My Anxiety Plan for Panic Disorder
The following strategies are designed for you to use as you begin to tackle Panic Disorder with or without Agoraphobia. These strategies are best used for adults with mild-moderate signs of this type of anxiety. For individuals with more severe symptoms or who have been diagnosed with Panic Disorder with or without Agoraphobia, we recommend treatment with a mental health professional, although MAP strategies can be used at home to support your therapy work.
Step 1. Helping you become an expert on anxiety
This is an important first step, as the information outlined in this step can help you understand what is happening when you experience anxiety. Learning that the worries and physical feelings you are experiencing have a name -anxiety- and that millions of other people also have anxiety, can be a great relief. To become an expert on anxiety you will want to read about the facts and learn important information. The following links can provide you with this information: ABCs of Anxiety: Understanding how Anxiety Works & Anxiety 101: What You Need to Know About Anxiety & Anxiety 102: More Facts & Fight-Flight-Freeze & When Anxiety Becomes a Problem: What’s Normal and What's Not
Step 2: Learning the facts about Panic Disorder with or without Agoraphobia
Reading about the information outlined on the panic disorder with or without agoraphobia main page can help you feel less afraid of what is happening to you. After all, knowledge is power.
The following list includes some facts and highlights common to individuals with Panic Disorder:
- Panic attacks are simply the body’s “flight-freeze-fight” response kicking in. This F3 response prepares our body to defend itself, like when our heart beats faster to pump blood to our muscles, or when we hyperventilate to take in extra oxygen, both of which give us the energy to run away or fight off danger.
- The F3 response system is great when there is danger. But sometimes our body reacts when there is no real danger. This false alarm is what we call a panic attack.
- Having a panic attack does not mean you have panic disorder. For example, when some individuals are under a lot of stress from work or home, they may have an isolated panic attack. This is their body’s way of telling them the stress is becoming too much. In addition, sometimes people who experience specific fears may have a panic attack under those circumstances. Such as a man with a dog phobia having a panic attack when a dog runs towards him, or a woman who is afraid of speaking in public may have a panic attack when her boss asks her to present to her coworkers.
- Although panic attacks may feel uncomfortable or even scary, they’re harmless. There is no medical evidence that panic attacks cause harm to the body or brain. Fortunately, panic attacks are brief (typically lasting only 5 to 15 minutes), although they sometimes feel like they go on forever.
- Other people (except those very close to you), cannot tell that you are having a panic attack. While your symptoms may feel very intense, they are actually quite discrete, or unnoticeable. Its almost impossible to know if someone’s heart rate or breathing speed (aka respiratory rate) has increased, or that they are feeling dizzy, or thinking they are going crazy.
- For some adults, their panic attacks are so upsetting that they become worried about having more attacks in a variety of situations. As a result, they believe they will be unable to manage in these situations so that they stop going places or engaging in routine activities. This is when something called agoraphobia can start to take over.
Step 3: Creating your Panic Disorder MAP
The best way to help deal with panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, is to have access to tools that can evaluate and challenge your fear of panic attacks and related worries. These tools are intended to increase your ability to tolerate anxiety, rather than to eliminate anxiety. Anxiety exists everywhere, and therefore it is an illusion to believe we can eliminate the source and experience of anxiety. It is far more effective to have tools to tolerate and cope, rather than to control and escape. For Panic Disorder with or without Agoraphobia, you might want to use any or all of the following tools to create your My Anxiety Plan (MAP). These tools are listed in a recommended order, although proceeding in this order will depend on your needs and interests. Challenge Negative Thinking and Facing Your Fears will be two of the most important tools for you to use to gain relief from your symptoms.
- Calm Breathing
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Helpful Thinking for Panic Attacks
- Challenging Negative Thinking
- Cognitive Coping Cards
- Facing Your Fears: Exposure
- Exposure therapy for Panic Disorder
- Safety Behaviours
- Floating with Panic
- Reassurance Seeking
- Partner Assisted Rituals
- Rewarding Bravery
- Tolerating Uncertainty
- Relapse Prevention
- Returning to Routines and Pleasant Events
- Applied Tension Technique
Final point: Although increased knowledge and the many tools available on this website can be very effective in helping you to manage your panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, sometimes it is not enough. Some adults have very severe anxiety, and despite all their best efforts, they might still be struggling daily with anxiety symptoms. If this is the case for you, we recommend you seek professional help through a consultation session with your family doctor, psychiatrist, or a psychologist/mental health worker.