How Does a Christian Counselor Address Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are the result of an anxiety disorder which can be absolutely terrifying. I know this very well, as I suffered from them throughout many periods of my life. Over a period of minutes I would begin to feel like I couldn’t breathe, my mind would begin racing too fast for me to make sense of everything, I would begin shaking and sweating, and before long I was afraid I was dying.
There is no way to logically explain these events, but yet they occurred over and over again until I sought counseling to help me learn tactics to prevent the panic attacks and maintain my control over my anxieties. But my role then was as a patient. When you’re on the other side of the situation, how do you begin to help someone using Scripture to guide your counseling?
That is exactly the question Ed Welch asks in his blog for the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, though the answer stays very similar for numerous psychiatric issues that afflict a significant portion of the population but are not clearly present in Scripture.
There are multiple approaches and Welch’s is just a basic strategy, but it relies on the most important tool for counseling: communication. Not only do you need to get a description of how these panic attacks occur in the individual patient, as every patient can differ, you should reference these symptoms with the latest DSM criteria.
Assuming the symptoms of the panic attack match the criteria from the DSM, then we must begin thinking about what symptoms Scripture can actually help us change. Physical symptoms like shakes and sweats may not be calmed through the word of the Lord, but Scripture does assure us about fear of death and fear of control. If you find symptoms that are assured by Scripture, you’ve found symptoms we can change.
It is encouraged to ask questions. Those dealing with panic attacks can feel slighted if you assume you know their experience, but if you ask them to share their thoughts and feelings as panic attacks occur, you’ll have enough insight to offer assurance. In that vein, don’t offer blanket comfort statements or assuming you know their panic attacks. Just because you understand the description doesn’t mean you know the explanation.