Is there a self-treatment for panic attack or panic disorder? How to treat panic attacks?

 “Is there a self-treatment for panic attack or panic disorder? How to treat panic attacks?”

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), panic disorder is a form of anxiety disorder that is characterised by severe, frequent, and sudden panic attacks. Fear and anxiety are common responses to stressful circumstances and events. Panic disorders differ from normal fear and anxiety in that it is often severe and seems to strike out of nowhere. An individual suffering from panic disorder can exhibit symptoms such as intense terror, heavy breathing and a rapid heart rate. These attacks can occur suddenly and with no obvious cause, but they can also be accompanied by a triggering incident or circumstance.

What are panic attacks?

A panic attack is an acute surge of anxiety that comes on suddenly and it can be crippling and immobilising. Breathlessness, rapid heartbeat, feeling of dying are some symptoms of experiencing a panic attack. Panic attacks sometimes happen out of nowhere, without warning, and with no obvious reason. They can happen even when a person is calm or asleep. 

A panic attack may be one-time thing, however people often experience them repeatedly. A specific situation is often the cause of recurrent panic attacks. The panic-inducing condition is usually one in which you feel threatened and helpless, causing the fight or flight response in your body. The signs and symptoms of a panic attack appear suddenly, and they normally peak within 10 minutes. They rarely last longer than an hour, with the majority of panic attacks lasting for 20 to 30 minutes. Panic attacks can strike at any time and in any place.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

Many people who suffer from panic disorder say they feel like they're having a heart attack or are about to die, and they have any or more of the following symptoms:

  1. Pain in the chest
  2. Feeling dizzy
  3. Extreme terror that strikes unexpectedly and without warning
  4. Numbness in the hands and feet
  5. Rapid breathing
  6. Pounding heartbeat
  7. Sweating
  8. Weakness
  9. Trembling or shaking

Panic disorder can cause significant disturbances in daily functioning and individuals find it difficult to deal with normal, everyday situations that can cause extreme panic and anxiety.

Symptoms of Panic Attacks

The signs and symptoms of a panic attack appear suddenly, and they normally peak within 10 minutes. They rarely last longer than an hour, with the majority of them lasting just 20 to 30 minutes. Panic attacks can strike at any time and in any place. Symptoms of a panic attack include:

  1. Hyperventilation or shortness of breath
  2. Heart palpitations
  3. Aching or stiffness in the chest
  4. Shaking , trembling
  5. Choking sensation
  6. Feeling out of touch with reality or disconnected from surroundings
  7. Sweating
  8. Nausea or stomachache
  9. Feeling light-headed, dizzy, or faint
  10. Feelings of numbness or tingling
  11. Hot or cold flashes
  12. Fear of dying, losing control, or going insane

The majority of panic attack signs are physical, and they can be so serious that people mistakenly believe they're having a heart attack. Many people who recover from panic attacks visit the hospital or the emergency department several times in an effort to seek help with what they feel is a life-threatening medical condition.

Is self-treatment possible for panic attacks or panic disorder?

To completely treat panic disorders by oneself is not possible, however, there are strategies that you can adopt to lessen or avoid panic attacks. These measures help relief and manage panic disorders. There are several behavioural habits and changes that have been shown to help people better deal with the effects of panic disorder, in addition to medicine and psychotherapy.

Tips on dealing with panic attacks

It's important to know that no matter how helpless or out of control you feel with your panic attacks, there are also things you can do to support yourself. The following self-help strategies will greatly assist you in overcoming panic attacks:

1.Learning about panic and anxiety:

This is a crucial first step and it enables you to comprehend what is going on in your body while you are stressed. Simply being more knowledgeable about panic will help you feel better. Learn about fear, panic disorder, and the fight-or-flight response that occurs during a panic attack. You'll discover that the impulses and emotions you get when you panic are normal and that you're not going insane. For all countries combined, the lifetime prevalence of panic attacks is 13.2%.

2.Smoking, alcohol, and caffeine should be avoided:

All of these things can trigger panic attacks in people who are prone to them. Also, be cautious of stimulant-containing drugs, such as diet pills and non-drowsy cold medicines. An anxiety or mood disorder affects 20% of people who have been diagnosed with an alcohol or drug use disorder.

3.Learn breathing control techniques:

Many of the sensations that occur during a panic attack are brought on by hyperventilation (such as lightheadedness and chest tightness). Deep breathing, on the other hand, can help alleviate panic symptoms. When you learn to slow your breathing, you can calm yourself down. You're much less likely to produce the feelings you're trying to avoid if you know how to regulate your breathing. Taking long, steady breaths through the nose is what calm breathing entails.

5.Practice relaxation exercises:

Yoga, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation are all exercises that improve the body's relaxation response, which is the opposite of the stress response that causes anxiety and panic. Not only can these calming techniques help you relax, but they also help you feel happier and calmer.

5.Connect with friends and family:

When you feel alone and isolated, your anxiety symptoms will worsen, so reach out to people who care for you on a regular basis. If you don't know who to turn to, look for ways to meet new people and form supportive friendships.

6.Exercise on a regular basis:

Exercise is a natural anxiety reliever, so make an effort to move for at least 30 minutes most days (three 10-minute sessions is just as good). Rhythmic aerobic activity that involves both arm and leg movement, such as walking, running, swimming, or dancing, may be particularly beneficial.

7.Make sure you get enough sleep:

Sleep deprivation or lack of sleep will exacerbate insomnia, so aim for seven to nine hours of restful sleep each night. Sleep deprivation can exacerbate panic attacks and anxiety symptoms. You can feel overstressed and anxious as a result of the biochemical response that occurs when you don't get enough sleep. Tension and stress can induce a nervous system response that causes you to take quick, shallow breaths, which leads to retention of carbon dioxide.

How to cope with the symptoms of a panic disorder

1.Get up and get moving

Regular exercise has been shown to help relieve fatigue, anxiety, and tightness in the body, as well as the risk of panic attacks.

2.Make sleep a priority

A vicious circle of sleep disturbance and panic disorder may occur. People who suffer from panic disorder often experience difficulty sleeping, and the resultant sleep loss can exacerbate panic symptoms.

3.Keep an eye on your diet

Some foods and substances can make you feel more anxious or cause a panic attack, including:

  • Caffeine

  • Alcohol

  • Refined sugar 

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

4.Maintain a journal

A panic attack log should be used to monitor your causes as well as your symptoms (physical and emotional) and any coping mechanisms that helped you deal with those symptoms.

5.Practice relaxation

Many of the cognitive and physical symptoms of panic disorder can be alleviated by using relaxation exercises to help you calm down your emotions, relieve tension and fear, and reduce many of the psychological and physical symptoms of panic disorder.

  • Mindfulness meditation 
  • Deep breathing
  • Visualization 
  • Yoga
  • Progressive muscle relaxation

Treatment of Panic Attacks and Panic Disorders

Therapy is the most appropriate treatment for panic attacks, panic disorder, and agoraphobia.

1.Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This focuses on the thoughts and actions that are sustaining or inducing panic attacks, and lets you see your feelings in a more rational way. The sense of fear becomes less frightening as you realise that nothing completely terrible is going to happen.

2.Exposure therapy for panic disorder

This requires you to feel the physical symptoms of fear in a healthy and monitored environment, allowing you to develop healthier coping strategies. These various exercises produce feelings that are similar to panic symptoms. You grow less afraid of these internal body stimuli and become more in control of the fear with each exposure.

3.Exposure therapy for panic disorder with agoraphobia 

Treatment involves exposure to the circumstances or situations that you dread and avoid. You face the dreaded scenario until the stress subsides, much as with exposure therapy with serious phobias. With this therapy, you learn that the situation isn't dangerous and that you have control of your feelings.

Medication may temporarily control or reduce the symptoms of panic disorder, it does not, however, treat it. When medication is used in addition with other therapies, it is more effective.


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