Recurring panic attacks are the hallmark features of panic disorder. Panic attacks are sudden and intense feelings of terror, fear or apprehension without the presence of actual danger. The symptoms of a panic attack usually happen suddenly, peak within 10 minutes and then subside. However, some attacks may last longer or may occur in succession, making it difficult to determine when one attack ends and another begins.
But, there are some steps you can take that may stop a panic attack from escalating out-of-control and reduce your overall anxiety.
Most people are not really conscious about the way they are breathing, but 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. Chest breathing causes an upset in the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body, resulting in increased heart rate, dizziness, muscle tension and other physical sensations.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a stress and anxiety management technique. If you have panic disorder, agoraphobia or another type of anxiety disorder, you may experience frequent muscle tension. In fact, chronic muscle tension may be so automatic that it seems normal, and you may have forgotten what it feels like when your muscles are completely relaxed. By employing the progressive muscle relaxation technique, you will be able to quickly rediscover the distinctions between relaxation and tension of various muscle groups.
Self-modification programs focus on helping people manage unwanted or dysfunctional behavioral responses when dealing with their problems. For example, if you have panic attacks as a result of panic disorder, a common dysfunctional behavioral response is avoidance. Unfortunately, avoiding fearful situations does nothing to help in your recovery from PD.
If you have panic disorder or agoraphobia, a panic diary may help you to identify your panic attack triggers and your responses to anxiety-provoking situations. It is usually best to record in your panic diary as you are experiencing (or shortly thereafter) anticipatory anxiety or a panic attack.
If you have panic disorder, agoraphobia or another anxiety disorder, anxiety-provoking situations may occur on a daily basis. Enhancing and refining your coping techniques can help you deal with them.