Panic disorder: break the cycle

Around 1 in 100 people live with panic disorder. It’s a severe form of anxiety which can have an overwhelming impact on your daily life. Know the signs and symptoms so you can get help and break the cycle of panic.

Panic occurs when feelings of fear and worry become a cycle, triggering a rush of overwhelming physical and mental symptoms, also known as a panic attack.

It’s important to intervene so you can manage your symptoms and stop the cycle in its tracks.

The Panic Cycle

  1.  Trigger stimulus (internal or external): this could be a distressing thought or being exposed to a phobia
  2.  Perceived threat: this causes mild fear that something unpleasant will happen, also known as apprehension
  3.  Bodily sensations: a rush of physical symptoms such as fast heartbeat and breathlessness may lead to a
  4.  Fear of catastrophe: the feeling that the worst is going to happen.

When you have experienced a panic attack, you may be triggered by certain memories or situations that remind you of them; this causes the cycle to continue.

Physical symptoms of a panic attack:

  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Breathlessness
  • Sweating
  • Feeling hot

Mental symptoms of a panic attack:

  • Tension or nerves
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Sleeplessness
  • Worrying about the past or future
  • Inability to relax
  • Intrusive traumatic memories

Breaking the cycle of panic

If you are experiencing panic attacks, then you should speak to your GP. They may recommend psychological or pharmacological approaches, or a combination of both.

Talking therapies and medicines are the most common treatments:

  1. Talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) help you to manage triggers of anxiety and the way you react during a panic attack. For example, by employing mindfulness techniques.
  • Medicines such as antidepressants help to increase the level of neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. These chemicals may help to improve your overall mood and reduce your anxiety.
You can also refer yourself to Canopi. We offer mental health support to NHS and social care workers here in Wales.