If you suffer from panic attacks, you are familiar with brief episodes of terror that can overtake your life for short periods of time. Panic attacks usually occur suddenly, unpredictably and without a logical cause, and can leave those who suffer from them shaken and upset. Panic Disorder, however, is a largely treatable condition, and there are a variety of highly effective psychological, behavioral and medical treatments you can explore with the help of a professional.
Panic attacks begin most often during young adulthood, are sometimes hereditary and occur more often in women, but they can affect people of any age, sex or background. Attacks can last for a few minutes or for an hour, but most peak after about 10 minutes. For many people, symptoms of an attack include sweating, nausea, trembling and rapid heart beat.
Many professionals agree that the most effective treatment for Panic Disorder and the best route to long-term anxiety relief is psychotherapy. Panic attacks are a symptom of the body's natural "fight-or-flight" response, which exists to protect a person who is in a dangerous situation. For those with Panic Disorder, however, the body reacts even when there is no threat present. Psychotherapy teaches the patient to recognize when he is experiencing the physical symptoms of "fight-or-flight", which is an important step in treatment. For some patients, behavioral therapy -- focusing on gradual exposure to situations that induce panic -- is also an appropriate form of treatment.
Although it sounds elementary, another of the recommended panic attack treatments is learning relaxation techniques. Patients can participate in private or group sessions that teach such techniques, and which may include discussion of fears and coping skills. In order for these sessions to be beneficial, experts say that patients must practice the techniques as often as possible -- at least daily -- in order to internalize them to such an extent that they become almost second nature and are easily called upon in the middle of a panic attack.
Although many people who suffer from Panic Disorder are treated effectively without ever taking prescription medication, it is recommended in some cases. The most common prescriptions for Panic Disorder are benzodiazepines, such as Xanax. Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed, but can produce even more severe side effects than benzodiazepines and so are often avoided. More and more people are also discovering the benefits of natural treatments for anxiety which contain herbs that can treat the symptoms of panic attacks as effectively as prescription panic attack medication and with less risk.
Although the majority of medical professionals are not familiar with them because they do not participate in them, many patients have found relief through in-person or online support groups. These groups can provide a forum for discussion of which techniques are working for people, and can also provide much-needed personal support. Do not be afraid to take control over your treatment and to explore all of the options available to you -- you will be one step closer to finding the right combination for you.