General Question

bridold's avatar

Do you get panic attacks? If so, what do you do to stop them after they've started? Or to prevent them? Without medication.

Asked by bridold (638points) August 13th, 2008

I’ve been getting panic attacks ever since I was a little girl, but they’ve gotten a lot worse in the past few years. I started getting them every day, sometimes several times a day. I was perscribed both Xanax and Zoloft. I refused to take the Zoloft and stopped taking the Xanax about a year ago. Now I’ve been trying several different methods to calm myself down once the panic attacks start. I dont’ get them as often as I used to, but I do still have them. I use breathing techniques, exercise and meditation. Any other suggestions?

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18 Answers

mamasu's avatar

I do get them and take medication, but there are a few things that help, when I can make them happen.

Going someplace quiet and ‘safe’ to be by myself helps. This isn’t easy with 2 young kids, but I do have a place set up where I go for a few minutes of quiet.

Breathing exercises help. I also find hugging myself tightly helps. Sounds strange and when my husband is around I get him to give the hug, but somehow that feeling of being enveloped tightly and securely for a few moments helps my body relax once released. I’m told this is more than just a psychological thing but has something to do with pressure on the muscles and constricting the diaphram somehow. Not sure, but I do know it seems to help.

I also find stretching exercises help. In the midst of a panic attack, I’m rarely in a position, mentally or physically, to do much physical exercise, but simple stretches help to refocus my mind and release some of the physical tension that seems to come with the attacks.

I’m so sorry you’re experiencing these and I wish you the very best of luck.

bridold's avatar

@mamasu – thank you! I’ll definitely use some of the techniques you described.
I hate getting panic attacks when I’m at home because it’s like there is nowhere I can escape to.

I agree about not being in any position to exercise when i’m having a panic attack, but the stretching sounds like it would definitely help.

I did some yoga poses the morning before my wedding when I started getting freaked out and that really helped.

trudacia's avatar

I used to get panic attacks all the time. I’m happy to say it’s been several years since my last. I just got so angry with myself that I started to talk myself out of them. Believe it or not, it’s true. I never needed medication although I’m sure people experience different degrees of panic. Just say NO!

bridold's avatar

@trudacia: I actually have been able to talk myself out of panic attacks before, but sometimes they get to the point that I can’t do anything about it.

Maybe it’s an age thing. My mom had really bad panic attakcs when she was my age, but she’s gotten a lot better since.

trudacia's avatar

I think you just have to be totally sick of it! I’ve had some moments in the past years where I thought I might have one… It’s in those first few seconds that you have to say “absolutely not! There’s nothing to freaking panic over….” At least that’s what I tell myself. Good luck!

Oh, and do you have major stress in your life. Are you constantly worried about something? Obviously, you need to get rid of that before you can get rid of your attacks.

bridold's avatar

Well, I do work full time and go to school full time. I have a very busy schedule, so I know that’s definitely a contributing factor. But, there really isn’t anything I can do about that. I need to work and get an education!

Kay's avatar

I’ve been working to overcome some bad PTSD-related anxiety attacks and I find that using a bunch of methods together has had the best results for me. Have you tried acupuncture? I’ve found it has helped me a lot! It can also help with some of the somatic symptoms that anxiety produces, like muscle tension, digestion problems, etc.

On the medication front, I really didn’t like the side effects I got from taking SSRI’s, so I have really small doses of Ativan that I can take when I have a panic attack. Just knowing that the medicine is there in case I need it helps a lot and will even prevent myself from having a panic attack! Your doctor can prescribe a really small dose (0.5mg tablets) if you’re worried about becoming too drowsy or experiencing side effects.

I think that one of most important things to do is to have a plan for when you’re having a panic attack and know what you can do to help yourself feel better, whether that’s breathing exercises, taking medicine, or simply experiencing the anxiety and telling yourself that it will be over soon.

And finally, the book Don’t Panic by R. Reid Wilson is really good for learning how to deal with your anxiety. Good luck!

bridold's avatar

Thanks Kay!
I’ve actually been wondering about acupuncture. I think I’ll try it.

gailcalled's avatar

I use the diaphragmatic breathing techniques all the time to calm me down. I have built up to being able to do them lying down with a 12-lb cat on my diaphragm.

trudacia's avatar

@kay, I respect your advice and mean no disrespect – but don’t you find that planning for an attack is the same as giving in and expecting that you will have another? Like saying it’s okay and just finding a way to live with them?

bridold's avatar

@gailcalled – thank you, I’m definitely going to try that out.

Kay's avatar

@trudacia- I have a panic disorder, and I’ve had panic attacks in the past, so why not plan out what I’m going to do in case I have another one? It doesn’t mean that they’re “ok” or acceptable, but ignoring them isn’t really an option if I want to get better. Just because I keep Advil in my house doesn’t mean I find headaches acceptable, but I realize that I’ve had them in the past and will probably get them again, so I’m prepared in case that happens.

gailcalled's avatar

@Brid: Skip the cat part. I use the breathing all the time; just recently before my yearly check-up with Oncologist. You have to let go of the vanity issue of holding your stomach in.

Pretend you have a balloon in your belly. When you inhale, it expands, and when you exhale, it deflates. You can feel your body loosening up.

trudacia's avatar

@kay, good point.

loser's avatar

I get them but I do have to take medication.

Kay's avatar

Good way to find an accredited acupuncturist:

The Tai Sophia Institute is a Middle States accredited school for acupuncture and the like and their search engine is a good way to find practicioners in your area.

dragonflygrrl's avatar

I got panic attacks all through high school, but haven’t had more than two or three in the ten(ish) years since. I was given Celexa, which helped but was not intended to be a long-term fix. Eventually what worked was a change. For me, panic attacks were a reaction to my environment – my body saying, “hey, no, we don’t want to be here, this is a bad place.” Leaving helped, but didn’t fix it. I had left the negative physical location but was still carrying it around with me. At the risk of sounding all touchy-feel on my very first post here, I had to come to terms with a lot of things and decide that I could let them go.

The only nonmedical thing that helped me while the attacks were actually going on was finding a mantra and repeating it until my symptoms subsided. Mine was “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.” You might look for an encouraging quote like that and see if it helps you. It always helped me to center myself where more traditional prayer or meditation didn’t. Good luck!

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I eat comfort food.

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