As a counsellor in training I have had clients who have been exhibiting signs of panic and anxiety and I have been able to relate to them well as I have been there too.
Many people experience panic attacks at some point in their life but for those who experience them regularly, they pose real issues in their day to day lives. Clients who suffer with these severe panic attacks may be diagnosed as having Panic Disorder if they have 4 or more of the following symptoms:
- Heart palpitations
- Chills and hot flashes
- Trembling and shaking
For someone experiencing these symptoms on a regular basis it can be incredibly frightening. People have been known to be taken to hospital with suspected heart attacks when in fact they have been experiencing a panic attack, maybe for the first time or more aggressive than they have had in the past.
A client with panic disorder needs to be able to trust their counsellor. The core conditions need to be present and obvious to the client. When someone is experiencing panic, they may think they are being judged, as though they are being laughed at, feel like they are in some way to blame for what is happening. The counsellor needs to make sure that they are providing the safe environment that the client will need. As I have experienced severe panic attacks, I can relate to the feelings of being scared, wondering if this attack will kill me, if people are staring and laughing. Working with someone who is experiencing these debilitating panic attacks needs to be taken very carefully. The client needs to be able to express what is happening to them and be able to look at possible causes. It is important to remember that a panic attack can come from nowhere and the sufferer has no idea why it started. This is normal as not all panic attacks are for a reason that the client is aware of. The body may have gone into fight or flight mode with the client having no idea as to why. This can happen at night. To be woken in a state of panic is very frightening and even more so when someone asks you why you are experiencing anxiety and you just don’t know. The brain can try to protect us whilst we are sleeping and put our bodies into this fighting mode which will pump adrenaline throughout the body in preparation to fight or run. It can come from a dream or processed information from the day before. Once the symptoms of the panic attack kick in, the sufferer can feel even worse as the heart races and body temperature rises, the chills start and they feel sick and dizzy. It really is a terrifying experience.
As someone who had years of experiencing these attacks, I know that I will be able to empathise well with the client and offer them the unconditional support that they need. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or this blog seems to describe you, get some help. Speak to your GP or look for local counselling in your area.