Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia

What is it?

If you have panic disorder this is due to a misinterpretation of bodily sensations such as a tight chest, heart palpitations, feeling faint or dizzy and feelings of unreality.  Typically you are likely to interpret symptoms as follows:
 
Dizziness – ‘I’m going to faint’
Heart Palpitations – ‘I’m going to have a heart attack’
Tight Chest – ‘I’m going to have a heart attack’
Feeling unreal – ‘I’m going crazy’ or ‘I’m going to lose control’
 

How does it hold you back?

It is a very distressing experience which can give your self-confidence a real knock.  Where before, you may have been very independent, you can find yourself relying excessively on others to help to calm you down or you get caught in all sorts time consuming behaviours to bring the panic down.  Some people start avoiding certain situations which trigger panic; this is called agoraphobia
 

How can you overcome it?

Since this is initially very anxiety provoking, you are likely to benefit from seeking treatment from a qualified, accredited CBT therapist, rather than treating this yourself.  Make sure that you have had the appropriate medical tests so that you are not misdiagnosed.  Clients have been known to recover after as few as two sessions if the problem has not been experienced for too long.  It is likely to take longer if you have started to develop agoraphobia. However, for those who would prefer to self-treat, I would strongly recommend McKay et al’s chapter on panic from their book ‘Thoughts and Feelings:  Taking control of your moods and your life’.