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Deep Breathing Techniques to Reduce Stress for Individuals with Panic Attacks

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Deep Breathing Techniques to Reduce Stress for Individuals with Panic Attacks

Stratford University


        Over six million Americans are affected by panic attacks, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, woman are twice as likely to have a panic attacks as men (Health, 2009). Many people who experience a panic attack are those in late adolescence or early adulthood. Panic attack is also known as anxiety attacks, but not everyone who experiences a panic attack will develops a panic disorder (Health, 2009). With proper technique and managing episodes of anxiety an individual suffering from panic attacks can reduce or eliminate some stressor associated with anxiety to help feel in control on their life (Star, 2013).


        Panic attacks are the overwhelming fear or anxiety of a stressor, but in some cases it can just happen out of the blue with no foreseeable warning. Panic or anxiety attacks can be influenced by a situation or event,  stressors that triggers an attack many people try to avoid the same stressor in the future for fear of another attack. Panic disorder is defined as two or more attacks that occur from repeated stress induced event such as speaking in public, or riding an elevator (Smith & Segal, 2013). Panic disorder is a treatable illness and that can be maintained with different medications and different relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing.  

        Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that can be used to reduce anxiety in situations that may cause panic attacks. The point of diaphragmatic breathing is to have one concentrate on their breathing to distract them from the stressor that is causing the anxiety. When a panic attack occurs, the individual breathing is shallow and fast (hyperventilation) commonly known as chest breathing (Star, 2013). Hyperventilation causes the body to breath faster to try to get the air it needs, this in return exacerbate the anxiety leading to heighten severity of the panic attack. Taking slower, fuller breaths can calm and make the individual feel in control which in a panic attack most individuals feel lost and scared of losing control. Diaphragmatic breathing is a great exercise to learn during or before an attack. The method to diaphragmatic breathing is as follows: the individual would want to be in a comfortable position either sitting upright or lying down on one’s back, next they should close their eyes and start simply concentrating on inhaling and exhaling and breathe sounds (Star, 2013). During this exercise it is important to keep your shoulders relaxed, breathing in through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. Imagine during ventilation your body is releasing the stress and tension causing you to feel calm and relaxed. The final step would include after maintaining a calm relaxing breathing cycle would notice how you feel mentally, emotionally and physically and if needed continue the diaphragmatic breathing (Star, 2013).  

There are different signs and symptoms for a panic attack, some of them may include:  shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, sweating, feeling dizzy or light-headed, and even the feeling of choking , the most frightening symptom people described with a panic disorder experience the feeling of dying or losing control of one’s self (Smith & Segal, 2013). The signs and symptoms of a panic attack usually peak around 10 minutes after the first initial symptom, most panic attacks only last on average around 20 to 30 minutes (Smith & Segal, 2013). Many individuals express the feeling of having a heart attack during an episode. Many people suffering from panic attacks regularly seek medical assistance because they believe it is a life-threatening medical problem (Smith & Segal, 2013). Many signs and symptoms of anxiety can mimic the feeling of “certain doom.” Maintain a calm technique such as diaphragmatic breathing can help build self-confidences with dealing with panic attacks and managing one’s life.


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