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Tips for Living With Panic Disorder

Effective Ways to Reduce Anxiety and Panic

By

Updated June 29, 2009

At times, living with panic disorder (PD) can be challenging. But, you don’t have to be relegated to the sidelines because of anxiety and panic attacks. By following these tips, you can relieve and improve many of the unwanted, and often hindering, symptoms of PD.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Studies have shown that people with panic disorder are more sensitive to certain substances than are people without the disorder. Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol have been implicated as triggers for those with panic disorder. A diet high in refined sugar can cause mood swings and irritability in many people, with or without panic disorder. By maintaining a healthy diet, you may be able to significantly decrease, or even eliminate, many panic attack triggers.

Talk to Your Doctor About an Exercise Regimen

Proper exercise has long been touted as necessary for optimal health. But, for some people with panic disorder, this is difficult. The sensations of increased heart rate and breathlessness that occur during exercise may trigger a panic response in some people with panic disorder. The lactic acid produced by muscular activity during strenuous exercise may also trigger panic symptoms. But, many people with panic disorder find moderate exercise beneficial in reducing their anxiety symptoms. Talk to your doctor about an exercise program that would be best for you.

Get Enough Sleep

Poor sleep patterns are known to cause a variety of psychological and physical complaints. These include headaches, decreased energy, poor concentration, short-term memory problems, irritability and anxiety. By regulating your sleep patterns, you can reduce anxiety and improve your ability to carry out your daily activities.

Become Aware of Your Breathing Pattern

When people are anxious, they tend to take rapid, shallow breaths that come directly from the chest. This type of breathing is called thoracic or chest breathing. When you’re anxious, you may not even be aware that you’re breathing this way. Breathing through the diaphragm, sometimes called abdominal or belly breathing, has been linked to reduced feelings of anxiety and panic.

Learn and Practice Relaxation Techniques

By leaning and practicing relaxation techniques, you will be able to reduce the level of your anxiety and panic attacks. You may even be able to defuse an attack in the making. Some techniques that may be helpful include:

Deep Breathing
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Guided Imagery
Meditation
Journaling

Find a Good Support Person (or Support Network)

Understand that not everyone will make a good support person even if you are close to them in other ways. To determine who may be a good support person, you can start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Do you feel comfortable talking to him about your illness?
  2. When talking about your illness, do you feel like you’re being heard?
  3. Does he or she allow you to feel they way you feel without judgment?
  4. Do you feel he or she understands panic disorder, or is willing to educate him- or herself about it?
  5. Does this person have the available time necessary to be a good support person?

Don’t Be Ashamed, Embarrassed or Fearful to Get Help

If you are dealing with the frightening symptoms of panic disorder, it’s easy to feel alone and fearful. But the fact is, about 6 million adults in the United States alone have the disorder and it is very treatable.

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