It was a beautiful summer day and we were enjoying a gorgeous walk in the park. The clouds were stunning, the air was fresh, life was amazing. Stacey and I had been chatting about her upcoming nuptials. Suddenly as I looked over at my friend, she was fidgeting with her shirt. She had a look of panic on her face as I asked her what was wrong?
“I can’t catch my breath. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Look at my hand, it’s shaking.”
I found a bench for us to move towards unsure of what was happening with her. “Stacey let’s walk this way if you can?”
“Make it stop. I feel so uneasy. What’s going on with me? I don’t even feel like me.” Stacey looked at me for reassurance.
As I gazed at her I could see beads of sweat forming on her brow. She appeared very uncomfortable in her own skin. And then suddenly it dawned on me. “Sweetie, I think you are having a panic attack.”
“I think I might be having a heart attack, my heart is racing so fast.” Stacey pleaded with me as we moved towards the bench.
“Just hold on a bit longer if you can.” Let’s get you focused back on your breath I said.
As we sat down on the bench, she began to appear a bit calmer. Her sweaty forehead glistened in the summer light as her color brightened back up.
“I feel different,” she remarked. “What the heck just happened to me? I think I better go to my doctors. Something like this has happened to me before, but I thought it was just a one-time coincidence.”
“Sounds like a great idea to get yourself checked out.”
Per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “A panic attack is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within 10 minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms.”
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations or shortness of breath or smothering
- Feelings of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
- Chills or heat sensations
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Feelings of unreality or depersonalization
- Fear of losing control or ‘going crazy’
- Fear of dying
According to Darby Saxbe, Ph.D., in her article The Fear of Fear Itself, it is estimated that panic attacks effect at least 2.4 million people every year. Panic attacks present as brief and intense, normally lasting no longer than 10 minutes. They are normally unexpected and diagnostically come from “out of the blue.” Many sufferers feel as if they are having a heart attack and are often rushed to the ER. Because so many of the symptoms of panic attacks are physical, patients often show up repeatedly in the emergency room because they think they are suffering from a medical problem.
What causes a panic attack?
Saxbe’s research has shown that scientists believe panic attacks stem from the ‘fight or flight’ system gone amiss, often triggered by life stressors or traumatic events. Per the Anxiety and Phobia workbook,
“Within your brain, panic attacks are more likely to occur when this entire system is overly sensitized, perhaps from having been previously activated too frequently, too intensely, or both. Thus, the neurological basis for panic is not exactly a ‘chemical imbalance,’ as your doctor may have told you, but an overly sensitized ‘fear system’…”
Throughout the pages of the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, it is surmised that ‘panic is an entirely natural bodily reaction that simply occurs out of context.’ This reaction arises out of the instinctual fight-or-flight response. When an individual experiences an impromptu attack, the same physiological symptoms of a life altering situation are activated within the individual. As was the case with Stacey who began to feel like she needed to flee when we began speaking of her upcoming nuptials. Through her work in hypnotherapy she could trace her feelings back to childhood. She could regress back to the source of her anxieties.
Hypnotherapy is a unique modality of treatment
According to the research of The Wellness Institute, “Back then” is “now” for most people. As a panic attack begins to unfold, the work of hypnotherapy helps a client regress back to the age where the nervous system began to first experience these fears and lacked the ability to complete the natural response. With the utilization of the age regression, the client can return to the moments of terror, fear, shame, grief, etc. to create a corrective experience. Hypnotherapy is unique because it touches both the client’s somatic experience and the emotional, using both to locate the source of the pattern and to heal it.
The Mind/Body Connection
The mind/body connection allows clients to begin noticing emotions that are trapped in the physical body. Resisting or fighting the symptoms of a panic attack can often make them worse. If an individual is living solely out of the conscious mind, a panic attack throws them off balance because there is no ‘rational’ reason for this experience to be occurring. This is where the brilliance of hypnotherapy steps in. Hypnotherapy invites clients into their sub-conscious mind where healing, insights, spiritual gifts, and amazing resource states exist. When a client is in the midst of a panic attack, their physical symptoms are occurring on a grand scale and this signals them to assume that they are in danger. It can become a snowball of physiological symptoms. Hypnotherapy creates an environment for clients to explore the severity and frequency of their panic attacks.
If you or anyone you know has suffered from panic attacks, I invite you to reach out to The Wellness Institute and connect with a therapist in your area. This work is life altering. Instead of fighting the symptoms of a panic attack, perhaps explore them in a hypnotherapy session and develop new conclusions that support the new behaviors you’d like to live out in your life.
Hypnotherapy is designed to tap into the fight-flight cycle that activates the sympathetic nervous system. These systems unlock a valuable vault of resources during a hypnotherapy session. Call today so that you or someone you love can experience a greater sense of freedom from the symptoms of panic attacks.