Group Therapy – Panic and Anxiety, Session 1

Trigger Warning: mention of rape, sexual assault

This is the first of an 8 week series reviewing panic and anxiety from a group therapy point of view.  It is based on the group therapy services available through Langley Memorial Hospital.  Feel free to follow along and answer the questions posted in each section.

Session 1: Exploring Anxiety Disorders

Did You Know:

  • 1 in 10 people suffer from an anxiety disorder
  • 1 in 4 people will experience significant problems with anxiety at some point in their lives

What this means:

  • Over 400,000 Canadians are currently suffering from at least one anxiety disorder.

Anxiety Disorders:


An anxiety about, or avoiding, places or situations where escape would be difficult or embarrassing, or where help may not be available in the event of panic.  Also classified as a fear of open spaces or crowds.  It is classed under a larger group known as “Phobic Disorders”

Panic Disorder:

Panic disorders are identified through a high occurrence of panic attacks.  A panic attack is a period where there is a sudden onset of intense: apprehension, fearfulness, or terror.  It is often associated with feelings of impending doom.  Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations, discomfort, choking or smothering sensations.  Fear of of “going crazy” or “losing control” are often present.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):

OCD is characterized by obsessions that cause high levels of anxiety or distress, and/or by compulsions put into practice to neutralize said anxiety.

Common obsessions include:

  • recurrent thoughts of images, numbers or words
  • recurrent thoughts that something has not been done properly, even if they know they have done it correctly (ie: turning off the stove or putting something away)
  • recurrent worries about germs, infections, dirt, dust contamination, cleanliness
  • persistent ideas that certain things or objects must always be in a certain place, order or position.

Common compulsions (to alleviate anxiety over obsessions) include:

  • hand washing
  • cleaning house
  • touching certain objects
  • going back and forth through a door
  • placing items a certain way
  • hoarding objects
  • seeking reassurance
  • tapping or counting.

A person with OCD will usually recognize the senselessness of impulsive behaviors, and does not get pleasure from carrying out the activity, simply short lived relief from their anxiety over their obsession.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

PTSD is characterized by re-experiencing of an extremely traumatic event, accompanied by symptoms of high levels of stress, (negative) arousal, and attempts to avoid stimulation that would be associated with the trauma.  This condition is commonly seen in war veterans (especially Vietnam and Iraq) and victims of long term abuse or rape.

Social Anxiety/Social Phobia:

Social anxiety is commonly known as “the fear of evaluation”.  It is a fear of social situations or performances that may lead to evaluation and judgment by others.  The individual fears embarrassment or social stigma during these situations.  Symptoms are typically:

  • red face or blushing
  • head shaking
  • hands shaking
  • voice cracking or faltering.

These symptoms are only present in the company of others  and cause further fears of being seen suffering these symptoms or losing control of the symptoms.  This is another condition classed under “Phobic Disorders”

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):

GAD is characterized by at least six months of persistent and excessive anxiety and worry.


Questions for This Week:

What factors have contributed to your panic or anxiety:

(these can include thing such as: relationship conflicts, financial worries or trauma)

How does panic or anxiety impact how you meet your most basic self-care needs:

(Examples include eating, sleeping, showering, dressing)

How does panic or anxiety impact your involvement with leisure interests:

(this might include hobbies, exercise or socializing)

How does panic or anxiety impact your spirituality:

(such as hope, meaning, or purpose.)

How does panic or anxiety impact your communications and relationships:

(in places such as work place, family, or friends)

How does panic or anxiety impact your involvement with productive tasks/roles:

(this might be at work, school, household responsibilities, parenting or pet care)


If you are comfortable, feel free to share your answers in the comments section and I’ll share some of them in next weeks session!

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  1. By Kelsey MacKenzie


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