Cognitive Behavioural Therapy For Panic Attacks & OCD
Therapist often report that anxiety and OCD can be very difficult to treat. This is because the fears and phobias that sufferers experience can feel all too real. A degree of appropriate fear is necessary for our very survival. However, there is growing evidence that the nervous system is subject to wear and tear and that the emotional feelings we experience, along with the actual physical experience, become fused into single store of mental impressions.
These influences leave their mark - right down to the cellular level. In other words, we do not just remember the image of past events but, our body simultaneously recalls the emotional feelings associated with that event. This holistic relation between mind and body can account for the sometimes inconsistent feeling between what we are currently experiencing [something safe] and irrational and inappropriate emotional responses that arise as left over emotions from a previous frightening experience.
This mind / body connection may also go some way to explaining why sometimes, success in treating stress and anxiety is better achieved through the body. Psychiatrists at the University of Pittsburgh in the USA claim that therapy used via the body influences the emotional brain directly and effectively short circuits the logical human brain, which is reached by language. The main aim is to 're-programme' the emotional brain, so that it adapts to the present, rather than continually reacting to past negative experiences.
Think Or React
One of the ways that CBT is thought to help is by helping the prefrontal cortex [cognitive brain] take better control of the amygdala, the small almond shape fear centre of the emotional brain, responsible for triggering emotional impulses. By re-training the mind so that it no longer automatically reacts to an outdated reality we are more able to take conscious control of a situation and act in the most appropriate way. The avoidance of fear or the compulsion to relieve the discomfort that comes from feelings of uncertainty always maintains and even increases fear. Letting go of old habits takes courage. The refuge of comforting habits that hold us to ransom, give a temporary illusion of peace, but these solutions and coping methods keep it going.
CBT is a therapy that aims to de-sensitise the sufferer, by gradually increasing tolerance levels enough for fears to subside. The aim is to modify thoughts and beliefs and change behaviour through controlled exposure, whereby the sufferer becomes able to reduce the need for reassurance and accept uncertainty. The important thing to remember is that freedom doesn't mean no fear, it means acting in spite of fear.
At the bottom of every fear is a belief that we cannot handle something When we come to understand something the fear is reduced. Fear is always of the unknown... Researchers have observed that anxiety comes in two forms; Cognitive, or worrisome thoughts, and Somatic, the physiological symptoms of anxiety. It is the somatic type of anxiety that causes us to feel physical symptoms in the body such as irregular heart beat, sweating, tense muscles dizziness A lack of understanding of what is happening in the body only serves to exasperate the problem. Once it is understood that nothing in the body happens without there being an explanation or a purpose and that in the case of anxiety and panic attacks they have historically served us well, fear is reduced.
What Is Happening In My Body?
The physiological responses of a racing heart and rapid breathing is the bodies attempt to rush blood to our limbs as quickly as possible for what is known as the 'Fight or Flight' response. This trigger reaction was often essential against threats to our survival thousands of years ago, when the body put all its resources into the organs and limbs necessary to save us and literally abandoned those organs not absolutely essential for immediate survival. This is why we might feel sick at this time, as the digestive system is not considered essential right now, nor is the bladder or bowel and we all know the consequences of that!
However in modern times our lives are fortunately, rarely threatened by a pre historic animal [although you could be forgiven for believing this on some foot ball terraces!], but we nevertheless experience the same physical surges to action when we sense threats - real or otherwise, if only survival of the ego.
With the help of a few simple coping techniques taught by the therapist panic attacks can be handled well and in many cases symptoms disappear altogether.