‘What’s Up Doc’ is a health column in association with The Crawley Observer, which gives you the opportunity to ask questions regarding general health and wellbeing.
Answers are provided weekly from our specialist consultants at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital, Surrey. If it’s a long-standing illness or simply a worry which you would like to get off your mind then we would like to help. This week, the health column is answered by Tamar Karpas.
This question appeared in The Crawley Observer on 7 November 2012, to readers across Surrey and Sussex. The question and answer is below, as it appeared in the newspaper.
I have been having what I think are panic attacks for 6 months and so far I have been able to control them with breathing and relaxation techniques that I read from the internet. I am a bit worried that they may get worse and I won’t be able to control them, is there something else I can try? Anonymous, Reigate.
Tamar Karpas, Psychologist with Insight Network replies:
Panic attacks are associated with thoughts that something terrible is going to happen. Panic typically involves misinterpreting bodily sensations as meaning that something catastrophic is going to happen (e.g. I am going to faint or have a heart attack). The problem with misinterpretation is that it leads to a vicious cycle in which the fear about the bodily sensations causes increased anxiety, which causes more symptoms and so it goes on and may then spiral into a full blown panic attack.
Talking treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be supportive as you and the therapist can work together to identify and challenge any unhelpful thinking and then explore alternative more realistic thoughts. For example, you may need to recognise that your fast pulse is due to you having just run up the stairs or the 2 cups of strong black coffee you drank at breakfast rather than thinking that there is something medically wrong with you and you are going to faint or die. Please do not hesitate to contact Spire Gatwick Park Hospital to make an appointment.