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Panic & Agraphobia
Anxiety is a normal feeling. We all feel anxious in situation that we find difficult or threatening. When anxiety is caused by a problem in our life that can’t be solved, like money difficulties, we call it worry. If it is a sudden reaction to a threat, like looking over a cliff or being confronted by an angry dog, we call it fear.
Although worry, anxiety and fear are unpleasant, they can all be helpful:
- psychologically – they keep us alert and give us the ‘get up and go’ to deal with problems
- physically – they make our body ready for action – to run away from danger or to attack it – the ‘fight or flight’ response.
These feelings become a problem when they are too strong or when they carry on even when we don’t need them anymore. They can make you uncomfortable, stop you from doing the things you want to – and can generally make life difficult.
Anxiety can therefore take different forms, but there is a large overlap between them and most people will probably experience more than one form.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
We all worry from time-to-time. GAD is an excessive form of a set of symptoms that everyone experiences to varying degrees at different times in their lives.
One of the main features of GAD is excessive worry about multiple daily life events (many individuals cannot recall a time when they did not worry excessively)
GAD also entails a number of physical symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and muscle tension. These symptoms are seen as the product of longstanding worry. These symptoms of anxiety are experienced most of the time.
People who experience panic attacks can get unpredictable and intense attacks of anxiety. These can come out of the blue or be triggered by situations that you have developed a fear about e.g. crowded places or being stuck in traffic. The feelings panic can be varied, they come on suddenly and reach a peak in 10 minutes or less. One of the central things that keep panic attacks going are the fears associated with the symptoms. Typical fears include:
- that you are dying
- that you are ‘going crazy’ or losing control
- that you are suffocating or choking
- that you are having a heart attack
About a quarter of people who go to an emergency department with chest pain thinking that they may be having a heart attack are in fact having a panic attack. Although the symptoms are similar in some ways to GAD, they are much more powerful and tend to last a short time.
How can CBT help?
CBT can help with anxiety disorders in a number of ways and the treatment is dependent of the type of anxiety you are suffering with. Common treatment strategies include:
- Understanding the cycle of anxiety the individual experiences
- Overcoming catastrophic thinking
- Overcoming unhelpful behaviours associated with anxiety symptoms e.g. avoidance
- Identifying and understanding cycles of excessive worry
- Managing excessive worry
- Coping with uncertainty
- Learning to approach and solve problems more effectively
- Facing your fears
Further information links