A PANIC ATTACK is a sudden surge of mounting physiological
arousal that can occur "out of the blue" or in response
to encountering a phobic situation. Bodily symptoms
that occur with the onset of panic can include heart
palpitations, tightening in the chest or shortness of
breath, choking sensations, dizziness, faintness,
sweating, trembling, shaking, and/or tingling in the
hands and feet. Psychological reactions that often
accompany these bodily changes include feelings of
unreality, an intense desire to run away, and fears of
going crazy, dying, or doing something uncontrollable.

Anyone who has had a full-fledged panic attack knows
that it is one of the most intensely uncomfortable
states human beings are capable of experiencing.
Your very first panic attack can have a traumatic
impact, leaving you feeling terrified and helpless,
with strong anticipatory anxiety about the possible
recurrence of your panic symptoms. Unfortunately,
in some cases, panic does come back and occurs
repeatedly. Why some people have a panic attack
only once--or perhaps once every few years--while
others develop a chronic condition with several attacks
a week, is still not understood by researches in the field.

The good news is that you can learn to cope with panic
attacks so well that they will no longer have the power
to frighten you. Over time you can actually diminish
the intensity and frequency of panic attacks if you
are willing to make some changes in your lifestyle.
Lifestyle changes which are most conducive to reducing
the severity of panic reactions are listed below.

Regular practice of deep relaxation

A regular program of exercise

Elimination of stimulants (especially caffeine, sugar,
and nicotine) from your diet

Learning to acknowledge and express your feelings,
especially anger and sadness

Adopting self-talk and "core beliefs" which promote a
calmer and more accepting attitude toward life.

These five lifestyle changes vary in importance for
different people. To the extent that you can cultivate
all five of them, you will find that, over time, your
problem with panic reactions will diminish.

The approach taken here is not oriented toward
medication. Yet there are some people who suffer
from panic attacks for whom it's appropriate to take
medication. If you're having panic attacks with
sufficient intensity and frequency that they interfere
with your ability to work, your close personal
relationships, or you sleep, or if such attacks
persistently give you the feeling that you are "losing
your grip" on yourself, then medication may be an
appropriate intervention and you should discuss this
avenue with your physician.

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