Do Home Remedies for Panic Attacks Really Work?
One of the questions often asked by people who experience panic attacks is whether they can treat themselves? If the disorder is uncomplicated, that is to say there are no additional psychological problems (e.g. depression) you may well find a self-help program beneficial. Before taking the plunge, my advice is to request an assessment by a clinician. The benefit of a formal assessment is that it rules out physical causes of panic and helps to confirm a proper diagnosis.
How to Prepare
Effective home remedies for panic attacks come in the form of self-help and group support. If you habitually use drugs and/or alcohol as a form of self-medication you can prepare the way for self-help by cutting right back or stopping altogether. If this sounds like a step too far then self-help may not be for you. If this is the case seek professional advice sooner rather than later. Otherwise, you’re good to go.
How to Begin
The problem that lends itself most easily to home remedies is avoidance. Panic episodes are commonly associated with agoraphobia. If this sounds like you, then you are a good candidate for self-treatment. You can start by thinking about a few clearly defined targets you want to achieve, such as walking to the end of the street and back. Begin with simple and straight-forward tasks and once these have been achieved you can start to broaden the scope of activities. An important aspect is regular practice. If you find yourself returning from an activity in a state of anxiety it means you may have pushed yourself too far. Cut back on the scope of the activity next time but do it regularly, more than once a day if you are able.
Self-help does not imply you must shoulder the burden yourself. It can be useful to involve a trusted friend or relative in the process. They can help in different ways. For example planning new targets, or staying with you during new or demanding targets. Record keeping is very useful and is quite simple to organize. Make a note of the date, the target, and maybe a simple anxiety scale where 0 means totally relaxed and 10 is a full-blown panic episode. Leave enough space for comments as these can provide a useful record of times, situations or events that were good or caused distress. Over time these records can show certain trends that may not have been obvious earlier. Some people find it useful to enrol in a support group, but this is entirely optional.
In and amongst your self-treatment always find time to relax. Relaxation and breathing exercises are well documented as effective ways to build resilience and cope with stress.
There are no shortage of self-help books, and other media to support your efforts. You may have to sample these as not every approach will be to your taste. Where you can, my advice is to purchase or borrow material that is endorsed by a professional body or is presented by a licensed practitioner.
Finally, some words of caution, and of hope. If your situation mainly relates to avoidance then self-help can be effective. Many people experience episodes of panic. The sensation of panic can feel terrifying yet panic, of itself, is not something to be frightened of. Panic cannot kill or disable you and neither does it mean it is permanent. If you find self-help is ineffective it does not mean you can’t be treated. What it actually means is that you need a little more support than you perhaps first realized. Always remember, with the right advice and therapy, panic can be overcome.
Kowalski, R (1987) Over the Top: a self-help program for people with panic attacks, anxiety, tension and stress. Winslow Press, Oxford.
Rachman, S and DeSilva, P (2003) Panic Disorder: The Facts (2nd ed) Oxford University Press.