How do I Treat Panic Attacks?

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  • Written By: K T Solis
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2020
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A panic attack is a sudden feeling of dread or fear. It is characterized by shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea. A person who experiences a panic attack may feel as if he or she is going crazy or even about to die. It is possible to treat panic attacks in several ways. In general, doctors treat panic attacks through medication or cognitive behavior therapy.

In order to treat panic attacks, physicians may prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to patients. Antidepressants must be taken for several weeks before they prove effective. Anti-anxiety medications called benzodiazepines can be taken during a panic attack. Since they are fast-acting, symptoms can be relieved quickly. Unfortunately, sometimes taking anti-anxiety medicine can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms.

The most effective method of treating panic attacks is through the use of cognitive behavior therapy. This particular type of therapy teaches patients how to change their thinking patterns or behaviors that cause the panic attacks. Another useful method to treat panic attacks is to use exposure therapy.

This kind of treatment involves placing the patient in a safe environment where he or she is encouraged to replicate the physical sensations of a panic attack. For example, the patient may be asked to hold his or her breath, hyperventilate, or shake the head from side to side. The controlled setting allows the patient to find healthier ways to deal with the fear.


People suffer from panic attacks for a variety of reasons. They can be caused by medical conditions, a family history of panic attacks, or major changes in a person's life. Serious stress in the life, such as a death in the family, loss of a job, or divorce can also trigger the onset of panic attacks.

Panic attacks can cause a person to experience chest pain, nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness, hot or cold flashes, and physical detachment from one's surroundings. The person suffering from a panic attack may even feel as if he or she is about to die. A panic attack sufferer may feel as if he or she is experiencing a heart attack.

A panic attack can occur at any time. It can happen when a person is driving, shopping, working, sleeping, preparing for an important presentation, or even sitting on the living room sofa. The majority of panic attacks last between 20 and 30 minutes. In rare cases, they may last for about one hour.

While undergoing treatment from a doctor, many patients can treat panic attacks through more natural methods. For example, they can conduct research on panic attacks, read about the disorder in order to learn how to deal with the problem. Patients can also learn a variety of relaxation techniques to help them deal with stress and anxiety.

Avoiding caffeine and smoking are two other ways patients can prevent panic attacks. Finally, learning how to control their breathing helps patients avoid hyperventilating when symptoms of a panic attack arise. If they learn deep-breathing techniques, panic attack sufferers can help themselves remain calm instead of succumbing to the symptoms of chronic anxiety.



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