Anxiety and Panic Attacks


panic attacks

What is anxiety?


Anxiety is a feeling that can be described as helplessness, fear of an immediate danger, and sometimes panic, as well. It may be accompanied by physiological reactions such as higher heart rate, hyperventilation, sweating, tension, irritability, agitation.


What are panic attacks?


Anxiety often triggers panic attacks. During a panic attack, the person feels high levels of fear and anxiety, therefore the person can even feel she or he is going to have a heart attack, go crazy or lose control.


Panic attacks look like they are coming ”out of the blue”, they usually last for a maximum of 10 – 15 minutes, but they produce a lot of suffering.


The symptoms during a panic attack are:


  • choking
  • dizziness
  • sweating
  • trembling and high heart rate
  • breathing difficulties
  • tingling
  • tinnitus
  • shivers
  • chest pain
  • heart flutter
  • fear of going crazy/ losing control
  • fear of death
  • agoraphobia (seldom)



Since panic attacks are repetitive, people often develop some sort of anticipative anxiety, feeling concerned all the time with the time and place when the next attack will occur.



Psychotherapy in panic attacks:


During the first stage we discuss what are panic attacks, how they affect us and about ways of handling them, on the spot, by applying relaxation techniques.


During the second stage we discuss and explore what are your fears, where are they coming from, what is their role and their unconscious origin. When we are afraid and we know what it is that is frightening us, we become able to take into consideration those things that frighten us and do something in order to protect ourselves.  When we do not know what it is that is frightening us, we do not know what we can do in order to protect ourselves, not until we find out where our fear is coming from.

Along the developmental stages, an early fear is the fear of losing the love or the approval of a significant person in our lives. Another starting point for anxiety, even earlier than that, is the possibility of losing not only the love of the object, but the object itself – this is called separation anxiety.

The earliest forms of anxiety are persecutory anxiety and disintegration anxiety. Disintegration anxiety may reside either in the fear of losing one’s perception of the self or of one’s boundaries by fusioning with an object, or the fear one’s self will get fragmented and lose integrity in the absence of mirroring or idealization of the responses coming from the others in the environment.




  • Have a medical check in order to exclude any possible medical causes.
  • In case there are no medical causes for your symptoms, go see a


What you can do in case of a panic attack:


  • When you have a panic attack, become aware of the fact it is just a panic attack, and all the symptoms are due to that panic and no other causes.
  • Use breathing techniques (abdominal breathing) until you feel the symptoms are
  • Do the abdominal breating exercises 4-5 times a day for at least 3 weeks. They regulate breathing and have a relaxing effect. (Don’t make too high expectation over a short time, in order to get an actual effect, you have to practice constantly a longer time).


Abdominal (diaphragmatic) breathing


What is it?


When we are agitated, irritated, frightened, we tend to breath in our chest, using just the upper part of our lungs, without using the lower part as well. Abdominal (diaphragmatic) breathing is deeper, bringing air into the lower part of the lungs as well.


How do you do that?


  1. Rest comfortably on a bed or sofa.
  2. Place one hand on your abdomen and the other one on your chest.
  3. Breath in and hold your breath for 10 seconds, then let the air out.
  4. Breath in again for 3 seconds and breath out for 3 seconds as well.
  5. Repeat at least 10 times.
  6. Each minute (10 inspirations-expirations) hold your breath for 10 seconds.
  7. Concentrate on counting.
  8. Continue the exercise for at least 10 minutes.
  9. In case thoughts are overwhelming you, leave them aside and keep counting. It is possible you may feel a little dizzy after your first abdominal breathing exercises. The dizziness will disappear along with practising.


Sangu Delle about Panic Attacks: