Is it possible to treat panic attacks without the need for professional help? The evidence suggests it is, but only if panic is the only psychological problem you are experiencing. More complex conditions, for example panic and depression, really would benefit from expert help. If the main issue is with avoiding places or situations because they make you feel very anxious or panicky, then you are suited to self-help.
Start your self-help program by preparing. Cut out things like alcohol or any other ‘psycho-active' substances. Get a good night of sleep, avoid caffeine and other stimulants likely to boost your natural arousal state. Once done, it's time to confront those demons.
The first step in your self-help program should be to establish goals you can achieve. Make them realistic. Don't be too ambitious but do set goals that will stretch you a little. An example might be if you feel uncomfortable leaving the confines of your home, set a target to get to the gate, or a few paces away and stand for a period of time before returning. If what you set yourself feels a little unsettling, but you can manage it, you've probably hit the right goal. The next step is to repeat it, if possible two or three times a day. The more you practice the easier it becomes.
Once you have mastered your first goal and you feel comfortable, you'll want to broaden your horizons. There's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't enlist the help of a loved one, or trusted friend. They can provide encouragement and support initially, but remember that your goal is to become dependant. Don't kid yourself that you are doing well if you can only do something with the support of someone with you. Having the support available is a great first step but one you want to replace with your own efforts in time.
The path away from anxiety isn't always straight and easy. You may find certain days or times that you feel worse than you did before. This is quite common and normal but if you find you are experiencing fewer good times and more bad times it means you are overdoing it. If this occurs just step back a goal or two and don't rush things.
Before you set out to achieve your goals, prepare yourself by relaxing and doing breathing exercises. If you're unfamiliar with relaxation techniques there are plenty of examples on this site. Keep in mind that anxiety can't kill you. The other common fear of feinting is a physiological response to a sudden lowering of blood pressure. When we get anxious our blood pressure actually increases!
With self-help you can practice as often as you like and modify your goals as and when needed. Also consider keeping a record of your goals and give yourself a rating scale or measure of some kind in order to monitor progress over time.
Published On: May 17, 2011