What exactly is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is an unpleasant and quite severe experience of anxiety that often occurs very quickly and for no apparent reason.

This type of anxiety reaction can have many names : panic attack, panic habit, social phobia, panic disorder, acute stress disorder or agoraphobia. But, whatever the name a ‘panic attack’ is an uncomfortable and upwardly spiraling state of anxiety, fear, and intense mental and physical arousal.

The fear of being afraid

Not knowing what is happening or why it is happening makes matters worse – because now the fear of what is happening to us being added to what is actually happening in us.

In other words, we experience a combination of fears – including the anxiety reaction itself plus our fear about what is happening. People often make these comments about panic attacks

  • I know it’s called a panic attack but I don’t know why it’s happening right now
  • I don’t understand what is happening to me
  • These feelings can’t be caused by my mind – there must be something physically wrong with me
  • Am I losing my mind?
  • I don’t know what to do to stop the panic
  • Anything I do seems to make it worse
  • Even when it goes away I live in dread of the next one.

My own panic attack experiences

My name is Reg Connolly and I experienced my first panic attack around 1975. At the time I had no idea what was happening, what it was nor what I could do about it. I genuinely thought I was losing my mind. (You can read about it in my blog article here.)

Yes, I very quickly got over it and this is explained in the article. I’d always been interested in how the mind and body work together and this experience prompted me to study counselling (and NLP) with the result that by the early 80’ I began a 22 year career as a counsellor and psychotherapist.

Ironically the stress in my personal life at the time plus the stress of studying/exams resulted in a more severe and enduring series of panic attacks between the late 70’s and early 80’s. I eventually developed strategies for managing and, eventually, eradicating the panic attack habit.

The good news: you can beat the habit

I know from my personal experience, that we can overcome the panic experience. More importantly I know from dealing with hundreds of people who had the ‘panic habit’ during two decades as a counsellor, that we can make it a short-lived habit.

 

But is it really just a habit?

Yes, the panic attack habit is just that – a habit. It is a learned behavioural pattern rather than a ‘personality disorder.’ And it is a habit rather than a character ‘weakness’ or a ‘mental health issue’.

A habit is a developed and learned behaviour, This means it can be ‘unlearned’ and you can return to normal life relatively quickly. Yes, it will most likely take a little time – and quite a bit of determination – but it can be done.

 

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By Reg Connolly