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Writing Exercises for Panic Disorder

Self-Help Through Writing


Updated August 30, 2012

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

Journal Writing

Journal writing is the act of recording your personal thoughts and feelings about your life experiences. Through writing in a journal, you can work through difficult emotions, express your personal views, reflect upon the past, and plan for the future. This activity can be helpful for people with panic disorder, as it has been found to help reduce stress, manage anxiety, and improve self-esteem.

Many people chose a specific theme to write about in their journal. One of the most common themes is keeping a journal of all of the things that one is grateful for. Known as a gratitude journal, writing about all that we appreciate in life can help a person with panic disorder to get past anxious and negative thoughts and truly see what brings the most happiness. Gratitude journals can also assist in enhancing a person’s mood and bring awareness to the more positive aspects of one’s life.

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Stop Negative Thinking

People with mood and/or anxiety disorders are often plagued with negative thinking. Some theories of psychotherapy believe that habitual negative thoughts contribute to depression, anxiety, and phobias. Also known as cognitive distortions, this type of thinking may be impacting your struggle to manage the symptoms of panic disorder.

Negative thinking is a learned habit that typically develops over time. Therefore, you can unlearn this behavior and replace it with more positive thinking patterns. Writing exercises can help you overcome negative thinking, as these activities force you to monitor you thoughts and give you the opportunity to change them. Both using affirmations and disputing negative thoughts can assist you shifting your current way of thinking. With practice and patience, you may be able to change the way you think about yourself and the world around you.

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Tracking Your Symptoms and Progress

Coping with panic disorder can have its ups and downs. You may have your symptoms under control for a while, but have a hard time handling them at other times. Unfortunately, you may not even notice any worsening of your symptoms until you have gone completely off track.

Keeping track of fluctuations in your mood, symptoms, and progress can be what you need to help keep you on the road to recovery. Mood and anxiety charts are one way to track changes in how you are feeling over time. Such charts can also be used to track your sleep patterns, side effects of medications, and recent life changes. Mood and anxiety charts are often recommended by mental health professionals to assist in creating and maintaining a treatment plan that suits your needs.

Many mental health specialists also suggest keeping a record of your panic attack symptoms. Known as a panic attack diary, you can track the cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms of your panic attacks. An anxiety and panic attack diary can be used to help identify triggers and keep track of your progress.

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Bourne, E. J. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. 5th ed. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2011.

Burns, D. D. (2006). When panic attacks: The new drug-free anxiety therapy that can change your life. NY: Broadway Books.

Emmons, R. A., &McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.

Pennebaker, J.W. (1997). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological Science, 8, 162-166.

Pennebaker, J. W. (2004). Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovery from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

Reiss, V. (2010). Count your blessings. Natural Health, 40(8), 15-16.

Seaward, B. L. (2011). Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Wellbeing,M. & Lutgendorf, S. K. (2002). Journaling About Stressful Events: Effects of Cognitive Processing and Emotional Expression. The Society of Behavioral Medicine, 24(3), 244-250.

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