COLUMN: What’s up Doc?

‘What’s Up Doc’ is a health column in association with Spire Gatwick Park, your local private hospital, which gives you the opportunity to ask questions regarding general health and wellbeing. Answers will be provided weekly from specialist consultants at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital. If it’s a long-standing illness or simply a worry which you would like to get off your mind then send your questions to Spire Gatwick Park is a private hospital located in Horley, Surrey providing a range of treatments, from orthopaedic to ophthalmic, ENT to cosmetic. You do not need private medical insurance to use Spire Gatwick Park Hospital facilities and patients can get appointments within 2 weeks.

I have been having what I think are panic attacks for 6 months and so far I have been able to control them with breathing and relaxation techniques that I read from the internet. I am a bit worried that they may get worse and I won’t be able to control them, is there something else I can try?

Anonymous, Reigate

Dr Tamar Karpas Psychologist with the Insight Network replies: Panic attacks are associated with thoughts that something terrible is going to happen. Panic typically involves misinterpreting bodily sensations as meaning that something catastrophic is going to happen (e.g. I am going to faint or have a heart attack). The problem with misinterpretation is that it leads to a vicious cycle in which the fear about the bodily sensations causes increased anxiety, which causes more symptoms and so it goes on and may then spiral into a full blown panic attack.

Talking treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be supportive as you and the therapist can work together to identify and challenge any unhelpful thinking and then explore alternative more realistic thoughts. For example, you may need to recognise that your fast pulse is due to you having just run up the stairs or the 2 cups of strong black coffee you drank at breakfast rather than thinking that there is something medically wrong with you and you are going to faint or die. Please do not hesitate to contact Spire Gatwick Park Hospital to make an appointment.

Dr Tamar Karpas, Psychologist offers appointments at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital. To book an appointment call 01293 778 906 or email

Remember to keep posting in your questions to the experts at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital, who can help answer any health matters on your mind. Contact the hospital either by email:, or write to: ‘What’s up Doc’, Spire Gatwick Park Hospital, Povey Cross Road, Horley, Surrey RH6 0BB.