Complexities of Panic and Anxiety Attacks: A Holistic Approach to Mental Health


Welcome to the ultimate guide on mastering mental wellness. Put together by McDowall Integrative Psychology & Healthcare. This all-encompassing blog provides valuable knowledge into the world of Panic Attacks and Anxiety Attacks, offering insights, strategies and support for those travelling through the maze of Mental Health difficulties. Whether you need clarification on what sets them apart or are trying to choose the best treatment, this blog is the map to regain control and thrive in life.

Deciphering Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are sudden feelings of terror that strike without warning. Our team of experts of anxiety therapy Toronto understand the crippling power of panic attacks and offer personalised treatment for panic disorders among a range of therapists, led by clinical Psychologist Toronto, Dr. Sharleen McDowall, Psy. D.

What is a Panic Attack?

Panic attacks are episodes of intense fear or anxiety that typically come on suddenly and without warning.

Symptoms like a pounding heart, sweating, tremors, shortness of breath, and derealization or depersonalization may be present.

Episodes usually last 10 to 20 minutes, but to those experiencing them it can feel like an eternity.

The Causes of Panic Attacks

Though the exact cause of panic attacks is unknown, they usually result from a sense of lack of control. Panic disorder can form as a result of the recurrence of panic attacks, where individuals anticipate and fear the next episode.

Frequently, avoidance behaviours — like not going near certain locations or in certain situations — exacerbate the cycle of panic and anxiety.

Triggers and Situations

Certain environments can be relevant to panic attacks, including theatres, public transportation, business meetings, etc. There is actually a significant component of anticipatory anxiety that contributes to the triggering of panic attacks in which individuals fear further episodes.

What is Anxiety Attacks?

Anxiety attacks are characterised primarily by intense feelings of worry or anxiety that can last for minutes or up to hours. While they’re often used interchangeably to describe anxiety disorders, it’s important to recognize that there are differences as we work to tailor our treatment and support to each client.

An anxiety attack can have a more gradual onset and usually doesn’t include the derealization or depersonalization that distinguishes a panic attack.

Understanding the Roots of Anxiety Attacks

A general buildup of stress or specific stressful situations often serve as catalysts for anxiety attacks.

Anxiety attacks can take a toll on overall well-being, with sleep disturbances and emotional dysregulation commonly fueling this condition.

The Symptoms of Anxiety Attacks

As with panic attacks, physical symptoms — like a racing heart, chest tightness, and stomach pain — may manifest with anxiety attacks.

Emotional symptoms can also occur, including feelings of sadness, anger, or irritability.

A Measured Approach

Differentiating symptoms is essential in diagnosing and treating these two types of attacks. McDowall Integrative Psychology & Healthcare provides thorough assessments and personalised treatment plans to meet each individual’s unique needs.

For instance, a sense of imminent danger and loss of control usually accompanies physical symptoms seen in panic attacks.

Physical symptoms associated with anxiety attacks commonly morph into unbearable worry or anxiety about life circumstances.

Why a Correct Diagnosis is the Key?

It is crucial to seek professional help to discern between panic attacks and anxiety attacks and develop tailored treatment plans.

Our team of psychotherapist in Toronto is experienced in treating panic and anxiety disorders with evidence-based approaches such as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy and medication management.

Effective Treatment Strategies

We believe in a holistic approach to mental wellness and design treatment plans that address therapy, medication, and lifestyle modifications to best empower individuals on their journey to resilience and recovery. 

A Cornerstone of Healing

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective treatment modality for panic and anxiety disorders, empowering individuals to identify and challenge negative thought and behaviour patterns. Additionally, specific to panic and anxiety attacks, exposure therapy may slowly and systematically help individuals confront their fears and reduce their associated avoidance behaviours. 

Medications: Balancing Brain Chemistry

Non-addictive Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and other medications may be prescribed for panic and anxiety disorders to alleviate symptoms. Our healthcare providers work closely with clients to monitor the effectiveness of medication and to address any concerns or side effects.

Panic and anxiety attacks can be terrifying, and they can feel like an impossible obstacle to overcome. But with the right support individuals can not only recover, but thrive. There are many paths to holistic wellness and freedom from the constraints of panic and anxiety disorders. In addition to therapy and medication, stress management practices, such as breathwork, yoga, and exercise, can contribute significantly to overall well-being and reduce the likelihood of panic and anxiety attacks. For individuals committed to cultivating resilience and embracing self-care, McDowall Psychology Integrative & Healthcare provides comprehensive guidance and resources to support them on their journey.

Also Read: Anxiety and Depression: The Most Common Mental Disorders


Above all, McDowall Psychology Integrative & Healthcare is dedicated to helping individuals thrive, living lives of meaning and fulfilment and free from the constraints of mental health challenges. Self-care practices, such as mindfulness, self-compassion, and social support are important tools in the process of cultivating resilience and promoting well-being. McDowall Psychology Integrative & Healthcare creates a safe space for individuals to nurture these practices and build resilience. Vibrant, confident, and hopeful individuals can navigate challenges with the support of experienced clinicians and a therapeutic community that celebrates progress and embraces a growth mindset. By choosing hope and committing to growth, every member of our team can take pride in their recovery and look forward with anticipation, ambition, and joy.

With understanding, compassion and personalised support we can go from feeling controlled by panic and anxiety to feeling like the world is ours. That is our vision at McDowall Integrative Psychology & Healthcare. Our therapists in Toronto who provide  comprehensive care empowers people struggling with panic and anxiety disorders to take back control of their lives and thrive in every area with evidence-based treatments, comprehensive wellness approaches, and most importantly individualised care. As we are with our clients every step of the way on their journey to mental wellness.