Panic Attacks

Panic attacks, also known as anxiety attacks are episodes of intense panic or fear. Often they can occur suddenly and without warning. At other times there are obvious triggers to a panic attack like giving a big speech or exposure to a social situation.

During a panic attack the terror can be so severe that you feel like you could die, go crazy or totally lose control.

The physical symptoms can be so frightening that many people think they are having a heart attack and seek medical help. After an anxiety attack is over, you may be worried about having another one, particularly in a public place or somewhere where you feel you can’t escape.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack:

  • Feeling of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Heart palpitations or chest pain
  • Feeling dizzy, lightheaded or faint
  • Nausea or stomach cramps
  • Trouble breathing or choking sensation
  • Fear you’re going to pass out
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sweating
  • Hot flushes or chills
  • Feeling detached or unreal
  • Numbness or tingling sensations

Common triggers for panic attacks are driving (often on the motorway or over the harbour bridge), being in social situations or crowds, being in enclosed places, being far away from home, public speaking, going to doctors or dentists, sitting exams, airplane travel, confronting someone, or stimuli that reminds you of a past trauma.


The good news is that panic attacks respond well to treatment with psychotherapy. The treatment will need to be tailored to the type of panic attacks you have but will usually involve learning ways of managing the panic attacks, learning relaxation techniques, identifying and challenging negative thinking patterns and irrational beliefs, and confronting your fears gradually in a safe and controlled manner.

Over time you will learn that the situations or emotions you have feared can be faced without harm and your anxiety will decrease.

It is usually beneficial to also look at what underlying issues may be driving your panic attacks. This may involve looking in more detail at relationship patterns or uncovering difficult emotions and fears you may not have been aware of.

Ultimately, good treatment will not only resolve your panic attacks but give you a greater sense of wellbeing, an increased knowledge of yourself and increased control over your life.

At Counselling Works we have treated many people suffering from panic attacks or panic disorder . We can help you identify exactly what it is you are struggling with and explain how to start the recovery process.

Counselling Works is an Auckland Counselling service based in Ponsonby, Central Auckland.