Coping With Panic Disorder

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Panic disorder is a condition that causes a person to experience repeated and disruptive panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden episode of extreme fear or anxiety.

A panic attack can last anywhere between a few minutes to 30 minutes. They often occur with no warning, and you have no control over them when they happen. You also can't predict the severity of an attack.

About 2% to 3% of Americans are diagnosed with panic disorder every year. It's also twice as likely to occur in women than in men.

If you or someone you love is living with panic disorder, you should know that you are not alone, and there's a ton of information and resources on the condition that can make living with it more manageable.

Emotional 

Having a panic attack can take quite an emotional toll on you. Taking care of your emotional well-being after being diagnosed with panic disorder is essential.

You might want to start by identifying your emotions about your diagnosis. You'll likely be feeling emotions of distress, anger, or confusion. This is all normal.

Here are some ways you can stay on top of your emotional well-being as you tackle your diagnosis.

  • Attend therapy: Psychotherapy is the first line of treatment for panic disorder. Specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proven to help reduce the physical and psychological distress caused by panic disorder. A therapist specializing in CBT will teach you healthy coping mechanisms that may relieve your symptoms.
  • Meditate: Meditation is a great tool used by millions of people to take care of their mental well-being. While meditating might not help treat panic disorder completely, it could help reduce the frequency or severity of your panic attacks. Research shows that mindfulness meditation effectively reduces symptoms of panic and anxiety.
  • Journal: Journaling gives you a lot of insight into the workings of your mind. A panic attack begins in your mind, and certain things might have occurred just before the attack that triggered it. Writing in a journal may help you understand and identify what triggers your attacks. 

Physical 

People with panic disorder might also experience physical symptoms when experiencing a panic attack.

Symptoms such as chest pain, numbness, racing heartbeat, and sweating are common. When having a panic attack, it's important to remember that these physical symptoms are only temporary and will pass once the attack does.

Panic disorder is a mental health condition, so it's easy to dismiss how much your physical health can be affected by it.

Taking care of your body is just as important as taking care of your mind when living with panic disorder.

Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Exercise regularly: One of the best ways to maintain your physical health is by exercising regularly. Panic attacks can often be triggered by tension and stress. Research shows that regular exercise can help to reduce stress levels and ease tension. 
  • Maintain a healthy diet: Eating regular healthy meals is essential when living with panic disorder. This helps to keep your body healthy and your mind sharp. 
  • Cut out the bad habits: Bad habits like smoking, consuming alcohol, or drinking a lot of coffee can exacerbate the symptoms of panic disorder. 
  • Get enough sleep: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that the average adult gets seven or more hours of sleep every night. Every hour of that time counts to keeping your mind alert during the day to help you ward off panic attacks. 

Social 

Having a support system is vital for everyone. It's even more crucial when you've just been diagnosed with a condition like panic disorder. Adjusting to life, living with the condition, and treating its symptoms is not a walk in the park.

Don't be afraid to lean on your support system and ask for help when you feel overwhelmed. They can help you gather the right resources, accompany you to support group meetings, or just be there when you are having a difficult day or have just had an attack. 

One of the symptoms of panic disorder is anxiety, which can feel worse when you isolate yourself. It's crucial to remember that panic disorder is a medical condition and there's nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed about. 

Joining a support group for people with your condition is highly recommended. It helps you recognize that you are not alone and that other people share similar experiences with you. Talking to them can also equip you with new resources you might not have considered.

Resources & Organizations

The most powerful tool you can arm yourself with when learning to live with panic disorder is information about your condition. Gaining a better insight into the disorder can help you cope better with its symptoms and live a more manageable life.

However, there's much misinformation about panic disorders, and it's essential that you are getting your information from valuable and reliable sources.

Here are some great resources you can get information about panic disorder: 


Coping With Panic Attacks 

Panic attacks can happen frequently or occasionally, depending on the severity of your condition. However, what's constant is that you often don't know when they will occur.

Identifying what triggers your panic attacks could help stave them off in some cases. Learning coping mechanisms to help you deal with the attack as it happens is also very important.

Some of the most common tips recommended for handling a panic attack include: 

  • Practice breathing exercises: In many cases, people find themselves taking quick short breaths when they have a panic attack, almost as if they are gasping for air. Remembering to take deep, long, and slow breaths can help calm you down and help you get past the attack faster. 
  • Staying grounded: Remind yourself that the attack will soon pass, and the feelings you are experiencing are not your fault.
  • Distract yourself: If possible, try to shift your thoughts away from those making you feel panicked. 
  • Don't stop taking your medication: Many people opt to stop taking their medication once they feel better, having experienced a panic attack. However, sticking to your treatment plan is the key to reducing the frequency and severity of any future panic attacks. 

Caregiving & Helping Others 

Taking care of a loved one with panic disorder can be challenging, especially when they are experiencing a panic attack. It's necessary to understand that what they are experiencing is out of their control, and they can't simply snap out of it.

You can take care of them by merely being present and reassuring them of what is reality and what isn't.

If you are the primary caregiver of a person with panic disorder, it's also vital to remember to take care of yourself. Caring for a person with the condition can sometimes feel overwhelming, and taking time for yourself can help you cope with that.

Only consume information from reliable sources, and don't hesitate to contact your healthcare provider in situations in which the person you are caring for's symptoms appear to be severe. 

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7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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