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Title: Investigating the invisible cord : an analytical autoethnography of first panic attack
Author: Stephenson-Huxford, Michael
ISNI:       0000 0004 7427 0839
Awarding Body: University of Brighton
Current Institution: University of Brighton
Date of Award: 2018
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The phenomenon of panic is one of the most unedifying experiences to inflict the human condition. It is a globally-recognised problem regularly encountered in psychotherapeutic practice. Whilst it is thought that distressing psychological and social (‘psychosocial’) problems might help account for this experience, the precise role they play - particularly in first onset - remains difficult to fathom. For example, whilst there is evidence to suggest that stress related to an individual’s family and work life, marital circumstances, age and gender appear linked with initial episodes of panic, these and many associated stressors people endure remain largely under-researched. Following an inquiry aim that recognises the social construction of reality, this research offers an insight into my first experience of panic attack (my being both a panic sufferer and psychotherapist). The aim was to identify an ‘invisible cord’ (e.g. a series of causally linked stressful life events) related to my panic. These events are typically thought to be found in the twelve months prior to first onset and hold important clues to an individual’s recovery. Hence my research question was: ‘What sense can be made of the invisible cord of events leading to my first experience of panic attack’? Using analytical autoethnographic methods to guide this research, significant personal events were discovered and are presented here in the findings. The earliest events uncovered would stretch back far longer than twelve months; with a series of five scenarios plotted from childhood to my mid-forties. To ensure that this research remained an exercise in critical thinking, each event was then examined alongside broader psychosocial theory and frameworks; offering a connected analysis of this first attack and contingent factors. A summary follows, ‘pulling together’ aspects of this undertaking and offering implications for practice. For example, having only made visible elements of my stressful cord by means of the analytical methods at my disposal (including use of collage and timelines) I suggest that such tools might routinely help other panic sufferers in retracing their past. Equally, in learning that my (often confused) Christian faith was implicated in this panic, I advance that we, as therapists, must remain vigilant to matters of client spirituality: noting that traditional forms of religious guidance are receding in an increasingly sceptical UK society. The thesis concludes with a personal reflection that aims to facilitate a deeper understanding of my research journey.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: panic attack ; invisible cord ; social construction ; analytic autoethnography