By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated June 22, 2012)
People tend to fear the unknown, which is why learning everything you can about panic disorder can reduce or even eliminate your fear of attacks, as well as lowering your overall tendency toward anxiety states.
Many people find that their anxieties are significantly reduced by learning all about panic disorder, what causes it, how many people suffer from it, and how to treat it. In particular, learning that attacks are not physically harmful and will not cause a person to go crazy, die, faint, or lose control can be helpful in changing faulty beliefs. Knowledge is power, and developing knowledge about panic disorder will increase your power over it.
Identify Your Panic Attack Triggers
Learning about yourself – specifically, what tends to exacerbate your attacks – can also be beneficial. Keep a journal of your attacks and note things such as whether or not you were drinking coffee, thinking negatively, sleep-deprived, or responding to a stressful event. Did you drink alcohol the night before? Did you eat a sugary snack on an empty stomach? Were you visiting or contemplating visiting an unsupportive friend or family member? Were you confronting a situation that scares you? Did you become anxious in response to a bodily sensation such as an increase in heart rate, tightness in your chest, or dizziness? Learning about what causes your attacks can provide the insight you need to develop better health habits and coping strategies.
It’s also important to identify the early symptoms of panic in yourself. Panic tends to escalate, starting with anxiety and low-grade physical symptoms and growing increasingly urgent. If you can identify the precursors to panic, you can implement coping strategies as soon as you notice the relatively minor symptoms and avert a full-blown attack, or at least shorten the duration and reduce the symptoms. Common early symptoms of panic include sweating, dizziness, muscle tension, and increased heart rate.
Learn About Multiple Approaches to Treating Panic and Anxiety
Learning is an important prerequisite to setting achievable goals for dealing with anxiety. For example, once you’ve learned about the benefits of systematic desensitization, breathing techniques, and cardio exercise, you can start setting small goals for regular practice so that you’ll eventually master these approaches.
Panic disorder is complex, with many contributing factors. You can slowly chip away at those factors using multiple approaches and working slowly and steadily toward your goals. Try different things to learn what works best for you. The ultimate goal is not perfection – nobody is perfect – it is to reduce overall anxiety, manage anxiety effectively when it does occur, be able to do what you want to do without suffering irrational panic, build confidence over time, and enjoy your life overall.
Becoming completely free of anxiety is an unrealistic goal (only psychopaths are totally free of anxiety). Rational anxiety serves a purpose – it keeps us from taking stupid risks that could lead to jail time, disability, or death. However, too much anxiety becomes a disability. Therefore, the most desirable outcome is to experience a little anxiety when necessary (as motivation to meet a deadline or study for a test, or avoid taking impulsive, extreme physical risks), but not to be crippled by anxiety in harmless or low-risk situations.
Resources for Learning About Panic Disorder and Anxiety Remedies
For more information on anxiety including what causes it and natural ways of treating it, see the main Anxiety and Panic Disorder page.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical consultation. Those with health concerns should consult a qualified practitioner.
- American Psychological Association. (2012). “Answers to Your Questions About Panic Disorder.” APA.org.
- Ham, P., MD; Waters, D.B., PhD; & Oliver, M.N., MD. (2005). “Treatment of Panic Disorder.” American Family Physician, 71(4), 733-739.
- University of Alberta. (n.d.). “Panic/Anxiety Attacks.” UWell.UAlberta.ca.
- Smith, M., MA; Segal, R., MA; & Segal, J., PhD. (2012, January). “Therapy for Anxiety Disorders.” HelpGuide.org.