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Self-Care for Panic Disorder

How Self-Care Strategies Can Help in Managing Panic Disorder

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Updated July 20, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Self-care for panic disorder can help in finding personal wellness and balance.

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Self-care refers to all of the activities that people proactively engage in for personal health and wellness. These behaviors assist in relieving stress and achieving a sense of balance. Self-care strategies are holistic in nature, meaning that they address a range of personal needs, such as spirituality, mental clarity, and creativity.

Self-care can be divided up into five main factors: the physical, social, creative, coping, and essential aspects of the self, according to the Indivisible Self Wellness Model, devised by Myers and Sweeney (2005). To achieve a higher level of wellness, a person must participate in self-care activities that address each one of these five areas. This modal of self-care can be used when considering wellness strategies for panic disorder.

The Physical Self

First, the "physical self" includes aspects of fitness and proper nutrition. It has been found that exercise is beneficial for panic disorder, as it can be a great way to release pent up anxiety. Relaxation exercises, such as yoga and progressive muscle relaxation can also be helpful in releasing stress and increasing body awareness. Additionally, nutrition is an important part of self-care for panic disorder. It has been found that certain dietary triggers, such as caffeine, can contribute to panic attacks. Taking a healthy approach to one’s physical needs can assist with recovery and prevention.

The Social Self

Second, the "social self" involves the facets of friendship and love. Due to potential shame and secrecy, those with panic disorder can sometimes find it difficult to reach out to others for support. However, building a panic disorder support network is an important aspect of coping with the condition. Such a network can be made up of friends and family members, medical providers, and a support group of others with panic disorder. Social support can help with normalizing one’s experience, staying informed, and feeling more connected to others.

The Creative Self

Third, the "creative self" encompasses that which makes each of us unique, including our emotional and thinking patterns and personal sense of humor. This aspect of the self can be enhanced for panic disorder sufferers through activities that generate more positive thinking, such as the thought stopping technique or writing activities. There are also several forms of psychotherapy that work toward changing the common negative thinking and feelings patterns that often contribute to panic disorder. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that involves learning ways to change our thoughts, feelings and behaviors that will help in building coping skills and self-esteem. Similarly, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) uses cognitive-behavioral techniques along with humor to assist people with panic disorder in creating more balanced thoughts and behaviors.

The Coping Self

Fourth, the "coping self" compromises leisure, stress management, self-worth, and realistic beliefs. To build up your coping self, take some time out for leisure activities that you enjoy, such as reading, playing sports or watching movies. These activities can help you unwind and let go of stress. Reading self-help books is a great way to fit in some leisure time while learning new stress management techniques and ways to enhance self-worth.

Psychotherapy can also help you strengthen your coping skills. A therapist can assist you in developing ways to build your self-esteem and deal with stress. Additionally, psychotherapy is an effective way to develop more realistic beliefs about yourself and the world around you. Many people with panic disorder suffer from irrational beliefs. For example, a person with panic disorder may stay away from social events due to the belief that if others saw them have a panic attack, they would lose all respect for them. A therapist can assist you in developing more rational thoughts and improving your self-worth.

The Essential Self

Last, the "essential self" is made up of one’s sense of spirituality and identity, including feelings of hope, meaning and confidence. Panic disorder can take away from the essential self due to the common feelings of personal doubt and uncertainty. It is not uncommon for people with panic disorder to also be diagnosed with depression, which can further deplete the essential self through the negative feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and sadness. The essential self can be improved through spirituality-enhancing activities, including meditation, prayer, volunteer work, or any other practice that one feels brings value and meaning to their life.

Self-care for panic disorder involves a commitment to personal growth and wellness. These strategies for self-improvement require a holistic perspective that includes fulfilling the needs of the physical, social, creative, coping, and essential aspects of the self. By practicing self-care for panic disorder, one can become better equipped to manage the stress and symptoms related to this condition.

Sources:

Ellis, A. & Dryden, W. “The practice of rational emotive therapy: A therapist’s guide” 2nd Ed 2007 Springer: New York.

Myers, J. E., & Sweeney, T. J. “The Wheel of Wellness” In J. E. Meyers & T. J. Sweeney (Eds.), Counseling for wellness: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 15-28) 2005 Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Myers, J. E., & Sweeney, T. J. “Wellness counseling: The evidence base for practice” Journal of Counseling and Development, 2008, 86: 482-493.

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