Panic attacks are accompanied by a specific neurophysiological activation, with an acceleration of the heart beats and\or increased sweating. Moreover the panic attack is characterized by a sense of dying’s or going crazy. For this a panic attack is often accompanied by agoraphobia, which would be the fear of open spaces. The agoraphobia is caused by the fear that the panic attack can occur in a condition that is difficult to escape or simply to go unnoticed. This is especially true if the problem occurred for the first time in public circumstances. This creates a sort of “fear of fear”.
I remember a patient who had her first panic attack in a bus and then she didn’t have it anymore until the end of therapy. The therapy consisted of the management of the fear to have attacks, i.e. what to do and what to say in case of panics attacks. The therapy consisted also of listening to all unexpressed feelings, fears and anxieties. In fact the panic attack is a kind of alarm’s bell that there is something important that wants to be heard. The panic attack is an unspoken need that find the way out by somatization.
Beneath the panic’s attack there is an excessive self control and the terrible sense of helplessness. Indeed the panics attacks are caused by a situation in which the person has felt terribly helpless: a separation, illness of something similar. The panics attacks can be also caused by the first failure of a person who has always excelled in the university studies. Panic’s attacks circumstances change case to case. At any rate you can hardly overcome the panics attacks without specific help.
In the first phase of a psychotherapy it is often necessary also a pharmacological support. In fact it is necessary to lower the level of anxiety that saturate the mental space necessary to listening.
However panics attacks are the occasion to deal with your sense of fragility and helplessness. In so doing you can fully grasp the importance of relationships, discovering that there is someone who loves you like you are and not for what you can do. (Article published in the Journal of ANAP)
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