Panic disorder need not take over your life: Here’s how

At times, living with an anxiety problem like panic disorder (PD) makes people feel tense. Though it is a physical disorder, it has a great impact on the mental health of the person being diagnosed. The person tries to be in a secluded environment all the time due to the fear of sudden attacks in front of his social and professional circle, and later on feels guilty and embarrassed for the same. Common symptoms of a panic attack are:

  1. An overwhelming sensation of ‘something bad is about to happen’.
  2. Mind goes through unusual racing thoughts.
  3. Distorted sense of reality and time.
  4. One experiences himself living in a dream.
  5. Dizziness and nausea. Feel like vomiting or throwing up.
  6. Heart palpitations or increased heart rate (tachycardia).
  7. Chest pains an profuse sweating.

The intensity of these listed symptoms may vary from individual to individual. People who are severely affected avoid going out alone, suffer from insomnia, lose appetite, feel exhausted most of the time, have trouble focusing, and find it hard to relax and enjoy themselves. One completely loses his/her social life and all the enjoyment and feel imprisoned due to this disorder. Everyone with panic disorder can lead a good life once he/she learns to deal with it and gets the apt treatment. By following the following strategies, you can find relief and prepare yourself against many of the unwanted, and often hindering, symptoms of panic disorder.

Improve self esteem and be kind to yourself

Self esteem is a psychological term which reflects a person’s overall appraisal or evaluation of his own worth. People who suffer from panic disorder tend to be hyper-critical of their own behavior. One should be self satisfied that he is doing the best he could to stop the panic attacks and he should not have the guilt of being diagnosed, as it is not his fault. People with lower self esteem are prone to depression and severe headaches. Keeping a positive behavior about everything, one gains the will power to handle the disorder more wisely.

See your general practitioner

Though it’s an obvious thing to visit a doctor for a consultation, many patients are reluctant to visit one. Their inability to express themselves makes it more difficult for them to consult a doctor. Actually, in this case, a medical practitioner is one of the few persons with whom you can discuss your condition frankly and who can help you manage the disorder. He can help you in recognizing the pattern of panic attacks or make a referral to another health specialist, if necessary.

Avoid substances that aggravate or initiate panic attack

Substances such as cigarettes and coffee have nicotine and caffeine respectively, which may trigger the panic attacks. Avoiding consumption of such objects helps a lot in decreasing the frequency of attacks. Chocolate and sodas should also be avoided as they are also a source of caffeine.

Many people say that they smoke cigarettes because it helps in reducing their stress levels. But according to a new research this is completely a myth. On the contrary, it increases stress levels over time rather than calming the nerves which also may result in provoking a panic attack.

Try the herb valerian

One of the most popular and effective herbs in dealing with anxiety and panic disorders is valerian. Also called as nature’s tranquilizer, it comes with claims of calming down the mind without any side effects found with other medications. It is best known as a remedy for insomnia, restlessness and nervous strain. However, because many anxiety disorders like panic attacks are accompanied with these symptoms, valerian has been proposed for anxiety disorders too. Please discuss with your doctor before taking this or any other herb, especially if you are pregnant or taking any other kind of medication.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy, also called CBT, is the psycho-therapeutic treatment that helps the diagnosed person to understand the thoughts and feelings that may induce a change in behavior. It is commonly used to treat various disorders, including a list of phobias, depression, addiction and anxiety.

The therapy is based on the idea that panic attacks are triggered by negative thoughts and negative behaviors. The benefit of this recoginition is that one can change the way he or she thinks to feel and act in a better way, even if there is no change in the situation.

In most cases, CBT is applied as a gradual process by helping the patient take smaller steps towards a behavioral change. E.g., someone with a phobia of socialisation can start the process by simply imagining himself in a social situation. Secondly, he may start practicing conversations with his close friends, family members and acquaintances who, understanding the problem, can help him out with his fear.

Improve your sleep habits

Panic disorder and sleeping problems are often faced simultaneously by the patient. People with panic disorder usually find it difficult to fall asleep at night. Some people report that even if they fall asleep, it is not possible for them to stay asleep throughout the night. It is all because the disorder often keeps the body tense and awake.

If a person finds it difficult to get the required amount of sleep, he/she may need to work on ways to improve his sleep routine. A consistent sleep routine and improved sleep habits will result in a better sleep. By bringing about slight changes in your lifestyle, many common sleeping problems can be addressed, improving the sleep hygiene.

Reduce your stress

A person becomes prone to panic attacks when he is undergoing a lot of stress in his life. Stress initiates the feelings of anxiety and worry. Relaxation techniques like meditation are often an effective solution to deal with stress.

Avoid drinking coffee, as it raises levels of the notorious stress hormone called cortisol. Try having green tea instead, which is good for health too. Drinking juices with ample amount of vitamin C also helps in reducing stress levels. Learning these relaxation techniques can help in coping with panic disorder.

Opt for aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is said to be a very effective means of treating panic disorder. Our olfactory senses are directly connected to the brain, which make aromatherapy a great treatment option. Aromatherapy can be beneficial with essential oils derived from plants that are effective in treating panic attacks. These botanical oils are very potent and have a powerful and stimulating effect on our smell instinct. Accompanying it with a massage would be a good stress-busting option. Commonly used oils for anxiety disorders are sandalwood, jasmine, lavender, bergamot, geranium, rose and cypress.

Take out time to relax

Learn some relaxation techniques to keep yourself free from stress and anxiety. Plan something exciting with your family and friends that is relaxing and enjoyable. It will also help you in overcoming your social phobias. Take small naps while you are free to feel fresh.

Sports are a good option as they help you relax and make you feel that you are in control of yourself. The most helpful relaxing techniques include sleeping. Do not stay up late at night. A good sexual relationship works out to be an antidote to anxiety and makes you feel relaxed. Soothing and mild music also helps in relaxation of your mind.

Be aware of your breathing pattern

When people get a panic attack, they start to take rapid, shallow breaths coming directly from the chest area. If you have trouble with your breathing during attacks, then most probably you are over-breathing. This type of breathing is called thoracic or chest breathing. In anxiety, you may not even notice that you are breathing like this. In this condition, try to breathe more slowly and deeply.

Breathing through the diaphragm, sometimes called abdominal or belly breathing, is known to be another option beneficial in treating a panic disorder condition. It’s done by the contraction of diaphragm, a plate-like muscle located horizontally below the base of your lungs, above the stomach cavity.

One can follow these steps to do deep breathing exercise:

  1. Sit down or lie down comfortably as per your convenience, wearing loose garments.
  2. Keep a hand on the chest area and another one on stomach.
  3. Start inhaling slowly through your nose.
  4. While inhaling, push your stomach to bulge out and feel it expanding with your hand.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications commonly prescribed for their tranquilizing and anti-anxiety properties. They affect the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) by enhancing it, resulting into a sleep-inducing, sedative, calming and muscle relaxing action. These properties make benzodiazepines useful in treating panic attacks. Their therapeutic dosage differs greatly from person to person, and also depends on the severity and frequency of one’s symptoms and his or her body chemistry.

It is considered to be a second or third choice of treatment by doctors as improper dispension of benzodiazepines may show some adverse effects too. Even if you discontinue the prescribed dosage after a period of time without consultation, it may result into withdrawal symptoms and worsen your condition. Consult your doctor for this medication and take only the prescribed dosage.

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