Anxiety and panic attacks

Anxiety is something we all experience from time to time. Most people can relate to feeling tense, uncertain and, perhaps, fearful at the thought of sitting an exam, going into hospital, attending an interview or starting a new job. This type of short-term anxiety can be useful, for example feeling nervous before an exam can make you feel more alert and enhance your performance. However, if the feelings of anxiety overwhelm you, your ability to concentrate and do well may suffer.


The 'fight or flight' reflex

Anxiety and fear can protect you from danger. When you feel under threat, anxiety and fear trigger the release of hormones, such as adrenalin. Adrenalin causes your heart to beat faster to carry blood where it's most needed. You breathe faster to provide the extra oxygen required for energy. You sweat to prevent overheating. Your mouth may feel dry; as your digestive system slows down to allow more blood to be sent to your muscles. Your senses become heightened and your brain becomes more alert.

These changes make your body able to act and protect you in a dangerous situation, either by running away or fighting. It is known as the 'fight or flight' reflex. Once the danger has passed, other hormones are released, which may cause you to shake as your muscles start to relax. This response is useful for protecting you against physical dangers; for example, it can help you run away from wild animals, attackers, fires etc very quickly. The response is not so useful if you want to run away from exams, public speaking, a driving test, or having an injection! This is because, if there is no physical threat, and you have no need to physically run away or fight, the effects of adrenaline subside more slowly, and you may go on feeling agitated for a long time.

If the anxiety stays at a high level for a long time, you may feel that it is difficult to deal with everyday life. The anxiety may become severe; you may feel powerless, out of control, as if you are about to die or go mad. Sometimes, if the feelings of fear overwhelm you, you may experience a panic attack.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is an exaggeration of the body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement. It is the rapid build-up of overwhelming sensations, such as a pounding heartbeat, feeling faint, sweating, nausea, chest pains, breathing discomfort, feelings of losing control, shaky limbs and legs turning to jelly. If you experience this, you may fear that you are going mad, blacking out, or having a heart attack. You may be convinced you are going to die during the attack – making this a terrifying experience. Panic attacks come on very quickly, with symptoms usually peaking within 10 minutes. Most panic attacks last for between five and 20 minutes. Some people report attacks lasting for up to an hour, but they are likely to be experiencing one attack after another or a high level of anxiety after the initial attack. You may have one or two panic attacks and never experience another, or you may have attacks once a month or several times each week. For some people, they seem to come without warning and strike at random…

Panic attacks can also come in the night and wake you up. These night time attacks occur if your brain is on 'high alert'. Night-time attacks may be particularly frightening, as you may feel confused and helpless to do anything to spot them coming.

If you worry more than others, it could be because of your personality, current circumstances or your past or childhood experience; it could be a combination of factors. If something distressing happened to you in the past and you were unable to deal with your emotions at the time, you may become anxious about facing similar situations again in case they stir up the same feelings of distress. Feeling anxious could also be something you learned early on in life due to your family circumstance. Sometimes, if you feel you are not in control of many aspects of your life, you can start to feel anxious, and this sets up a vicious circle.

Anxiety can have an effect on both your body and your mind and can make you more fearful, alert, on edge, irritable, and unable to relax or concentrate.

To cope with these feelings and sensations, you may feel tempted to start smoking or drinking too much, or misusing drugs. You may hold onto relationships that either encourage your anxious outlook or help you avoid situations you find distressing, and so stop you from dealing with what’s worrying you.

Help is available!

Analytical hypnotherapy will help you to relax, sleep better, and deal with the symptoms of anxiety. You will also gain insight and understanding into the root cause of your distress and find strategies for coping.

Analytical Hypnotherapy or Hypnoanalysisis a therapeutic technique which seeks to find the root causes of a problem and enable unconscious change in the client in the form of new responses, thoughts, attitudes, behaviours and feelings. This releases you to be free of your emotional and psychological issues and able to live more fully.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Whitstable CT5 & London SW14
Written by Ann Hamilton, SQHP | Senior Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapist and Supervisor
Whitstable CT5 & London SW14

Ann Hamilton. MA, BSc Hons, DAHP, GHR, CNHC, Dip EMDR, EFT, MIACHT, UKRF.

Artemis Hypnotherapy

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