Panic Attacks

Panic Attacks

Breaking the vicious circle of stress

I would like to start this section by briefly explaining the mechanism of stress or panic-attack type feelings:

The first thing that happens is that you hit a stressful situation or you have a sudden stressful thought: (Oh, I haven't done so and so), there is then a sharp intake of breath , and the next thing that happens is that you begin to feel:

  • Abdominal tension
  • Locking of diaphragm muscle just under the ribs. This leads to:
  • A slowing down in breathing, which leads to:
  • A fall in oxygen levels in the brain as carbon dioxide rises. Within seconds:
  • The brain triggers the release of adrenalin from the adrenal glands and two substances called cortisol and corticosterone. These are the "Fight-or-Flight" chemicals which the body needs to be able to either run away or fight - they pump the muscles up, which of course adds to tension.
  • The adrenalin causes the heart to palpitate or race or flutter.
  • Then you get sweating of the palms of the hands or even all over...

...and this leads you round the vicious circle of tension, to oxygen levels falling, to the release of more adrenalin etc. etc. etc.

Eventually you run out of chemicals and you become exhausted. So how do we break the circle? Just follow the steps mentioned in the last section:

  • Hold your Stress-Release points
  • Start deep breathing
  • Get centred, and if needs be
  • "chat-to your rat" to reassure it: "It's o.k., I just triggered off another panic attack", or "I am just allowing myself to be stressed at the moment, don't worry, I am in control, I understand what's going on", etc.

As you do this, your stress levels fall, the oxygen/carbon dioxide levels return to normal and you start to relax, the muscles relax, the diaphragm relaxes, the heart slows down and you stop sweating ... and you have taken the first step to mastering real self-control.

These notes are all about showing you the methods of taking control of your life once again. You CAN do it (because, remember, you have spent much of your life already not panicking!).


The Alopecia Awareness Team wish to thank Peter Smith, LCH, MARH for writing the notes provided in this section of our website. These notes are intended to show the sort of approach used by Peter on a day-to-day basis in his practice. There are, of course, many other ways of dealing with stress such as Hypnotherapy and Counselling.

Should you have any more questions, please feel free to contact the Alopecia Awareness Team.

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