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Conquering Panic Attacks and Panic Disorders: Roots, Expressions, and Strategies

Conquering Panic Attacks

Panic attacks and panic disorders are mental health conditions that can have a significant impact on a person's life. In this blog post, we will delve into what panic attacks and panic disorders are, explore their potential causes, discuss common symptoms, and outline available treatment options.

What Are Panic Attacks and Panic Disorders?

Panic Attacks:

  • A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear or discomfort that peaks within minutes.
  • These episodes often come on without warning and can be extremely distressing.
  • Panic attacks are not limited to specific situations and can occur unexpectedly.

Panic Disorder:

  • Panic disorder is a mental health condition characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks.
  • Individuals with panic disorder may worry excessively about having more attacks, leading to a fear of certain places or situations (agoraphobia).

Common Symptoms of Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can manifest with a range of symptoms. It's important to note that not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, and the intensity can vary:

Physical Symptoms:

  • Rapid heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Shortness of breath or a feeling of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sweating excessively
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or faint

Psychological Symptoms:

  • Intense fear or terror
  • A sense of impending doom or death
  • A feeling of being detached from reality (depersonalization)
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Avoidance behavior (e.g., avoiding places or situations that may trigger an attack)
  • Seeking reassurance from others
  • Pacing or restlessness

Causes of Panic Attacks and Panic Disorders

The exact causes of panic attacks and panic disorders are multifaceted and may include:

1. Genetics:
  • A family history of panic disorder or other anxiety disorders can increase the risk.
  • 2. Brain Chemistry:
  • Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, may play a role.
  • 3. Stressful Life Events:
  • Traumatic experiences or prolonged periods of stress can trigger panic attacks.
  • 4. Phobias and Agoraphobia:
  • A fear of certain places or situations can lead to panic attacks, especially if avoidance behavior develops.
  • 5. Medical Conditions:
  • Certain medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism or heart conditions, can mimic panic attack symptoms.
  • Treatment Options for Panic Attacks and Panic Disorders

    The good news is that panic attacks and panic disorders are treatable, and many individuals can achieve significant relief from their symptoms. Treatment approaches often include:

    1. Seek Professional Help and cognitive-behavioral Therapy:

    • Consult a mental health professional in Summerville for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.
    • CBT is the most widely used and effective psychotherapy for panic disorders.
    • It helps individuals identify and challenge distorted thought patterns and develop coping strategies.

    2. Medications:

    • Antidepressant medications, such as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), are often prescribed to reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks.
    • Benzodiazepines may be used on a short-term basis to provide immediate relief during acute panic attacks.

    3. Lifestyle Changes & Self Care:

    • Reducing caffeine and alcohol intake. These substances can exacerbate panic symptoms and should be avoided.
    • Regular exercise and relaxation techniques can help manage anxiety.
    • Get adequate sleep, maintain a balanced diet, and engage in regular physical activity to reduce overall stress levels.

    4. Support Groups & Safety Plan:

    • Joining a support group or seeking support from peers who have experienced panic attacks can be beneficial.
    • Develop a plan with strategies to follow during a panic attack, including who to contact for support.

    5. Exposure Therapy:

    • For individuals with agoraphobia, exposure therapy can help gradually reduce avoidance behavior.

    Calming Techniques for Panic Attacks and Panic Disorders:

    1. Deep Breathing:

    • Slow, deep breaths can help calm the body's stress response. Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four, hold for four, and exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of four.

    2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR):

    • Tense and then release each muscle group in your body systematically. This can help reduce physical tension.

    3. Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques:

    • Focus on the present moment. Describe your surroundings or touch objects to anchor yourself in reality.

    4. Positive Self-talk:

    • Challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive, realistic ones.

    5. Visualization:

    • Imagine a calm and safe place. Visualization can help reduce anxiety.

    6. Stay Hydrated and Avoid Stimulants:

    • Dehydration and stimulants like caffeine can exacerbate panic symptoms. Ensure you're well-hydrated and limit caffeine intake.

    7. Distraction:

    • Engage in an activity that requires focus, like counting backward or solving puzzles.

    New Interventions & Treatment

    Capnometry Guided Respiratory Intervention (CGRI):

    Capnometry Guided Respiratory Intervention is a specialized approach to managing panic attacks that focuses on regulating breathing patterns. It involves the use of a capnometer, a device that measures end-tidal carbon dioxide (EtCO2) levels in the breath. Here's how CGRI works:

    1. Measurement: A capnometer is used to monitor the individual's EtCO2 levels, providing real-time feedback.

    2. Training: The individual is trained to maintain a specific target EtCO2 level, typically around 35-45 mmHg.

    3. Breathing Exercises: Breathing exercises are taught to help maintain the target EtCO2 level. These exercises often involve slow, diaphragmatic breathing to prevent hyperventilation.

    4. Feedback: The capnometer provides continuous feedback to ensure that breathing patterns remain within the desired range.

    5. Benefits: CGRI helps prevent over-breathing and reduces symptoms of hyperventilation, which are common during panic attacks. By regulating breathing, it can reduce the intensity and duration of panic symptoms.

    The Importance of Seeking Help

    Panic attacks and panic disorders can be debilitating, but they are treatable conditions.  Managing panic attacks and panic disorders is a journey, and what works best may vary from person to person. It's essential to work closely with a mental health professional to find the most effective strategies and interventions for your specific needs. Calming techniques and CGRI can be valuable tools in this process, but they are most effective when integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan.


    Panic attacks and panic disorders can be overwhelming, but they are not insurmountable. With the right treatment and support, individuals can regain control over their lives and find relief from the distressing symptoms associated with these conditions. If you or someone you know is struggling with panic attacks or panic disorder, do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for guidance and support. Zen Zone Health is here for you if you are experiencing symptoms of panic attacks or have a panic disorder. There is hope, and treatment options are available to help you or your loved one on the path to recovery.