Beating Anxiety and Panic Attacks In Gestalt Therapy

“Anxiety is the tension between now and later”
(Perls, 1976)

In my work with clients who experience Panic Attacks, I have come to realise that it has a lot to do with what we imagine may happen. We do need anxiety to live and function and with the huge adrenalin rush that a Panic Attack inflicts upon our system we can jump to conclusions and create a world view based on what we imagine.

So, what happens in our bodies when we have a Panic attack?

Well the attacks seem to appear for no particular reason, at random or in a situation which we find uncomfortable. Maybe a confined space, during stressful experiences like the lead up to an exam or a public speech but can just as easily happen in places we know well, and with close friends. Self-expectation can be an issue, being self critical, wanting things to go perfectly and living a very ordered or slightly obsessive life style can all cause the stress related to Panic Attacks.

Panic Attacks are caused by –  the natural Fight or Flight response, which is kick started by a substance in our bodies called Cortisol. This is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. This production of adrenalin causes the physical symptoms, which I will now describe-:

Constant worry, fears of shaming oneself in front of others, fear of loosing control, choking and closed throat, feeling light headed, hot and cold sweats, unreality and disorientation.

In itself, the attack is not debilitating but the response is!
We need to accept that it may happen, realise that we are not crippled and without our own skills, we will learn to manage it.

Of course there are medical treatments, which a Doctor may prescribe but here, I am talking about how therapy can help people to take charge and help themselves.

As I have said, in my experience of working with those who have suffered Panic Attacks, I have found that people spend a lot of time planning, being in their imagination and my first task would be to help them to be in touch with reality and be more spontaneous in their lifestyle.

It is important when a person feels that a Panic Attack is imminent, that they can feel the chair beneath them, be aware of the room, the people and feel grounded and be in touch with reality.

I would listen carefully to the process to see if we are dealing with a phobia or if Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is indicated.

Changing how we react, can often be helpful and it is clear that we can feel Panic Attacks coming on and that we can deflect our energy, or focus on to something else and feel it subside.

I have had a great success rate with clients who have suffered from Panic Attacks. Maybe I can help you too. Do have a look at my Testimonial page, where a recent client speaks about the attacks and how we worked together on this problem in therapy.

Next month see my insight into working with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and how the therapeutic process, that I can offer, will really support this issue.