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How our Therapeutic Service supported 16-year-old, Connor, with anxiety

May 10, 2023  |  by Dr Brian Murray

Connor, aged 16, came to our service after his Mum got in touch with us as he had started having panic attacks at home, seemingly out of nowhere.  

One of our qualified therapists, Holly, was able to see Connor within a few weeks of his Mum getting in touch with us, and during our initial chat with him, Holly ascertained that Connor was generally doing well at school, had some good friends and things seemed to be going ok up until a few months ago. 

Connor told Holly that out of the blue one day he felt a bit out of breath and had tingly arms. He felt ‘funny’ in his stomach and dizzy and had gotten the idea into his head that he might faint or collapse when he was at school or with friends, which was then making him feel even worse. 

As part of the initial assessment discussion where we use a set of clinical outcome measures to measure psychological wellbeing, Holly was able to identify that Connor scored for ‘moderate’ levels of anxiety, and panic seemed to be the main issue.   

We arranged for Connor to come and see Holly each week at our lovely therapy suite in Douglas where together over the next 8 weeks, they talked more about how his reactions to the physical signs of panic would understandably make him feel more worried about it. During their weekly sessions, Holly was also able to reassure Connor and tell him that sometimes, feelings of panic can develop out of nowhere, even when there doesn’t seem to have been a particular event to trigger it or some kind of worry or issue that was building up in his mind over time.   

From understanding that the physical signs of panic are not dangerous and will diminish on their own, Connor was able to learn to place less attention on these signs when they occurred, which then disrupts the panic cycle and removes the sense of fear that he might faint. 

Holly was also able to help Connor understand that he could replace those fearful thoughts with reassuring thoughts of “this will pass”, “I will be ok”, and “nothing bad is going to happen to me”. 

As part of Connor’s weekly sessions, Holly also recommended trying some distraction and controlled breathing exercises which would further help to reduce Connor’s physical signs of panic when they occurred.  

Over the course of 8 therapy sessions, Connor began to better understand his anxious thoughts and sense of panic and as he quickly began to improve. The final few sessions were spent planning for the future when Connor was perhaps on his own or with friends should the feelings occur again. Holly reinforced the understanding that these feelings are simply the brain’s response to a sense of threat of danger, and with no danger present, he could label and ‘ride out’ the physical feelings using the techniques learnt over during the previous sessions.   

As part of Connor’s final sessions, Holly also assessed him again using our clinical outcome measures to understand his progress, and Connor now scored below the cut off for ‘mild anxiety’. Having sought the right support at the right time, both Connor and his Mum were very grateful.  

Mental Health Awareness Week

Anxiety is the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Learn more about the week and how you can get involved.

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