Anxiety And Panic Attacks Therapy
by Alessio Faggioli - MA, BS(H), BA
We are all emotional beings and have complex emotional systems rising from our consciousness. Our emotional intelligence makes us superior to other living organisms. However, when it becomes overwhelming, it can halt cognitive processes and change the way we live and perceive life. To lead a normal life, we need to maintain our mental well-being as much as our physical well-being. Mental conditions like anxiety can greatly affect daily life, personal image, productivity, and relationships.
I’ll help you to understand how anxiety and panic attack therapy can overcome problems created by this condition.
What is Anxiety
Anxiety simply refers to a feeling of unease, restlessness, and fear, especially about the things that are about to happen or the thing that could happen in the future. Most people feel anxious when they are dealing with or about to deal with a stressful situation or perhaps they are in a transition period of their life.
You would be surprised to know that it is normal. Like all animals, humans have evolved ways that help us protect ourselves from dangers. When we face a stressful situation, our body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones make us more alert so that we can act swiftly. Also, it makes our heartbeat faster and increases blood flow.
This is called the “fight, flight, or freeze” response. It happens unconsciously, which is why we don’t have any control over it. This isn’t a bad thing, and actually, it is essential for our survival.
When does Anxiety become a Problem?
Anxiety becomes a problem when it is unexpectedly severe and lasts longer than normal after a stressful situation has ended. In this condition, anxiety can lead to a persisting condition and in extreme cases, it can become a mental disorder. Anxiety disorders encompass persistent and excessive worry about activities or events, even worrying about daily issues.
People living with anxiety disorders experience frequent anxiety for months which is different from occasional anxiety. This condition develops slowly and often starts at an early age.
Are you suffering from Anxiety?
The signs and symptoms of anxiety vary from person to person, but here are some common symptoms observed in people experiencing it:
- Excessive worrying about routine stuff;
- Having trouble controlling feelings of nervousness and worry;
- Feeling restlessness;
- Concentration difficulties;
- Trouble falling asleep;
- Feeling tired all the time;
- Having frequent headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains;
- Feeling irritable.
Anxiety and Panic Attacks
A panic attack is a severe form of anxiety, more intense and prolonged, while anxiety is more a response to something that is threatening us. A panic attack encompasses at least four of the following:
- Losing control or feeling going crazy (overwhelming fear);
- Sense of choking;
- Shortness of breath;
- Chest pain;
- Fear of dying.
Panic attacks can last up to 20 minutes and in extreme cases, a person can experience several of them in a row. The feeling they report afterwards is extreme fatigue and worrying about their life.
Causes of Anxiety Disorders and Panic Attacks
The cause of anxiety disorder is still unknown. Experts believe that life experiences such as traumatic events or genetics play a role in triggering anxiety disorders.
Many people with anxiety and panic attacks may have underlying health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, etc. Medical problems that can be linked to anxiety encompass:
- Heart disease
- Respiratory disorders
- Drug misuse or withdrawal
- Withdrawal from alcohol
- Chronic pain
Traumatic events can cause anxiety disorder. Traumas like sexual abuse, the death of a parent, or losing a life partner can do serious emotional damage, which may cause panic attacks. People prone to stress may develop post-trauma stress disorders after a mishappening in their life.
Research suggests anxiety disorder can be genetic. You are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder if someone in your family has it. If you have a twin, parent, or sibling suffering from an anxiety disorder, you are more likely to get it. Similarly, if your family has a history of panic attacks or panic disorder, you are more likely to suffer from it.
Anxiety Disorders Therapy
The primary treatment for these types of mental disorders is talking therapy. When you realize that things are getting out of control, the first thing you could do is consult with a psychotherapist.
The way I personally approach the work is to first create a safe and non-judgmental space, invite the client to describe what is happening in his/her life, and try to get an understanding of their emotional, bodily and psychological state. The therapeutic sessions become an experiential laboratory in which the person will begin using different senses to become aware of whatever is happening in the “here and now”. Breathing techniques, mindfulness observation and somatic work, among others, are the main tools used to work with a person who is feeling distressed and is experiencing anxiety and or panic attacks. The most important thing is that this particular situation offers a great opportunity to undergo an internal journey, tapping into emotions and internal narrative (usually thoughts and emotions we feel within and most often not shared with others). In this journey, I place a lot of emphasis on the fact that we work beyond “good and bad”, and “right and wrong”. In other words, what really matters is what the person is experiencing and validating and empowering the person is a pivotal step in the healing process.
They are usually used only in extreme cases when someone’s life is in danger. The main recommendation is to seek an experienced psychotherapist who will help you to become aware of your emotional and psychological state and develop tools to navigate those states when they will be triggered.
What to expect during a therapeutic session
The first session of therapy often focuses on gathering information about physical, mental, and emotional health. This helps me to attune to the client’s needs. It can take a few sessions to have a good understanding of the client’s situation, before making a therapeutic plan. The first session can help the client to understand and decide if my style is a good fit for his/her needs, and to talk about the type of therapy used, treatment goals, ethics, confidentiality, and how many sessions are needed.
Sessions may stir up intense emotions. It is possible to become upset, angry, or sad during treatment. Despite this all may sound challenging, in order to get an understanding of what we hold inside, we have to help it to emerge into our consciousness/awareness. My role as a therapist is to help you to build your confidence, and become more comfortable and attuned with yourself, as sessions progress.
How long does individual therapy last
Individual therapy sessions usually last 60 minutes. The length of the therapeutic plan and how often sessions occur depend on:
- The client’s mental health condition and its severity,
- How long has the client been dealing with the issue/s,
- What is the issue’s impact on the client’s life,
- How quickly the person in therapy improves,
- Financial limitations.
Some concerns can be addressed through short-term therapy, usually over 6-12 weeks. However, chronic and more complex traumas can require long-term treatment and sometimes even years.
Psychotherapist, Psychologist in Prague
As a registered Psychotherapist and Psychologist based in Prague with over 9 years of experience in clinical mental health, substance use, trauma, and counseling, I have developed a diverse skill set to support my clients.
My approach is integrative, drawing on techniques and theories such as Transpersonal psychology, Person-Centered, Jungian, Gestalt, Existential, Transactional Analysis, Attachment theory, Complex Trauma, Somatic approach, Character styles, Internal Family System, Mentalization, Meditation, and Mindfulness. I am a member of the Irish Association of Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy (IAHIP) and the Czech Psychotherapist Association (CZAP), adhering to their code of ethics.
If you’re interested in starting therapy with me, the first step is to schedule a free initial consultation call or send me an email.