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Peter StrongPeter Strong, Ph.D.
A blog about Online Mindfulness Therapy and related topics

How to Stop Panic Attacks and Panic Anxiety

Peter Strong, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 2nd 2011

Do you feel yourself to be a victim of your anxiety? Do you feel hostage to your emotions?

stressed manDo you feel that your anxiety is ruining your life and preventing you from doing the things that you want to do?

Do you feel that anxiety is preventing you from forming close personal relationships?

Are you afraid of having a panic attack and losing control?

As a Mindfulness-based psychotherapist it never ceases to amaze me the extent of the problem of anxiety disorders, general anxiety (GAD) and anxiety associated with panic attacks. At least 1 in 5 people will experience some form of panic anxiety attacks at some time in their lives, and it is particularly common in young people in their 20s-30s. In its most severe form, it leads to social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia, which can be extremely debilitating.

Today, more and more people suffering from anxiety are taking matters into their own hands and seeking help to learn self-help strategies to better cope with their anxiety and better manage the stress and distress produced by anxiety and panic attacks. To address this growing need, I developed a system of cognitive therapy called Mindfulness Meditation Therapy (MMT), based on Buddhist Psychology, NLP and Experiential Psychotherapy. What I have discovered over the years is that MMT works very well for online counseling therapy through Skype-based video call sessions. Skype Therapy or Internet Therapy is gaining tremendous popularity and is so much more convenient and less intimidating than going to a therapist's office. Now, there are a growing number of research studies that show Online Therapy to be just as effective as traditional office therapy.

Mindfulness Therapy for Panic Attacks & Panic Anxiety

One of the most important techniques to learn for managing anxiety attacks is called Reframing. This simply means that you teach yourself to see the anxiety emotion as an object that arises within the mind. This is the opposite to identifying with the anxiety or fear and then becoming swept up with catastrophic thinking, worrying and other forms of reactive thinking that simply make things worse. Instead of, "I am afraid!" we reframe that as "I notice the emotion of fear arising in me." This simple action stops the mind contracting into the emotion and keeps the mind free to engage with the emotion as an object, and that is something totally and absolutely different. In a sense, you leave the "I" out of it altogether - something to be discovered at a later time. The main point of Reframing is that you learn how not to be overwhelmed by a panic thought when it arises and not to feed the emotion by becoming lost in thinking and reacting. With practice you become more and more familiar with the anxiety emotion as an object, a visitor and you find that you don't need to react to it with fear or more anxiety.

This form of retraining how we respond to our emotions develops a kind of immunity to the anxiety not unlike the immunity that the body develops to pathogens. Before immunity is established, we are at great risk from viruses and bacteria, but after we have developed an immune response, the same organisms are rendered completely harmless and incapable of causing suffering. It is the same when we develop mental immunity to our emotional pain. The panic anxiety may still arise out of habit, but we don't react and therefore are immune to the suffering that we create when we react to emotional pain. Mindfulness is the tool that allows us to develop this mental immunity.

When the mind is free from reacting to our emotional pain then it is put in an ideal state to allow the pain itself to begin to heal and lose intensity. When you learn how to sit with your pain without becoming reactive then you are creating the right inner conditions that allow beneficial change and that allow your innate intelligence and creativity to work on healing and resolving the pain.

The next factor that works to facilitate this new relationship with our panic anxiety is the immensely powerful factor of friendliness. Now that we are getting better at holding the panic anxiety as an object within our mind that we can relate to and look at, we take this relationship to a whole new level by welcoming the emotion. We actually train our self to greet is just as we would greet an old friend. Turn to the anxiety with warmth and friendliness instead of our habitual knee-jerk reaction of hatred and resistance and everything changes. Why? Because we actually create an inner space in which that anxiety emotion can exist unmolested and unharmed. This above anything else creates the best possible conditions in which the emotion can heal itself.

Try this for yourself: Practice Reframing followed by the Response of Friendliness. You may find this difficult to do at first, but it becomes increasingly easier with practice, especially when you begin to feel the benefits as the reactivity and the core panic anxiety begin to resolve themselves.

 

Peter Strong, Ph.D.

Peter Strong, PhD is a psychotherapist, teacher and author based in Boulder, Colorado, who specializes in Skype-based Online Mindfulness Psychotherapy for healing the root causes of anxiety, depression and traumatic stress. Visit www.mindfulnessmeditationtherapy.com for more information. Email inquiries are welcome. You can purchase a copy of Dr Strong’s book ‘The Path of Mindfulness Meditation’ through amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk.

    Reader Comments
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    Very interesting blog post and MMT practice - Larissa - Mar 8th 2011

    I love your blog post and the Mindfulness Meditation practice that you have.  I would be extremely interested in hearing more about your background and what made you decide to steer your practice in the direction that you have taken.  

    There is a psychotherapist in NYC that I am doing an internship with who has incorporated life coaching and mindfulness meditation into her practice as well.  Her website is www.JasminBalance.com.  She recently posted an article on her blog at http://www.jasminbalance.com/2011/02/03/how-meditation-may-change-the-brain/ that may be of interest to you.  I hope you enjoy it!

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