Counselling for anxiety and panic attacks in Berkhamsted
Panic attacks and anxiety often go hand in hand, but not everybody that experiences anxiety will experience a panic attack so what’s the difference?
Two aspects which distinguish a panic attack from anxiety are intensity and the rate of onset. Anxiety can often be slow burning and persistent. Anxiety involves thoughts and rumination and associated bodily feelings and sensations that all co exist together. It can be profoundly unsettling and distressing to experience and is perhaps best described as persistent unease, a state of worrisome distress that’s in need of soothing. It’s possible to experience anxiety over a sustained period of time, a panic attack in comparison is something more like an event, with a rapid onset and high intensity. It’s common for people experience a panic attack to be so overwhelmed that they think they’re having a heart attack or are losing their mind or are going to die. It can be an overwhelmingly confusing and claustrophobic experience. But it’s an experience that by virtue of its intensity can only last a limited period of time. Somebody could experience anxiety for an extended period of time, but a panic attack would be a much shorter episode, sometimes 30 seconds, sometimes a period of minutes. Often panic attacks may have much more pronounced and intense physical symptoms
Of course we’re all different though so no two people will experience panic or anxiety in the same way. I’ve worked with many clients who’ve suffered from both anxiety and panic attacks and what often emerges is that there is much that is going on underneath the surface of awareness that’s contributing to the feelings. In this sense anxiety and panic are never ‘silly’ or ‘irrational’, as often even the people that suffer with them will describe. People have the feelings they have for very good reason and it always makes sense within that persons experience of themselves and their life. The feelings we have are connected to our concerns, values, comforts, securities and threats. When our needs are met and fulfilled there’s no emergency, but if something meaningful that meets our needs is threatened or absent, anxiety or panic is any one of a number of feelings somebody might experience. Coupled with this, feelings from the past are often stimulated in an unconscious way by cues in the present, in this respect sometimes when people are swamped by anxiety or panic they’re experiencing a surge of feelings from the past which they may not be aware of.
It’s normal in counselling or hypnotherapy for people to begin the process with the experience that they’re anxious or panicky without really knowing why, which can contribute to the feeling of being out of control. One of the paradoxical ways our minds work is to guide us away from threat while also blocking our awareness of what the threat is really about, because to experience what it’s really about is potentially painful. Very often the experiences that are part of the origins of our anxiety are contained in implicit memory - that aspect of our memory of which we are not consciously aware. One of the way in which hypnotherapy and/or counselling work is to help us become aware of what we didn’t know about ourselves and our feelings. As people start to discover more about what’s underneath their feelings that awareness often brings with it a sense of calmness and understanding. This is just part of the journey toward living with more ease and freedom with the feelings.
If anxiety or panic attacks are something you need help with feel free to get in touch by other telephone or email.