Panic attacks are a highly unpleasant and frightening phenomenon, characterized by a rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, dizziness, confusion, chest pain and extreme stress among other things. In the worst cases, a panic attack can cause fainting leaving you vulnerable and potentially causing injury.
For all these reasons, those suffering from panic attacks will often understandably do anything to try and lessen their frequency and intensity. Thus they may turn to medication, therapy, breathing techniques and other methods. Likewise, they might be willing to try a number of natural remedies – especially as an alternative to using antidepressants or anxiolytics.
So are there any natural remedies you can use to effectively combat panic attacks? Read on and let’s find out…
Do Alternative Treatments for Panic Attacks Work?
If by ‘natural remedies for panic attacks’ you mean alternate medicines, then the short answer is ‘probably not’.
The problem with alternate medicines is that they aren’t supported by studies or science. This is the definition of an ‘alternative’ treatment; it simply means that in a controlled setting, it doesn’t have any benefit beyond placebo.
Now, some people do find these alternative treatments helpful and effective. Some people swear by Reiki or by acupuncture and believe that it cured their panic attacks or other disorders.
What’s likely going on here is that the individual is experiencing the placebo effect; their positive belief that they are getting better is actually enough to help them get better. Acupuncture meanwhile also has the benefit of meaning that you’re getting direct attention from someone as well as experiencing physical interaction. Acupuncture actually causes the release of something called neuropeptide Y (NPY) which is a protein known to combat stress. At the same time though, it’s the physical touch that causes this release, not the acupuncture itself. Thus, you could get the same benefits from a massage or even from a hug most likely. Likewise, aromatherapy may have some benefit (certain smells can be relaxing) but not beyond just using the same scents around the house.
The point is then, that while some people find alternative treatments helpful for stress, they don’t work the way they are advertised in an objective sense. Use them as ‘complementary’ treatments if you want but think carefully before spending your money.
Vitamins and Herbs
Another option when looking at natural remedies for panic attacks, is to use herbal extracts or diet changes to try and improve your resilience against stress and panic. Can this help?
There are some ways in which certain compounds might have benefit for anxiety generally. One example might be to use valerian root, which is an ingredient that also works as a muscle relaxant. Some people use valerian root to help them get to sleep and it follows that it should also be calming against stress and anxiety.
Likewise, it’s important to remember that our neurotransmitters are made from the compounds in our diet – and particularly from amino acids found in proteins. Tryptophan is a serotonin precursor for instance meaning that the body uses it to create more of the happiness hormone. You can get tryptophan in turkey among other sources.
Generally protecting your health and providing yourself with more energy will also help you to increase your mental discipline and to avoid stress. Simply eating more fruit and vegetables can have wonderful effects on your health and your psychology. Stimulants like caffeine meanwhile should be avoided at any cost as these actually increase stress and excitability.
What’s key to remember here though is that panic attacks are much more than just stress. These are generally the result of phobias like agoraphobia or of ongoing chronic stressors. So while your diet and even some herbs might have slight positive benefits on your health and mental state, they are very unlikely to have much of a notable impact on your experience of panic attacks.
And make sure that you research thoroughly before looking into natural treatments – homeopathic remedies for instance are actually completely ineffectual and nothing more than a waste of your hard earned cash.
Other Natural Remedies for Panic Attacks
If you’re looking for a herb or an unusual treatment to help you get over your panic attacks overnight then, you are unfortunately always going to be disappointed. This is a much more complex problem than can be addressed with a few herbs, while other treatments are empty promises.
That’s not to say that your only option is medication though. The best option is by far to get therapy in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy mixed with exposure therapy. Likewise, learning breathing techniques and even trying meditation can also help.
This isn’t necessarily an immediate solution and nor is it always going to be an easy one. Cognitive behavioral therapy involves exposing yourself to situations you find stressful while controlling your breathing and reminding yourself that you’re safe for instance. But as with most things, you will get out of this what you put in.