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Treatments for Panic Disorders

written by: BettyHolt • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 2/3/2011

Cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, herbs and vitamins, massage, yoga and meditation and lifestyle interventions are all effective treatments for panic disorders. Although panic attacks can be very frightening, they are also very treatable.

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    Panic Disorder

    A panic attack can be very scary. Your heart pounds and you may feel dizzy or nauseated. You could even feel like you are dying or going crazy. Sometimes these attacks come out of nowhere; leaving you wondering what has brought them on. In many instances, panic attacks continue on a regular basis and are then called panic disorder. If you have frequent, unexpected panic attacks that are not tied to a specific situation, or you worry a lot about when the next attack might occur, and begin to avoid places where you have previously had attacks, you may have panic disorder. These attacks can definitely take a toll on your nerves, but the good news is that there are several treatments for panic disorders, and the sooner they are started the better.

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    Conventional Panic Disorders Treatments

    The most effective type of treatment for panic disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT helps you think about the behaviors and patterns that are triggering the attacks and you learn to look at irrational fears in a more realistic way. The cognitive part of the treatment explores the thinking patterns and the behavioral part teaches people to change how they react to situations that bring on the panic attacks. Often people imagine the worst, and once they realize nothing terrible is going to happen, the fear abates somewhat. For example, people with panic disorder are taught that what they are experiencing with a panic attack is not cardiac arrest.

    Exposure therapy exposes you to the physical sensations of panic in a safe place, allowing you to learn healthier ways of coping. Patients are encouraged to duplicate the sensations of panic by hyperventilating or holding their breath. The more you are exposed to these feelings, the less afraid you become of the bodily sensations that accompany panic. Exposure therapy also increases your feelings of being in control.

    Medication, such as antidepressants or benzodiazepines, can be used to reduce symptoms of panic, but they do not cure the problem and are best used as an adjunct to therapy that addresses the causes.

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    Complementary and Alternative Panic Disorders Treatments

    • The herb Kava is considered one of the best alternative treatments for panic disorder, because it has been used to effectively treat anxiety and improve mood. It has enjoyed success in reducing depression, which sometimes occurs along with anxiety.

    • Acupuncture, the use of needles inserted into specific trigger points which changes the body's energy flow, has also been used to treat anxiety.

    • Yoga, which combines physical postures, breathing and meditation, is very calming and can reduce anxiety.

    • Homeopathy, massage, art, music or dance therapy, meditation or prayer and dietary supplements have all been used to treat anxiety.
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    Lifestyle and Self-Help Techniques

    Knowing more about panic can really help to reduce your negative reactions to it. Read everything you can about anxiety, panic disorder, the fight-or-flight response and panic disorder treatments to realize you are not going crazy. Support groups are often helpful because you find out you are not the only one with this problem. Even internet chat rooms can be helpful, if you receive advice cautiously. Eliminate or cut down on smoking and caffeine, because they can cause panic attacks in susceptible people. Learn how to be in control of your breathing by practicing deep breathing to calm you down when you begin to notice the first signs of anxious feelings. Practice relaxation techniques on a regular basis. Yoga, meditation and progressive relaxation promote relaxed feelings, so find a way to perform them daily. Have faith that you will overcome this, because you can.