Approximately six million people, 2.7 percent of the population, suffer from panic disorder, a terrifying condition that causes unexpected and sometimes uncontrollable panic attacks. The traditional treatment for panic disorder involves the administration of one or more mental health medications, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and beta blockers. However, medication alone is rarely successful.
Successful treatment hinges on an integrated approach that combines medication with behavioral and coping
echanisms. If you’re on medication that isn’t controlling your panic attacks or if you’re wary of taking medication at all, you have options. Several non-pharmaceutical treatments have been proven effective at treating panic attacks.
Psychotherapy and Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) gives panic attack sufferers the tools they need to deal with symptoms of panic in real time. The goal is to change the thinking and overwhelming urges, such as running away, that occur during a panic attack. By practicing CBT coping mechanisms, you can lessen the symptoms associated with panic attacks when they occur.
Over time, most people who use CBT to combat their panic attacks report that their attacks are less severe, happen infrequently or don’t occur at all. If you wish to pursue CBT, meet with a competent psychotherapist who has experience combating anxiety disorders.
Massage and Relaxation Therapy
Relaxation therapies, including breathing therapy, meditation and massage therapy, help reduce tension and anxiety while creating a sense of calm and relaxation. You can undergo massage and/or relaxation therapy regularly in a clinical setting to relieve pent-up feelings of stress and anxiety or you can practice it on yourself in the moment. For example, if you’re experiencing a panic attack, you can divert your attention using self massage, deep breathing exercises or both.
Grounding exercises are also helpful distractions. To practice grounding, you focus on an object and one of your senses. For example, you may touch a cool, textured wall that’s near you. By focusing on the temperature and texture of the wall, you can work through a panic attack instead of removing yourself from the situation. When you can weather a panic attack without running away, you start to take back your life.
Hypnosis and Imagery Regression
Hypnosis is extremely effective at reducing the severity and frequency of panic attacks. Performed in office, hypnotherapy provides the most relief 48 to 72 hours after treatment. However, your hypnosis can teach you some techniques for self-hypnosis that you can use during stressful times that may occur between treatments. ‘Integrated imagery regression introduces and enforces positive memories and emotions, which can be used to combat and stave off panic attacks.
Dietary and Nutritional Changes
Recently, studies have uncovered that eating certain foods can have a profound impact on your mental health. Some foods are especially anxiety inducing, including caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, SMS, refined sugar and more. Food allergies may also trigger panic attacks. If you wish to control panic attacks, you may have to change your diet. Eliminating trigger foods while, at the same time, eating a healthy, balanced diet complete with physical activity can dramatically reduce the frequency of your panic attacks.
If you’re a proponent of vitamin and herbal supplements, you may want to check out supplements, such as Ginko Biloba, green tea, passionflower and Valerian root. Be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning any all-natural supplement regimen, as some can interfere with your mental health medications.