Dealing with the crippling effects of a panic disorder can be enough to turn anyone’s life upside down. The sheer dread of having a panic attack while in public is enough to make many people want to avoid social situations whenever possible. When coupled with agoraphobia, though, a panic disorder can be enough to keep a sufferer a prisoner of his or her own home.
A panic disorder with agoraphobia is characterized by an intense fear of open spaces. When faced with the prospect of being outside, sufferers experience a wide range of uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating symptoms. Agoraphobia severely complicates a panic disorder, because a sufferer feels that if a panic attack occurs, there will be no opportunity to escape safely and without embarrassment. They also feel that being in an open space would place them in a position of being unable to get help.
Worse, people who suffer from a panic disorder with agoraphobia don’t just feel distressed when outdoors. Shopping malls, sports arenas, and other large, crowded places may also induce feelings of anxiety and dread. In severe cases, a sufferer might even feel panic while riding in a car or on an airplane. In the worst cases, he or she might not feel safe anywhere but in his or her own home.
If you suffer from a panic disorder with agoraphobia, though, you need not feel like your situation is hopeless. There are several things you can do to lessen the effects of this difficult disorder. Most importantly, you should implement self help techniques, so you can begin to get a handle on your disorder. It’s important to educate yourself about panic disorders, so you can understand what causes them, and how you can take control of your condition.
Also, if you smoke, drink, or use recreational drugs, you should take steps to eliminate these substances from your life. Although many people with panic disorders use these substances in an attempt to mask the effects of panic, they actually make the situation worse. Even caffeine can provoke panic attacks, so it is wise to limit your intake of coffee, soda, and other items containing this stimulant.
The effects of panic disorder with agoraphobia can also be decreased by learning how to control your breathing. When you begin to feel anxiety, hyperventilation can often occur – this causes many of the unpleasant sensations (such as lightheadness and tightness of the chest) that occur during panic attacks. Learn to practice deep breathing – this will help you reduce the effects of these symptoms. Because the symptoms actually produce more panic, deep breathing can actually make panic attacks less severe, and help you get past them more quickly.
You should also learn relaxation techniques such as meditation, Tai Chi, or yoga. These relaxation techniques serve several important purposes. First, they allow your mind to feel calmer, so you can have more control over the effects of panic disorder with agoraphobia. Second, they reduce muscle tension, increasing the body’s relaxation response. As your body becomes more relaxed, your mind will naturally follow. Finally, as you continue to practice these techniques, they provide a sort of ritual that you can return to when you begin to feel anxiety. Having this ritual available allows you to quickly and easily slip into a state of relaxation, avoiding all but the worst of your panic attacks.