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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mental Illness | Dealing With Symptoms of Panic Attacks And Anxiety Disorder

Dealing with symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety disorder.
We've all had feeling of mild anxiety, butterflies, or nervousness during tense or uncomfortable situations. However, when these feelings of discomfort escalate, you could be suffering something much more severe. Dealing with symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety disorder can involve mind over matter techniques or may require medication. 

Panic attacks differ from anxiety disorder in that their onset is quite rapid. Panic attack symptoms will reach full scale within 10 to 20 minutes or less. Symptoms can take from an hour to several hours to subside and for the afflicted to recover. First time panic attacks may take days for the sufferer to recover completely.

Symptoms of panic attacks usually include feelings of dying, difficulty breathing, extreme fear, thoughts of going crazy and/or a feeling that you are having a heart attack.

Panic attacks are brought on for a variety of reasons. Diet can trigger a panic attack - too much caffeine or sugary foods. Most panic attacks, though, are brought on by anticipation of an undesirable external stimuli - such as giving a presentation, a meeting with your boss, having to drive a long distance, going to a crowded environment, leaving a comfort zone, going somewhere new, a medical visit, etc.

Besides the mental symptoms of panic attacks, the most common physical symptoms are shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, dizziness and tightness in the chest. Rarely do any of these symptoms have a physiological cause and none of them are dangerous or life-threatening. Symptoms are brought on by mental perceptions, which are usually unrealistic. Tasks that you would normally complete with ease can suddenly be cause for a panic attack.

Understanding that the root cause is in the mind, you have to "get a grip" on your mind to deal with the symptoms of panic attacks. First, you need to tell yourself that the feelings your have are not dangerous. You will be OK. Next, you have to work on your breathing. Shortness of breath contributes to an elevated heart rate, which exacerbates the symptoms. Try to sit down and take long deep breaths in through your nose and exhale long, slowly and completely through your mouth. Some people swear that breathing into a paper bag helps. This changes the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs and can help alleviate symptoms. The key focus during a panic attack is to get your breathing under control and calm down. Tell yourself that the situation you fear is not harmful or life-threatening and you should be able to curtail symptoms and avert an extended episode.

If panic attacks persist, medication can be prescribed. Talk therapy with a professional can also be helpful.

Anxiety disorder in most cases does not have as sudden an onset of symptoms as panic attacks. From the PubMedHealth website, Anxiety disorder symptoms are described as follows:

The main symptom is the almost constant presence of worry or tension, even when there is little or no cause. Worries seem to float from one problem to another, such as family or relationship problems, work issues, money, health, and other problems.
Even when aware that their worries or fears are stronger than needed, a person with GAD still has difficulty controlling them.
Other symptoms include:
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Problems falling or staying asleep, and sleep that is often restless and unsatisfying
  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or "on the edge," often becoming startled very easily
Along with the worries and anxieties, a number of physical symptoms may also be present, including muscle tension (shakiness, headaches).
Depression and substance abuse may occur with an anxiety disorder.

Again, symptoms of anxiety disorder often have no real justifiable root cause. Perceptions and false beliefs are what fuel the anxiety and cause the symptoms to persist.

Anxiety disorders are the basis for most phobias, too. Agoraphobics have an unrealistic fear of leaving their home or being in open spaces, their symptoms will become more intense at the thought of having to go to a store or their child's school play. The sufferer has given these unrealistic thoughts a place in their brain and they often become a prisoner of their beliefs.

Again, medication and talk therapy can be prescribed to help recover from the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Meditation has proven to be a good non-clinical alternative for some sufferers.

I suffer from panic attacks and anxiety disorder. I've also been diagnosed as being bipolar and have ADD or ADHD. I also have severe sleep disorders.

Currently, I take a cadre of medications that are supposed to be the right treatment plan for my diagnosis, but there are many days that I wonder what the medications actually do. I still have symptoms, though, less severe than in the past. But not always.

One of the non-clinical treatments I have used that has produced the best results was getting involved with Recovery International.

Recovery International or RI was originally named Recovery Incorporated and founded in 1937 by Dr. Abraham Low. Dr. Low's main focus was to give mental health consumers tools that they can employ on the spot to avert symptoms of their mental illness. His tools work best with anger management, fear and/or depression and anxiety/panic.

His seminal book is Mental Health Through Will-Training. It gives you hundreds of patient examples of how they perceived a problem and then realized that their fear or anger was unfounded. Low employs what are referred to as "spotting" techniques. These are simple phrases that you are taught to retain and then employ when symptoms arise.

If you are angry, a spot would be: Choose peace over power.

If you are having a bad day: Feelings rise and fall. This is normal and no need to panic.

If you are in a tense situation: It is hard to feel comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. This is normal.

I often get frozen, physically, due to anxiety attacks. I cannot complete the most common and simple tasks, like shaving and showering. A Low spot that I use regularly is: Move your muscles to retrain the mind.

By forcing myself through the task, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem at the beginning, I am retraining my mind that the perceived fear is unwarranted and that I can complete the task without harm or danger. No medication has been able to help me achieve positive results like the teachings of Dr. Low.

Recovery International groups are all over the country. Depending on the size of the city you live in, there may be multiple meetings on multiple nights, which will allow you to fit the sessions in to your routine.

Recovery International has only three basic rules: No discussion of religion, drugs or sex. Other than that, each meeting features a reading of a chapter from Mental Health Through Will-Training, a discussion of situations where a person found themselves in symptoms and the spots they used to get through the situation.

What I like about RI versus other group sessions I have attended is that everyone in the group offers various spots to help clarify your situation and make you better prepared for the next episode. Some "therapy" groups are merely bitch sessions about patient's symptoms or speaking without any feedback. RI is positive, proactive and productive.

While getting control of runaway thoughts, controlling your breathing or relying on medications for help during a panic attack or a series of anxiety attacks, help like Recovery International can take you one step closer to dealing with symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety disorders.

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Related articles on this site:
Five Steps To Recovery From Mental Illness
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Mental Illness | My Psychiatrist Says My Mental Health Is Improving
The Stigma Of Mental Illness
Mental Illness | Mentally Ill Live Lives Of Quiet Shame, Anger Or Pain
Mental Illness | Catherine Zeta-Jones Treated For Bipolar II Disorder
How To Sleep Better By Using A Relaxation Technique
Mental Illness | Dealing With Symptoms of Panic Attacks And Anxiety Disorder
Guide To Using Phenobarbital To Commit Suicide | Prevention

Related links:
Panic Attacks - Wikipedia
Panic Disorder - PubMed Health
Generalized Anxiety Disorder - PubMed Health
Recovery International

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