Panic attack Perth

Panic disorder

A panic attack is a sudden strong surge of anxiety. About 4 in 10 people will experience a panic attack at least once in their lifetime. When you are experiencing recurrent panic attacks, at least once a month, you may be given a diagnosis of panic disorder. At J&R Psychology in Perth, we provide evidence-based therapy for a range of anxiety disorders in children, adolescents and adults.

Clinical Psychologist Perth - Melissa J Ree
Panic attack treatmentClinical psychologists in West Perth, Como & Murdoch

Panic attack treatment Perth

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is when a person suddenly experiences a strong surge of anxiety. At least four of the physical symptoms below are experienced:
  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • A feeling of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
  • Feelings of unreality (derealisation)
  • Feelings of being detached from oneself (depersonalization)
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Numbness or tingling sensations (paraesthesia)
  • Chills or hot flushes

Sometimes a panic attack happens in response to a feared trigger (like flying, being in a crowd, or public speaking), while at other times the attack is unexpected and seems to occur out of the blue with no clear trigger at all.

A panic attack can be very frightening and you may feel a strong desire to escape the situation or to seek emergency assistance. The anxiety can be so strong that some people fear they are having a heart attack or other serious health concern. Panic attacks are quite common, with estimates that up to 40% of the population will have at least one panic attack at some point in their life.

panic attack Perth

Nocturnal panic attacks

Can I have a panic attack at night?

Yes. Whilst panic attacks often occur during the day, they can also happen at night. Nocturnal panic can wake people up from sleep and can make going to sleep a frightening experience. Whilst nocturnal panic can occur at any time of the night, it is more common in the first half of the night.

Nocturnal panic attacks are more likely to occur in people who also experience panic during the day. About 70% of people with panic disorder will experience a nocturnal panic attack at some point.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can be helpful in treating nocturnal panic. Sometimes, it can also be useful to draw from principles of insomnia treatment to assist if nocturnal panic attacks are very disruptive to sleep.

Panic disorder treatment Perth

What is panic disorder?

A person may be given a diagnosis of panic disorder if they are experiencing recurrent panic attacks, at least once a month. They are also very afraid of having further panic attacks, such that they’re changing their behaviour and activities to try and avoid anything that might trigger an attack.

Panic disorder is used to describe the condition where panic attacks seem to happen unexpectedly rather than always in predictable situations. This can have a big impact on a person’s way of life when their daily activities become structured around trying to avoid panic attacks. For example, a person may avoid going outside alone or at a certain time of day or may carry water or medication with them in order to reduce the likelihood of a panic attack occurring. The fear of an anxiety attack occurring starts to dictate when and how a person behaves.

About 5% of adults (around 1 person in 20) will experience panic disorder at some point in their life. Whilst panic attacks are quite common in children, panic disorder is less common, at a rate of about 2-3%.

Agoraphobia Perth

Agoraphobia and panic disorder

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which people fear and avoid places that might trigger anxiety. Agoraphobia is considered a separate diagnosis from panic disorder, although the two are often experienced together.

A person with panic disorder has an ongoing fear of having another attack or worries about the consequences of a panic attack (e.g. feeling embarrassed). Many people change their behaviour to try to prevent panic attacks. Some people are affected so much that they try to avoid any place where it might be difficult to get help or to escape from. When this avoidance is severe it is called agoraphobia.

For agoraphobia to be diagnosed, the person must experience intense fear or anxiety in a minimum of two situations. Situations include being out in public, open spaces, or in crowds—essentially anywhere in which you're outside of the home. This fear needs to have persisted for 6 months.

Cognitive behavioural therapy for panic disorder

Are there effective treatments for panic disorder? How is panic disorder treated?

Panic attacks can feel very scary and uncomfortable, and it’s understandable to be desperate to avoid having them. It may be reassuring to know that panic disorder and agoraphobia respond well to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Medication may also be effective.

The Royal Australasian College of Psychiatrists recommends initial treatment options for panic disorder are cognitive–behavioural therapy, medication, or the combination of cognitive–behavioural therapy and pharmacotherapy.

CBT and ACT are the most common interventions used to treat panic disorder at J&R Psychology. We work with clients to support them to think differently about the physical sensations of a panic attack. For example, coming to understand that the symptoms of a panic attack, whilst unpleasant, are not dangerous.

In addition to encouraging helpful thought processes about panic, we also work with clients to gradually face situations that they fear. Reducing anxious avoidance helps clients to reclaim their lives and build confidence that they can cope.

This is all achieved in a collaborative supportive way with our clients, who will at all times feel in control of their journey. Your J&R psychologist will structure the intervention for your unique experience, and pace it in a way that feels manageable.

J&R Psychologists have offices in West Perth, Como and Murdoch.
Contact our friendly staff today or book an online appointment.

Contact J&R Clinical Psychologists

Fax08 6113 7430
Healthlink IDjrpsychs
West Perth practice

21 Ord Street,
West Perth WA 6005

Sleep Matters Subiaco
Como practice

400 Canning Hwy
Como 6152 WA
(enter off Greenock Ave)

Jeffrey & Ree psychologists in Como