The cause of panic attacks is still not fully understood. What is known is that it can happen to anyone, without any reason, regardless of age. Meaning, a happy and healthy person has an equal chance of experiencing a panic attack with those who are depressed and unhealthy. An episode of panic attack chooses no time. It can happen while you are at home, sitting on your couch, watching television, while driving, shopping or walking, at the office, etc. It can even happen while you are asleep.
Given such circumstances, methods of treatment may vary from person to person, depending on his conditions, symptoms, lifestyle, and frequency of attacks. Typically however, treatment involves psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or medication. Other treatments that can be employed are meditation, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and herbal treatment.
Anti-anxiety medications such as Ativan, Xanax and Klonopin provide quick relief from the symptoms panic attack. Benzodiazepines have immediate effects, usually within 30 minutes to an hour. Benzodiazepines, however, are highly addictive and have some serious withdrawal symptoms. Anti-depressant drugs (Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, and Celexa) should be taken continuously before you can begin to notice the effects, usually up to 6 months to a year. You cannot take anti-depressant drugs just during an attack.
In addition, since you cannot anticipate when you will have such attack, only those who are diagnosed with panic disorder (or recurring panic attacks) can acquire these types of drug.
Panic attacks, as well as panic disorder, agoraphobia and other phobias and related conditions can be treated effectively by psychotherapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is proven as an effective way to reduce the symptoms of panic attacks or completely eliminate the condition. CBT focuses on changing the thinking pattern of the person from negative to positive thoughts as well as changing the way a person reacts or behaves when he encounters emergency or situations that can trigger an attack.
Another treatment similar to CTB that is worth mentioning is exposure therapy. This helps the person overcome his fear by letting him face those fearful situations in a controlled and safe manner. The result of this technique is that the person learns how to react positively on what he thinks are fearful situations. Moreover, through this experience, the patient learns that the situations he fears are not harmful and dangerous.
In many cases, medication alone or therapy alone is enough to completely treat the condition, but other cases require both treatment methods to effectively treat panic disorder.
Meditation, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques have been found effective in reducing the chances of experiencing another attack. They help calm the mind and relax the muscles. Regularly practicing these exercises and techniques strengthen the body’s relaxation response.
Natural herbs such as bacopin, ginkgo biloba, passion flower, St. John Wort, hyperforin, 5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), chamomile, rhodiola, are equally effective since they have natural anti-stress properties. In some cases, using these herbs is sufficient enough to combat panic attacks. Many people also react positively using this kind of treatment.
Fresh leaves can be made as tea. Some are also available over-the-counter in oil, tincture, capsule, powder and tea. The best thing about these natural herbs is that they do not carry any side effects as compared to mainstream anti-anxiety and anti depressant prescription medications.