomly, although there is usually some form of a psychological trigger associated with the attack; albeit these are usually subconscious in nature and, as such, outside of their awareness. Because these attacks are so random many people with panic disorder worry and fret about when the next one will occur. This can lead to avoidance strategies, whereby the sufferer starts to slowly and progressively withdraw from life. If left untreated this can ultimately lead to agoraphobia, where the sufferer feels it is not safe to leave home and finds an unending number of excuses to stay at home; where they feel relatively safe; for a while . . . The sad reality, for many sufferers, is that this is only a relative feeling of safety; not an actual feeling of total safety. In a sense, the home becomes the lesser of two evils!
The progression of the disorder is usually gradual and there are many stages between the first attack and it developing to agoraphobia. For example, a person with panic disorder usually becomes discouraged, often feeling ashamed because they cannot carry out ordinary everyday chores like going to the store, eating in public, going on public transport or even driving. It seems that what often feeds the behaviour, is being somewhere where it may be difficult to extricate themselves if an attack occurred. This can leave them trapped in a potentially difficult situation. Panic disorder usually interferes with their social life, school or work. In some cases, it may be difficult to hold a job down because of the disruption and withdrawal etc. In short, panic disorder totally disrupts normal life and it is usual for the sufferer to believe this will never end!
The good news is, that panic disorder very often responds well to hypnotherapy, a specific type of therapeutic treatment, and in most cases without medication. The hypnotherapy treatment I offer has proven to be very effective with many clients who suffer from this life-limiting condition. Because the psychological drivers behind panic disorder are subconscious, hypnotherapy, a medium specifically delivered at the subconscious level of mind, is very effective at finding and treating the root cause(s) and/or the maladaptations that can develop upstream from the root causes (initial sensitising event) of the condition. Usually, there is a timeline of the condition, an audit trail if you will, and it is in exploring this timeline and its progression that the ultimate solution is found. From there it is a case of slowly neutralizing the psychological triggers and installing new behavioural responses to the activating stimulus. Because something doesn’t have to be real to be believed, it works in the opposite to the onset. The onset was characterized by a belief that some impending disaster was about to happen, the solution is in the belief that something else, maybe nothing, will happen. Either way, in this belief a whole other set of neurochemical responses occur that do not involve the fear centre of the brain and consequently no anxiety/panic ensues!
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