Curing panic attacks is the priority of anyone living with panic disorder. Each attack can leave you feeling depressed, on edge, and fatigued, causing a severe disruption in your life that makes it hard to enjoy each day.
Living with panic disorder can be incredibly difficult, and prescription medications are not a suitable cure. Luckily, there are ways to reduce the severity and frequency of your panic attacks until ultimately they are cured forever. One of the most effective ways is a therapeutic technique known as interoceptive therapy.
What is Interoceptive Therapy?
Interoceptive therapy is a type of exposure therapy used by cognitive behavioral therapists to expose their clients to the fears that trigger panic attacks. Normally exposure therapy involves facing a fear – for example, if you were afraid of dogs, you would be exposed to a photo of a dog, then a lifesize dog replica, then a small dog, and then finally a big dog, and you would need to face these fears until ultimately the fear goes away.
Interoceptive therapy is a little different. Panic attacks are often triggered by sensations, which in turn either trigger the beginning of the panic attack or increase the severity. For example, the client may feel light headed, and this lightheadedness triggers the anxiety that ultimately leads to a full blown attack.
Interoceptive therapy uses various methodologies to expose the client to these sensations, which include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
And more. The more symptoms you experience during a panic attack, and the more triggers you experience that cause panic attack, the more you’re exposed to in order to prevent this fear.
Now, in general, interoceptive therapy works best in the presence of a therapist. This ensures that you have someone safe to talk to so that the experience doesn’t trigger panic, and you can make sure that you’re getting the help you need. But for those that want to try to treat themselves without a therapist, there are some techniques you can try on your own, many of which are very similar to what you would do in a therapist’s office.
At Home Interoceptive Therapies
Before performing any of these techniques, make sure that you have ruled out any medical issues. It’s important to be certain that you do not have any underlying medical problems that can be exacerbated by these techniques.
- Straw Breathing – One popular technique is breathing through a very thin straw. This activity mimics the sensation of being short of breath, and being unable to breathe in fully.
- Hyperventilation – Panic disorder often causes hyperventilation, so exposure to self-induced hyperventilation can be a useful tool. This produces lightheadedness and other symptoms.
- Coffee – Rapid heartbeat is another trigger and symptom of panic attacks. Coffee has a tendency to increase heart rate, and while coffee can be a panic attack trigger, enough coffee in a controlled environment can also help you habituate to the rapid heartbeat experience.
- Spinning in a Circle – Dizziness isn’t often a trigger of panic attacks, but it can be a symptom. Spinning around in a circle can create dizziness to reduce exacerbating a panic attack.
Not only are these techniques useful to do at home, you can also do them in places that have triggered panic attacks in the past, so that you get used to how you feel in public.
The Long Road to Curing Panic
Panic attacks are not something that will immediately go away. Many people experience limited symptom panic attacks even after treatment. But if you can reduce the severity and frequency of your panic attacks, then you can also reduce the amount of fear that a panic attack creates. Over time, you’ll be able to control your panic attacks altogether, and enjoy your life once again.