Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Taking care of panic attacks at home is possible, but be careful not to mistake another serious illness (such as a heart attack) for a panic attack. In fact, this is the dilemma that doctors face when people experiencing panic are brought to a hospital's emergency department or the clinic.
There are things that people with panic disorder can do to assist with their own recovery. Since substances like caffeine, alcohol, and illicit drugs can worsen panic attacks, those things should be avoided. Other tips for managing panic attacks include engaging in aerobic exercise and stress-management techniques like deep breathing and yoga on a regular basis, since these activities have also been found to help decrease panic attacks.
Although many people breathe into a paper bag in an attempt to alleviate the
hyperventilation that can be associated with panic, the benefit received may be
the result of the individual thinking it will help (a placebo effect).
Unfortunately, breathing into a paper bag while having trouble breathing can
worsen symptoms when the hyperventilation is caused by a condition associated
with oxygen deprivation, like an asthma attack or a heart attack.
If a person has been diagnosed with panic attacks in the past and is familiar with the signs and symptoms, the following techniques may help the person stop the attack. You may also try these tips for overcoming the symptoms of a panic attack.
First, relax your shoulders and become conscious of
any tension that you may be feeling in your muscles.
Then, with gentle reassurance, progressively tense
and relax all the large muscle groups. Tighten your left leg while taking a deep breath in, for example, hold it, then release the leg muscles and the breath. Move on to the other leg. Move up the body, one muscle group at a time.
Slow down your breathing. This may best be done by
blowing out every breath through pursed lips as if blowing out a candle.
Also, place your hands on your stomach to feel the rapidity of your breathing. This may allow you to further control your symptoms.
Tell yourself (or someone else if you are trying this technique with someone) that you are not "going crazy." If you are concerned about not being able to breathe, remember that if you are able to talk, you are able to breathe.
If a person is diagnosed with any medical illness, especially heart disease, home
treatment is not appropriate. Even if the person has a history of panic
attacks, home care is not appropriate if there is any new or otherwise worrisome