Patient Comments: Panic Attacks - Effective Treatments

What kinds of treatments have been effective for your panic attacks?

Comment from: Dave, 65-74 Male Published: October 09

I am a 68-year-old man. I began having panic attacks about 15 years ago. At first, they occurred only one night every couple of months. At that time, I had problems getting a diagnosis. The attacks have become more common but usually not as strong. They now vary from about twice a month to several times a week. Intensity varies from just icy-cold hands to pounding and rapid pulse, chest pains, and finally violent tremors of my arms and chest muscles. I have taken several medications with little improvement until I tried Xanax or the generic equivalent. I can take half a 25 mg tablet and get relief in 15 to 30 minutes. The attacks can come with no apparent cause or be triggered by even mildly stressful situations.

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Comment from: Sherri, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: September 11

I had my first panic attack when I was pregnant with my second child. I was 29 years old. I did not have them for several years after that. They occur frequently now and I am 44. Mine are only at night and wake me up from my sleep. I have noticed they occur a week to two weeks before my menstrual cycle and occur several nights a week. I dread them! I have tried medications, but they don't seem to help. The best thing I do is get up and go to the bathroom. My OBGYN told me to bear down as if I am pooping. When you do this, it relaxes the muscles in your body. It sounds weird but it does help. I also try self-talk and try to breathe deeply. I read that it is rare to have them at night, and I am not sure why it happens only at night. However, I am grateful it doesn't happen in public. I really have not found a doctor who can help me or who even understands the symptoms. I get chills and shake as if I am going through hypothermia. I panic and think I am going to die, and then start thinking it would be easier to die.

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Comment from: Mariellyn25, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: August 13

I've had panic disorder for eight months now. Panic attacks are the scariest thing I've ever been through. Every day is a struggle, but I've been dealing with it so far pretty much on my own. My treatment so far is Xanax, only when I need it, such as when the attack is very bad. I do not always want to depend on pills to get me by, so I only take one when I cannot stand it, or when it's at its worst. I find also that the more I know and learn, the more I'm starting to except that I'm not dying, my heart is fine, etc. So find out as much as you can about panic disorder. The more you deal with your disorder, the less likely you are to call 911 over and over. I also find lying down and breathing deeply and slowly helps a great deal. Buy or get some books on hypnosis, they helped me. It calms you and that always helps. As silly as this sounds, if you are lying down and feel one coming on say, "Come and get me," or "I'm fine," and get up and do something, the dishes, or call a friend. This can sometimes help. Lying around all the time is not a good idea. I have a hard time driving and going somewhere public, such as stores and restaurants. But I make myself (when I'm feeling decent) drive a short distance every day or go to the store. The more you stay in and lie around feeling sorry for yourself, the more you'll have attacks and feel sorry for yourself. Fight them, and make due. So, relaxation, meditation, hypnosis, Xanax, shoulders to lean on and friends to talk to, physical activities, and acceptance are my treatments, for now at least. Give them a try.

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Published: June 24

I have tried quite a few meds that didn't work, SSRIs, tricyclics, etc., I also tried cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and hypnosis—those didn't work either. The only thing that works about 60% of the time is Xanax. I've had paradoxical reactions to all other meds. For me, it's a cyclical condition that comes and goes with no correlation to what is going on in my life. I have a family history on both sides of my parents with this.

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Published: June 18

My first panic attack came when I was 20 years old and in college. I went to the infirmary in the middle of the night, convinced that I was having a heart attack. I am now 54 years old and have been taking Lexapro for three years. I also keep Ativan with me at all times, although I haven't taken it in two years. Just knowing that I have it helps me stay calm. Fortunately, I have a wonderful doctor who doesn't give me a hard time about prescribing medication. My worst times are when I am away from home, on vacation or traveling for professional reasons. The most effective I thing I do that is not medication-related is having something other than my panic to focus my mind on. I always take along a set of crossword puzzles when I travel, or I do some paperwork that requires organization and structure to complete. People will tell you that you shouldn't panic because you know that you won't die, that what is happening is familiar, that you can calm down with deep breathing or walking around. These are usually people who are well-meaning but who have never had a panic attack and don't know that rational thought is often impossible in the midst of one. So I have learned to keep something with me as a distraction. So far, this has worked, but I still wouldn't want to go off my meds.

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