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Prevention of Panic Attacks

Abstract: Good and bad methods of preventing panic/anxiety attacks.

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Prevention of Panic Attacks

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Question(s): 
Written by: Martin Winkler
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 08 Oct 2012.

Is there a way to prevent new panic attacks or anxiety symptoms?

Answer:

Many persons who have had panic attacks try to avoid situations or places where they experienced a prior panic attack. They think that this is a good way to prevent another attack.

This is not, however, an appropriate way to avoid further anxiety symptoms. Actually this avoidance behaviour will cause additional problems in the very near future. The sufferer will be frightened by the thought of getting another attack (anticipatory anxiety). So if you are in this situation, you will monitor your surroundings, in a very selective and inappropriate way, to exclude all possible dangers of triggers of anxiety. This causes a lot of new fear and stress, so the overall level of stress will increase and the risk of getting another panic attack will actually be much higher!

The best way to prevent new panic attacks is to seek professional psychotherapeutic help. For short term relief it might be good to consult a doctor and discuss pharmacotherapy options (e.g. SSRI or sometimes for a limited time anxiolytic drugs).

You can also try to lower your personal level of stress. There are different ways to achieve this goal. If you are familiar with relaxation techniques (including yoga, muscle relaxation or any other kind of relaxation), try to include this relaxation in your daily schedule. Excercise (swimming, cycling, walking) can be very useful! Try to avoid alcohol, illegal drugs, too much nicotine and caffeine. It is also important to learn to breathe in a good way. A panic attack can be triggered by an imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, which can be caused by e.g. hyper ventilating. A good way to stabilize the oxygen balance in the blood is a breathing technique where you calmly count to four while you breath in, hold your breath while you count to four again and then exhale while again counting to four. This technique can be used when you feel the onset of an attack, to lessen its strength.

Always remember that a panic attack is not dangerous; you will not die, go crazy or lose control. The best way to handle panic attacks is to let them come, let them create a storm, and then ebb out! More about the treatment of anxiety attacks.

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