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Complementary and Alternative Medicine

CAM Practices for Panic Disorder

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Updated December 03, 2012

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

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a term used to describe a wide range of practices, services, and products that are used to promote health and wellness. The word “complementary” implies that these practices can be used along with more conventional types of medicine. The name “alternative” signifies that CAM can be considered a different option from the more traditional forms of treatment.

You may be aware of the more conventional treatment options for panic disorder, which include psychotherapy and medications. However, there are also numerous CAM practices that show promising potential for the treatment of anxiety disorders. The following outlines the most common CAM practices used for the management of panic disorder symptoms:

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a healing technique that was derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dating back to thousands of years ago. With this approach, the acupuncturist uses needles at specific points on the body. This process is thought to assist in removing blockages of energy that may have been leading to medical and mental health issues. More recently, there have been efforts to research the scientific basis of acupuncture's effects. By restoring a sense of balance, acupuncture may be able to help with relieving anxiety and other panic disorder symptoms.

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Acupuncture for Panic Disorder

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a popular CAM method that involves the use of essential oils to promote health and wellness. There are many different types of aromatherapy oils, each possessing its own distinct scent and healing attributes. These oils can be blended together to create even more unique scents with different remedial properties.

Some aromatherapy scents have been found to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Other oils may be able to enhance mood and promote quality sleep. Due to their relaxing and energizing effects, certain aromatherapy oils may be able to lessen panic disorder symptoms.

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Aromatherapy for Panic Disorder

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are the foundation of many other relaxation techniques and are very easy to learn. These exercises work to help you breathe slowly and deeply, which can allow you to feel more relaxed. Breathing exercises have been known to have a cleansing effect, making you feel energized and refreshed.

Deep breathing also brings your focus and attention to the breathing process, therefore clearing your mind and helping you to control the rhythm of your breath. These exercises can assist with reducing muscle tension along with improving other common symptoms of panic, such as decreasing rapid heart rate and managing shortness of breath.

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Breathing Exercises for Panic Disorder

Guided Imagery

Is there a place or situation that you find very relaxing, such as sitting on the beach and watching the waves roll in or warming up by a cozy fireplace? Through guided imagery, you can bring your attention to any calming setting you desire. By focusing on a soothing place or situation, your mind and body may react as if you are actually there. Through this technique, you can learn how to calm yourself, even in stressful or fear-inducing situations. Learning this skill can take some practice and patience, but guided imagery can help you deal with panic attacks and agoraphobia.

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Guided Imagery for Panic Disorder

Hypnotherapy

The idea of getting hypnotherapy may be intimidating for some. However, this technique is one of the most popular types of CAM. During hypnotherapy, a person is brought into a trance-like state in which they are deeply relaxed and highly open to suggestibility. It is at this time that the hypnotherapist instructs the client to focus on behaviors they would like to change. The hypnotist offers encouraging words and suggestions for turning these behaviors around. Hypnotherapy can help with many unwanted habits and stress-related conditions, such as weight loss, smoking cessation, and chronic worrying.

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Hypnotherapy for Panic Disorder

Mindfulness Meditation

Many people believe that meditation is the act of completely clearing your mind. However, this perception is not quite accurate. Mindfulness meditation is a relaxation technique that involves learning how to sit through uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. While in meditation, unpleasant thoughts and fears may arise, but that does not mean that you need to react or that these cognitions control you. Through practice, mindfulness mediation can help you overcome negative thoughts and worries, relieve stress, and reduce feelings of anxiety.

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Mindfulness Meditation for Panic Disorder

Mindfulness Meditation Exercise

Reiki

Reiki is a healing energy process that originates from early 20th century Japan. This technique is based off the concept that the human body is made up of energy, which can become unbalanced, causing different types of disorders. Reiki translates into “universal life energy,” which is what is needed to restore one’s equilibrium of energy. Trained practitioners, called Reiki Masters, use their own energy to assist in removing unwanted blockages.

There is little scientific evidence to validate the effectiveness of Reiki. However, many people report that Reiki treatments are relaxing in a manner that is similar to receiving a massage. Because of the anxiety- and stress-reducing properties of Reiki practice, this technique may be able to help with the management of panic disorder.

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Reiki for Panic Disorder

Therapeutic Massage

Massage therapy isn't just a luxury available only at exclusive spas and wellness centers. Therapeutic massage is now offered at many hospitals and clinics as a way to help ease muscle pain, tightness, and tension. By helping the body relax, therapeutic massage also allows one to let go of anxious, fearful, and negative thoughts. By eliciting the relaxation response, therapeutic massage may be able to counteract many of the physical symptoms of panic and anxiety, such as rapid heart rate, sweating, and shaking.

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Massage therapy for Panic Disorder

Yoga

Yoga has become a widely accepted healing technique that can enhance both physical and mental wellbeing. It is a very common activity for improving strength, physical fitness, and flexibility. It can also be used to help one slow down, relax, and become more self-aware. Yoga incorporates meditation, movement, and relaxation to achieve wellness. A technique called yoga therapy, utilizes these aspects of yoga to help prevent, heal, and manage different conditions. Yoga and yoga therapy may be able to aid in the treatment of panic and anxiety.

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Yoga for Panic Disorder

Yoga Therapy for Panic Disorder

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