Help for panic attacks
near Columbia, Mo.
It may seem like panic attacks will never get better. But there is help.
Counseling for Anxiety, Trauma and PTSD | Columbia, Missouri | Jennie Lannette Bedsworth, LCSW
Many clients I work with in Mid-Missouri seek help because they’re struggling with panic attacks. This might be combined or brought on by a fear of crowds, isolated places, reminders of trauma (triggers) or large, busy places like Wal-Mart or the Columbia Mall. Being stuck on Stadium Drive near the Mizzou campus during bad weather would give many people a strong dose of anxiety!
Symptoms of a panic attack can include:
A sense of dread or doom
Butterflies in the stomach
Feeling closed in or trapped
Loss of breath, or feeling you can't breathe
What causes overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks?
Panic attacks can be caused by triggers specific to the individual, or one of several anxiety conditions. A common cause I see is post-traumatic stress, or PTSD. This is most likely if the person is dealing with coping after a traumatic event. Hypervigilance and overwhelming, severe anxiety are among the related common symptoms of PTSD. The good news is that all of these things, including PTSD and other causes, are generally very treatable.
Is there a difference in panic attacks vs. anxiety attacks?
People often use these terms interchangeably, and generally they mean the same thing. There is something called panic disorder, which I see much less commonly than PTSD or general anxiety issues. The symptoms of these conditions can feel and look very similar, and it takes a bit of screening and investigation by a qualified therapist or other clinician to tell the difference between these and/or other types of anxiety problems.
What are other causes of panic attacks?
A specific extreme stressor could cause a panic attack, as could a trigger that brings up a particularly disturbing childhood memory. Some people struggle with very large crowds, tight spaces, or isolated places. Sometimes we can be triggered and not even remember why. Sometimes we just get overwhelmed, and it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back which puts us over the edge into an anxiety attack. This can still get better, or may not even happen again.
How do you stop an anxiety attack?
When you experience a panic attack, your fight-flight-freeze response is in full gear and your body is trying to warn and/or protect you. However sometimes this part of the brain is not responding accurately, and it makes you feel unsafe in generally safe situations. Many people can manage and sometimes even stop an anxiety attack while it’s happening. Different strategies work for different people. I start with the most common strategies I know to work for the most people, and then modify with strategies specific to the individual if these don’t work. You can check out these strategies here. They include grounding techniques, diaphragmatic breathing, and a body scan. They key is to activate the calmer parts of the brain while calming down the panicked parts. Once my clients find a good strategy to work in the short term for panic attacks, then we look at the causes and start treating those so we can see long-term benefits.
What is the treatment for panic?
We can slow or stop a panic attack in the moment (see above), but the more effective treatment is to find the cause and treat that. For example, if it’s caused by PTSD, then we would use one of the evidence based therapies shown to heal PTSD. If it’s caused by general anxiety disorder, then we would most likely use mindfulness and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) techniques to start thinking differently about worries and triggers. If it’s caused by a specific phobia, then we would use mindfulness and exposure techniques to treat the phobia. Sometimes there is more than one possibly effective treatment, and we help clients decide what’s right for them.
The right therapy near Columbia, Mo., can help
The takeaway is that many millions of people struggle with what they call panic attacks or anxiety attacks. This includes many thousands of people in and near Columbia, Mo., and the surrounding Mid-Missouri area. There are various causes of anxiety attacks, and in most cases these are either temporary or can be effectively treated with the right therapies.
Would you like to move forward with tools that help and heal? Jennie is passionate about helping people overcome problems like severe anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD. Call or text her at 573/291-7315, or e-mail