Panic attacks are a particularly intense form of anxiety. It is the result of a sequence of events involving unpleasant body symptoms and catastrophic thoughts. Those who are prone to panic tend to interpret body symptoms such as heart palpitations or dizziness as dangerous or potentially catastrophic. These are normal reactions of the body to perceived danger.
Panic attacks are not dangerous, although the body reactions can be frightening.
The panic sequence is as follows:
- Initial stimulus: for example, under-breathing, being stuck in traffic
- Worry: thoughts such as, "What if I start to panic?"
- Early physiological arousal, which includes mild physical symptoms such as butterflies in the stomach, an increased heart rate, sweaty palms, slight dizziness
- Catastrophic thoughts: "I'm having a heart attack," "I'm going crazy," or "I'm going to die"
- Heightened physical arousal
The Orthodox Approach
In conventional medicine, tranquilizers or sometimes anti-depressants are often prescribed for panic attacks. These medications, however, come with side effects. In addition, they can be habit-forming, which can lead to a dependence on the medication that is difficult to stop.
The IMI Approach
Catastrophic thoughts in response to physical sensations of panic need to be labelled and then countered with realistic thoughts. It is possible to learn to flow with fear in the body as the state of arousal rises and falls, rather than reacting to these bodily sensations and fighting them or reacting fearfully.
Effective treatment for panic attacks involves support for both body and mind to desensitize and to handle fears. Treatment depends on accessing and working with patterns or beliefs learned from early memories that are stored in the subconscious mind. It is not simply a matter of willpower and a determination to control the circumstances in your life that are controlling you.
The practitioner will work with you to identify the underlying causes of the panic attacks and give support for lifestyle balancing.
Psychological approaches include: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), visualization, relaxation, breathing techniques, mindfulness practice, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), counselling, psychotherapy, and coaching.