Panic Disorder 411
People with alcohol use disorders often have co–occurring psychiatric disorders, but they frequently do not receive specialized substance abuse treatment that addresses both conditions. Treatment for coexisting disorders may have to be addressed in separate programs at the same time. For example, one could be treated for panic disorder by a Cognitive Behavioral therapist, treated for substance abuse in a 12-Step Program, and learn helpful techniques for calming anxiety by practicing diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization. Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book
1. Rule Out Medical Issues - Because panic attacks can be the
result of a medical condition, it is essential that you get an
evaluation by a medical professional.
2. Take a Holistic approach to treatment that includes:
— Healthy diet
— Regulated sleep schedule
— Low stimulant usage
— Low alcohol usage or cessation
— Smoking cessation
3. Learn Relaxation Techniques:
— Diaphragmatic breathing
— Progressive muscle relaxation
4. Education - Learn the physiology of anxiety. Learn how the autonomic nervous system works including the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions. Learn how to stimulate the Vagus nerve that promotes relaxation. The sympathetic nervous system promotes the fight-or-flight response, and the parasympathetic nervous system promotes a relaxation response. - Autonomic Nervous System | Vagus Nerve
— Counseling - When panic attacks disrupt your daily life and impair your ability to function, counseling with a mental health professional can help you. Choose a therapist who has been trained to treat anxiety disorders, specifically a certified cognitive behavioral therapist (CBT). Clients are taught relaxation techniques and ways to recognize their thoughts, feelings, and physiological responses to anxiety with the goal of reducing and eventually eliminating anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks. These techniques are used during gradual exposure exercises to the feared object, place, or situation. The therapist may use pictures or videos to represent the patient's fear in preparation for face-to-face exposures.
— Medications - Benzodiazepines and SSRI antidepressant medications are often prescribed to reduce anxiety while people with anxiety disorders learn techniques to reduce their anxiety levels. You will never eliminate anxiety completely because it is the body's warning system to fight or flee in the face of danger. Medications can be useful early in therapy, but should be taken in low doses for a short period of time as high dosages will be antithetical to effective behavioral therapy..
— Self-help - If you can't afford a therapist or your local mental health clinic doesn't offer appropriate therapy for panic disorder, you do have options. Practice the relaxation techniques listed above, then gradually begin to face the feared place or situation. Adopt the mantra, I can do it scared. Read about exposure therapy, and the procedures to take to implement the techniques. Recovery is a step by step, day at a time process.
— Self-help Groups - Look for a self help group in your community or online. Talking with others who have attacks may help you to feel in control of your condition and lead to helpful panic attack management resources. Group members can share strategies for facing and managing fear and their successes. Professionals with expertise in panic attacks may also be available to speak with you at meetings.
— Anticipatory Anxiety - The disabling component of panic disorder is worry. When someone manages their life by avoiding places and situations that they think will cause a panic attack, the quality of their life will be diminished. Anticipatory Anxiety
— Notify family and friends that you are having panic attacks, so they will understand what is happening and can help you stay calm when you have an attack.
THE ROAD TO FORT WORTH by Michael Jackson Smith: Very little was known about panic disorder when I had my first panic attack. There was no help available to teach me how to assuage the attacks, but I discovered that alcohol would dissolve my fear instantly. My website contains the kind of information that would have been a tremendous help to me in the early days of my illness as I searched for solutions for the panic disorder, agoraphobia, and alcoholism that incapacitated me. My book is the story of my journey into recovery. Read Chapter 8 | Top of Page↑