Few conditions can cause more disruption to life than panic anxiety disorder. Whether it's an inability to drive over a high bridge, or a fear of meeting new people, or even a fear of asking for a raise, panic at the wrong time can cause tremendous inconvenience and loss for people of high intelligence, good character, and creativity-whose autonomic nervous systems just go into high gear at the wrong time. Fortunately, there are three ways to manage panic anxiety disorder that will work and let you enjoy your life.
Medication does help anxiety disorder. Sometimes the effects of medication are dramatic. Take a pill, and suddenly you can ask for that date, explore that new shopping mall, or, in some cases, leave your house for the first time in years.
The problem with medication is that it typically causes side effects. Cymbalta (duloxetine), for example, can't be taken by people who have glaucoma. Desyrel (trazodone) can cause dizziness and high blood pressure. Lexapro can cause fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue in both sexes, and men who get past all those symptoms may find that it makes it impossible to achieve climax in sexual intercourse. Taking Effexor (venlafaxine) can result in a fatal interaction when it is taken with certain medications for depression. And it can cause tremendous production of gas-an especially awkward side effect for people who suffer social phobias.
Some people find that they just can't continue their medications. Fortunately, there are still things they can do. There is an anti-anxiety diet, and rescue remedies panic attacks.
1. The Anti-Anxiety Diet
Two substances aggravate panic anxiety disorder, sugar and caffeine. Both of these common ingredients in food fuel the "startle reflex," which keeps you jumpy when you hear a knock at the door or you hear a crash of thunder. Even people who do not otherwise suffer panic anxiety attacks will tend to panic when they drink more than about 800 mg of caffeine (the equivalent of four to six cups) of coffee a day. It's also helpful to drink decaffeinated tea and soda.
If you are in the middle of a panic attack, there is no time to take medication. Any one or all of these three first aid measures, however, will help.
• Splash your face with cold water. This will activate a "dive reflex" that slows a racing heart and gives your brain less input, helping you take control over your situation.
• Sit up or stand up straight. Simply "standing up to the situation" allows more air to flow into your lungs so there is greater oxygenation to your brain.
• Take deep breaths in and long breaths out. Filling your lungs with air and then blowing out all the "old air" helps keep your lungs full of fresh, oxygen-rich air. Long exhalations also slow your pulse and help you concentrate.