Panic attacks are debilitating and unless treatment is sought, they usually become progressively worse. In fact, if those who suffer from this problem do not look into the best treatment options to help manage panic attacks, they may develop a full panic disorder. Once this happens, they become "afraid of being afraid", which means they stop themselves from being in situations that they think might trigger an attack, even though a panic attack can happen anywhere and at any time. As a result, they may develop obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in an effort to have control over their situation, even though this doesn't work. Others develop agoraphobia, which means they become phobic of being in public spaces. Clearly, treatment is necessary because a panic disorder is not something that simply goes away. But what are the best treatment options to help manage panic attacks?
The first is psychotherapy. During psychotherapy, the goal is to educate patients. Here, they will learn about the fight or flight response, so that they can better understand what they are experiencing. Secondly, they will learn about breathing and relaxation techniques, which may help reduce the frequency of attacks, and the length of the attack if they do occur.
2. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
CBT teaches people to recognize why they respond in an unhealthy manner to certain situations, which can be incredibly confrontational. Once they have gotten to that point, however, they will learn how to change their responses to those situations. If they do have triggers for their panic attacks, therefore, they can use the tools and techniques learned during CBT to prevent the attack from happening. Individual CBT is generally the most effective, while family CBT is the least effective.
When people suffer from a severe panic disorder, they may be prescribed a range of medication while they also go through psychotherapy and CBT. Medication should not be offered as a standalone treatment, however, as it will not resolve the panic disorder itself. Common medication includes anti-seizure, anti-depressant, and anti-anxiety drugs. It is important to understand that these drugs can be addictive, and that they come with significant side effects. In fact, anxiety is a common side effect of these drugs. Hence, they should be provided in minimal doses, under full consultation with a physician, and for as short a period as possible. Once the drugs are no longer needed, they should be weaned off slowly.
4. Medical Marijuana
Perhaps one of the most controversial, medical marijuana is seen by many as one of the best treatment options to help manage panic attacks. Indeed, scientific research has shown that the two main active ingredients in cannabis, THC and CBD, have positive effects on anxiety. That said, it seems body physiology also plays an important role, with people either feeling much better, or much worse. This is where the controversy lies, because it would mean that people simply have to try and see whether cannabis works for them or not, which could have quite significant consequences.