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How to Treat Panic Attacks

written by: Nicky LaMarco • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 12/22/2010

Learn how to treat panic attacks to help yourself or a loved one. While panic attacks can be debilitating, they are also treatable. Check out these treatments.

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    How to Treat Panic Attacks

    how to treat panic attacks If you are having panic attacks you might have a medical problem that resembles panic attacks, or you could have panic disorder. Either way you will need to see a doctor. Start with your regular physician and go from there. If all other possibilities are eliminated you will be referred to a psychiatrist who can help you with medications and counseling.

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    Change Your Diet

    Oftentimes, a panic attack can be brought on by getting one symptom that has nothing to do with a panic attack. It could be sweating, shaking or difficulty breathing. That one symptom can make you believe you are about to have a panic attack and then, well, you do. The anxiety about that symptom snowballs. Sometimes these symptoms can be caused by diet.

    Do not avoid a meal. This can cause shaking and lightheadedness, which can make you believe a panic attack is coming on. Keep a diet journal to ensure you are eating healthy and have at least three meals a day. Carry a granola bar with you so you can eat something should you be hungry between meals.

    Cut out sugar and salt. Just do not put any extra onto your food or in your drinks. Both of these things can mess with your blood pressure and blood sugar, which can mimic panic attack symptoms.

    Quit smoking, which temporarily raises your blood pressure. Avoid alcohol as well. It might depress your anxiety temporarily, but it will come back with a vengeance the next day.

    Drink plenty of water. Carry a bottle of water with you everywhere. Staying well hydrated can make you feel great. Soda, milk, iced tea, juice, flavored water, etc. do not count as water. Drink plain water.

    Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. You should be getting at the very least 5 servings a day (3 fruit and 2 vegetables, for example).

    Use your food journal to help you understand how it affects your panic attacks. You could find that a certain food or lack of, causes panic attacks, and with that knowledge you can make the requisite changes.

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    How to Treat Panic Attacks with Exercise

    Exercise on a regular basis. Cardio exercise appears to be the best exercise for those who suffer from panic attacks. Try running, walking, jump roping, hiking, swimming, cycling, or other forms of cardio exercise. Improving your diet whilst at the same time keeping up with exercise regimes can help make panic attack treatments more effective.

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    Medications

    If you see a psychiatrist he or she may prescribe long term and/or short term medications to treat panic attacks depending on their severity. Long term medications for panic disorder include Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil, and Cymbalta. These are selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

    Benzodiazepines are short term medications that are taken during a panic attack. These include Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan. Remember that the first medication you try might not be the right one for you. Some work great for one group of people and not at all for another. Be persistent until you find one that works for you.

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    Psychotherapy

    A psychotherapist can teach you a number of methods to treat panic attacks, including deep breathing and meditation. Cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy also work well. Exposure therapy puts you in a place where you might feel uncomfortable, but your psychotherapist will help you deal with a panic attack in the location where you have experienced them. Eventually, you will be able to go there with little or no anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you change your distorted thinking patterns that contribute to maintaining your anxiety.

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    Resources

    HELPGUIDE.org, "Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder"

    http://helpguide.org/mental/panic_disorder_anxiety_attack_symptom_treatment.htm#treatment

    MedicineNet.com, "Panic Attack Symptoms, Causes, Treatment"

    http://www.medicinenet.com/panic_disorder/page3.htm#treatment

    ParanoidPear.com, "Diet Tips for Treating Panic Attacks"

    http://paranoidpear.com/diet-tips-for-treating-panic-attacks/