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Last Updated: Nov 17th, 2006 - 22:35:04

Mental Health Channel
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Medical News : Health : Mental Health

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The Nature of Panic – a walk though fear in pictures & words
Jan 10, 2004, 23:17, Reviewed by: Dr.

A panic attack is a sudden rush of fear that comes out of the blue, often with no apparent trigger. Panic attacks are not uncommon: estimates range from one in four to one in 10 of us being affected at some time, with some developing chronic panic disorder. Fear of fear, apprehension about this apparently incomprehensible experience, can become crippling.

Patrick Olszowski has a different experience, as he desperately tries to conceal what he considers to be a shaming weakness. As he says “Rocks fill my stomach, butterflies flit. Inside my head is torment. I’m in front of you, and yet I won’t let you see what’s going on.”

Panic attacks have been part of Patrick’s life since he was 15. In this exhibition, visitors are invited to walk through the physical symptoms of an attack and the emotions which surround them in a series of photographs taken from the natural world.

Patrick explains: “Panic is a natural phenomenon which goes awry. If someone pulls a gun on you, a whole load of reactions help you protect yourself. I’ve got used to having all these feelings with no stimulus. I carry a camera with me everywhere, and these photographs reflect a lot of the ways I feel. The fire at the beginning of an attack [see image accompanying this press release] a mesh of branches against a greying sky as the fears escalate until they feel huge and intractable, the calm after the storm.”

Medical writer Sophie Petit-Zeman’s commentary accompanies the photographs, describing Patrick’s feelings at each stage of an attack, and their physiological basis is also explored. This writing challenges the belief that panic is incomprehensible and provokes thought about the diverse theories of cause and treatment for panic attacks.

As Sophie explains: “There’s a lot of science out there about panic, but how does it all fit together? It seems to run in families, but is this due to genes or environment? It seems to be sometimes linked to major life events, but also stem from events in childhood. How come? Some people find medication helpful, while others swear by talking treatment, and researchers have suggested disruptions in a whole host of brain chemicals. Too many theories for something that really is incomprehensible, or can they be reconciled?

The exhibition is funded by a Wellcome Trust People Award. Admission free. Visitors will be invited to comment.

Exhibition details:

Dates: Friday 6th February – Sunday 22nd February; 11am – 6pm daily.
Sophie & Patrick will be at the gallery 5-6pm Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Address: , Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, London SE1 9PH

For further information:


- Royal College of Psychiatrists

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