How to Control Panic Attacks


An estimated 15 percent of Americans suffer anxiety disorders, ranging from general anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. When attacks occur frequently enough to disrupt your life, it is time to address them. This article will introduce you to several methods available to help control panic attacks so that you can choose the best one for you.

  • Recognize the usual symptoms of a panic attack. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms, but common ones include a general feeling of intense fear, a rapidly beating heart, chest pain, difficulty breathing, flushes, chills, lightheadedness and nausea.

  • Get a proper diagnosis for your panic attacks because some medical conditions present the same symptoms. Visit your physician for a complete physical examination and discuss the emotions you experience before, during and after the attack.

  • Investigate cognitive therapy in which you learn about negative thought patterns that incite worry and fear and lead to the attacks. With a licensed therapist referred by your physician, train yourself to have new positive thought patterns.

  • Explore behavior therapy in which you practice techniques to reverse the body's physical responses to stress. Typical practices include slowing your breathing to regulate your heartbeat and relaxing muscles. Learn from a licensed therapist.

  • Consider desensitization therapy with a licensed psychotherapist who will create gradual, controlled exposure to the issue or concept that causes you anxiety. Through exposure, build a level of tolerance and replace the negative association with a benign one and eliminate panic attacks. Aid the process with biofeedback measurements to properly gauge your body's reactions to stress.

  • Ask your physician about medication options such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. She may prescribe them along with psychotherapy. Take the prescription exactly as directed and for a duration usually lasting 6 to 12 months. Different types of medications work in different ways and present their own side effects, so work closely with your doctor to monitor your response to medication and make adjustments if necessary.

Tips & Warnings

  • Combined cognitive-behavior therapy can be more effective than just one or the other.
  • The therapies described in this article require assistance from medical personnel.

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