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Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Telling someone who is feeling anxious, stressed or experiencing a full blown panic attack to “just calm down” may seem both calming and helpful. Chances are however, the exact opposite of that well-meaning-yet-oh-so-unhelpful pearl of wisdom will occur.

Anxiety and panic attacks are not exactly the same. Anxiety can range from mild to severe, and can include feeling worried and fearful. Panic is the most severe form of anxiety.

The brain is the control centre of our body and mind. And although the human brain has evolved over millions of years, the basic human brain has remained unchanged since the arrival of Homo Sapien. As decedents of this salubrious breed we are inclined to focus on our conscious abilities, ”I think, therefore I am.” We can think in pictures and communicate with the spoken word and facial expression and we tend to rely almost entirely on these unique abilities.

However, most of the actual processing of the brain takes place in the unconscious mind. When we are anxious or stressed, without the need for conscious direction, the brain sends signals and stress hormones to the central nervous system preparing the body for our innate ‘fight or flight response. A racing pulse, hyperventilating, dry mouth, tight throat, trembling of the hands, knees, lips and voice, sweaty palms, nausea, blurred vision, and the urge to run and hide.

Regardless of age, gender, faith, profession or nationality – whether you’re a student, employed, self-employed, unemployed or retired – a stay-at-home parent, professional singer, musician, dancer, actor, athlete or public speaker, stress, anxiety and panic knows no boundaries. It can reach anyone and everyone at any given time and without warning.

That said and for what it’s worth, those who have suffered from any of the above malaises may find themselves in interesting company with the likes of Adele, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Andrea Bocelli and Chris Hoy all having suffered from anxiety and panic attacks (aka stage fright).

Now, a healthy level of anticipation and nerves before an important occasion or event can be a positive thing, as it demonstrates that the event and associated responsibility are being taken seriously and that the outcome is important. However, severe or chronic anxiety can harm our mental and emotional well-being resulting in irritability, compulsive behaviour and social withdrawal.

Those affected may find it hard to concentrate, have problems with sleeping or eating, they may be prone to angry or aggressive outbursts. They may suffer negative thoughts, thinking that bad things are going to happen and may as a result begin to avoid everyday activities, such as seeing friends, going out in public or going to work or school.

Quite apart from the psychological effects of anxiety, the physical effects of anxiety and panic can be manifold. Presenting in symptoms such as heart palpitations, chest pains, hot flushes, problems sleeping, digestive disorders and a weakened immune system.

In hypnotherapy we use breathing techniques to activate the parasympathetic nervous system – our ‘Rest and Digest’ response, we use guided imagery to help re-frame and redirect negative thoughts, beliefs and expectations transforming fears and vulnerabilities into powerful tools. And with other modalities such as EMDR, EFT or Havening we can help clients to tap into their true potential, allowing them to move forward with their lives in a positive way.


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