How to Manage a Panic Attack

Deborah Gray Health Guide
  • It's not clear at this point what the underlying causes of panic attacks are, although there are indications that both genetics and biochemical makeup play a part. Although there is little that can be done to address the underlying causes without a better understanding, panic attacks can be treated with medication, therapy or both, and it is possible to minimize your chances of triggering an attack.


    Just a caution first: please make sure that you are not taking on the management of your panic attacks yourself without seeing a doctor for, at a minimum, a proper diagnosis. It's essential that your panic disorder be properly diagnosed by a doctor. This diagnosis should include ruling out possible underlying medical conditions that could be causing or mimicking panic attacks.

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    Learn deep breathing techniques


    Hyperventilation is not your friend. In fact, it can even bring on some of the same symptoms you'll experience during a panic attack. The problem is, when many of us are stressed (me included), we are more likely to hyperventilate. Practice some deep breathing techniques so that they'll come naturally if you find yourself starting to hyperventilate.


    Lower your stress/learn relaxation techniques


    Stress is the long term result of the fight or flight mechanism gone awry, which is what is believed to be at the core of panic attacks. And worry about when or where your next panic attack is going to come is a major stressor. Meditation, yoga or progressive muscle relaxation are some tools that you should have in your arsenal of anti panic attack weapons. Even if you've thought them silly in the past, give them a try. Or do something else that calms you. I have my knitting with me almost all the time, to a great extent because it calms me down when I'm stressed.


    Exercise is always a good idea, as it lowers your stress level and contributes to overall good health - never a bad thing. If you're afraid that the increased heart and breathing rate may bring on an attack, start slowly with yoga or gentle walking.


    Stay away from alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes


    I know, sounds like a doctor's warning, right? But stimulants like nicotine and caffeine can trigger panic attacks in people who are susceptible. I myself get some of the symptoms of a panic attack with too much caffeine. And although alcohol may seem to be a calming influence, the truth is that it can trigger attacks. In general, be observant and eliminate any substance that seems to trigger an attack.


    How not to prevent panic attacks


    Don't try to prevent a panic attack by avoiding the situation or place that you associate with past attacks. First of all, it won't work. Second, it will narrow the scope of your life down bit by bit as you eliminate the things you associate with attacks.


    Again, although I believe in educating yourself about a disorder and treatment, I strongly recommend that you take steps to manage your panic attacks with the help of a doctor.


Published On: September 28, 2009