How Are Panic Attacks Treated?

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The most important step in treating panic attacks is what we call cycle education. That means understanding and normalizing what`s going on in your body and in your mind. With very frightening about having a panic attack whether you are a child or a 50 year old, person who practically runs the world, is then suddenly you feel out of control, and that's a very frightening experience.

And what happens is that your anxiety about that feeling of being out of control starts to spiral from there, and you can't help but think what's next? Am I going crazy? Am I losing control? What am I going to do? How do I get out of here? But all of those kind of understandable but desperate questions only make your anxiety worse.

So understanding that a panic attack is a false alarm. Your body has just out of the blue switched on the fight or flight reaction and is preparing you to defend your life which works great if you're actually in danger, but is very disconcerting when all of those things happen, your heart racing, your arms and legs feeling funny, feeling lightheaded.

All of those things are very discorncerting when they happen just in the supermarket or in a meeting. But putting the right label on what's going on is key and that's really what cycle education is about. You're not in danger, nothing bad is about to happen. You're having a panic attack.

So having those one liners that you want to say to yourself to immediately down grade the urgency of the situation are very important. The next steps though in treating panic are learning relaxation techniques and how to control and change those things that are so uncomfortable like the racing heartbeat, like the shallow breathing.

And so we teach breathing techniques to breath calmly from the diaphragm, and once you have done that, then the important part of the therapy is what we call intro-septive exposure, and what that means is on purpose, you're prepared for this, but on purpose, we want to bring on some of those feelings and symptoms like, feeling like your heart is racing or like it's hard to breath because you're breathing heavily.

So that you can see by using your your good self talk, I'm not in danger. My body knows how to take care of itself, it will not let me down. Using your good self talk and your breathing techniques, you can reverse those uncomfortable feelings. So we may do that by running up and down the stairs a couple of times to get the heart rate going, and then you see it's not magic, but you have the ability to quiet down those symptoms.

That helps to restore a great sense of control for people who have panic. Final step is to actually go out and do exposures in the world. Once you've had a panic attack, whether it`s in a restaurant or in a movie theater, you want, you feel like you need to avoid those situations for fear that you're going to have a panic attack again.

What the exposure does is help you to see that even once you have your techniques and strategies and skills, you can use those in those situation. It's not the situation that is the problem. You've got it, that situation was totally safe and fine but this way you prove it to yourself.

You go to the restaurant maybe you don't sit and have a full meal the first time maybe you just go in and order take out or something, but you but you expose yourself gradually to those situations that you've avoided to see. You're not going to have a panic attack. If your breathing starts to get funny, you're able to calm it back down and then more and more the world opens up to you, you're able to to return to your previous activities.