What Is Panic Disorder? 5 Ways To Train Your Brain To Stop Panic Attacks Before They Start

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What Is Panic Disorder? 5 Ways To Train Your Brain To Stop Panic Attacks Before They Start
Health And Wellness

You wake up one morning, happy that your life is finally on track. But even under the veil of turning lemons into lemonade, something isn’t right.  

You don’t feel completely in control and at times you even feel breathless. Your heart feels like it’s about to burst. You’re immobilized and stuck in place, incapable of doing anything. 

Then, just as suddenly as it came on, your heart slows down and your breathing gets easier. You are normal once more... for now.

What’s going on in these cases is not a heart attack, but rather something equally as challenging to your way of life. It’s called panic disorder.

What is panic disorder?

RELATED: 20 Quotes That Describe What It's Like To Have A Panic Attack

Mayo Clinic states, "A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause... Many people have just one or two panic attacks in their lifetimes, and the problem goes away, perhaps when a stressful situation ends. But if you've had recurrent, unexpected panic attacks and spent long periods in constant fear of another attack, you may have a condition called panic disorder."

For many, looking for a solution first involves a trip to the ER. But after countless visits to the doctor and prescriptions that make you feel like a zombie, you know two things: You suffer from panic attacks and the primary panic disorder treatment is medication.   

Problem is, the meds make you feel listless and devoid of your personality. So, you decide to see if you can endure it on your own. But these panic feelings always return. Sometimes worse, sometimes a mere fraction of what’s possible in the worst of times.  

One thing is for sure: when it comes to suffering from panic attacks, you’re not alone.

According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, some 5 percent of women and 2 percent of men have had panic attacks at one time or another within a lifetime. Some conditions persist for years. Others come and go based on stress or other underlying challenges.  

So if medication isn’t working for you, what else you can you do?

The short answer is that medication as a panic disorder treatment does relieve suffering and pain in the short term. But it is not the long-term solution for everyone. Most therapists agree that the combination of medication and behavioral/perceptual change that make the difference.

If you’re looking for alternative panic disorder treatments, here are some strategies.

1. Recognize that your panic attack is the stress response.

In fact, your panic attack is identical in every aspect of what happens when we feel under attack. Think about the human response to a threat or imminent danger (imagine real danger — you’re being chased by a bear or attacked by bees). In those moments, our immediate and instinctive reaction is to panic.

The reaction in your brain is one in the same when you have a panic attack. The amygdala is activated causing a variety of symptoms that we associate with being in severe danger. When you experienced a panic attack you experience this same response, as if it were real and you had to immediately get out of harm's way.

Once you understand this, you will know how to reverse a panic attack.

RELATED: 4 Signs Your Panic Attacks Aren't Just Standard Anxiety — They're Symptoms Of Agoraphobia

2. Use relaxation techniques.

To extinguish a panic attack, you need to activate a relaxation response. That’s why breathing exercises are effective.

But there are a lot of other techniques that can induce the relaxation response, including: relaxing your muscles, calming your thought processes, resting and in some cases, exercise can harnesses the energy of the panic and eventually deliver a relaxing response.

In an ideal setting, it’s best to learn many different ways to calm your mind/body. It’s rarely a one size-fits all approach. Try many things to see what works best for you.

3. Silence your negative thoughts.

When you have panic attacks, they fuel your negative thoughts, which aggravate your panic attacks. So, if you have negative thoughts, your panic attacks will get worse, rather than get better.

Reducing and eliminating toxic thinking is an effective way to stop panic attacks in your life. There are a lot of techniques that allow you to do that including challenging negative thoughts, installing positive thoughts, and rehearsing positive thoughts and conditioning yourself to be positive among others. 

4. Deal with the panic triggers.

Some people know exactly what can trigger their panic attacks. They can even remember the original incident or what event caused the first panic attack to occur.

To heal the past from causing deeper panic to set in, you need to detoxify your memory of your triggers, especially if a trigger truly isn’t life threatening at all. Reach out of you need help.

5. Set a pace for your life.

Living a life full of anxiety and stress makes you prone to panic attack. If your environment is super stressful, consider how you can change your life so it’s more calm and productive.

By living a life of stress and anxiety, you are truly short-changing yourself. Isn’t it time to stop doing this, and learn to be effective in whatever you are doing? It’s also the path to conquer your panic attacks.

Although panic disorder is a definitive diagnosis, having panic attacks is not a problem you have to deal with forever.

Panic attacks and panic disorder are indicators that something is not quite right in your life. It could be a past psychological trauma that still needs to be healed. 

The big question you need to ask yourself is this: Are the panic attacks you are experiencing an indication of ongoing continuing stressors in your life, or just some past post-traumatic stress? Depending on your answer, you have to do some work to do in order to lead the life you most want to love.

Just know you’re not alone and help can be found by advocating for yourself.

RELATED: How To Stop Panic Attacks Using The EFT Tapping Technique

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Dr. Douglas Kong is a retired psychiatrist who specialized in stress management, psychological treatment and self-help.

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