Panic attacks.

Newsgroups: alt.folklore.herbs
Subject: Re: Panic Attacks-Need Help
From: (CathyDM)
Date: 30 Sep 1995 16:42:31 -0400

>My sister in law is almost incapacitated by panic attacks. She has to work, but can't drive because it always brings on attacks. Doctors have had her on every kind of anti-depressant, tranquilizers, etc. that you can imagine. She's on Xanax 3 times a day now, still can't drive, and wants to get off of them. Can anyone out there help her. It's going to take something better than Chamomile tea and warm baths. Need something stronger but, hopefully, not addictive or causing grogginess. Would appreciate an E-Mail as well as a posting for others to help.

I used to have a lot of trouble with panic attacks, and I was also on Xanax for awhile. I also looked for an herbal pill to "cure" me but found the best approach includes diet and everything else. I think in my case the panic disorder resulted from a combination of brain chemistry and my own unproductive thinking habits.

Everyone's different, but here's what worked for me:

I cut out the Xanax gradually because I felt too drugged on it. For awhile, I took ½ a prescribed dose at bedtime and none during the day. Now I take none at all.

I make sure I eat several small meals a day to keep my blood sugar steady and don't let myself get very hungry. This has had a major effect and is probably the most important change I made.

I also cut way back on sugar and chocolate. I avoid all sources of caffeine. I don't eat sugar right before a stressful event, such as driving on a highway.

I watched how I breathed and found that I hyperventilated too easily. I now concentrate on *exhaling* when under stress, and this helps a lot.

I increased the amount I exercised, but I avoided heavy exercise, especially before a stressful event. I found moderate aerobic exercise evened me out, while heavy work (weightlifting) could give me panic attacks later. I read that this can result from a buildup of lactic acid in overworked muscles.

If I feel panicky at night and can't sleep, I'll take two capsules of a valerian-skullcap mixture. This is equal parts of valerian and skullcap, ground up in my spice grinder, and put in veggie gel caps. I use this only occasionally and wouldn't recommend using it before driving.

I take magnesium and calcium during times when I'm most likely to get anxious (such as right before my period). This makes me less jumpy.

I looked at *why* I considered certain events stressful and worked on overcoming this. For example, driving was more stressful than necessary because I was incredibly self-conscious behind the wheel, for reasons that go back to some early experiences. Once I realized that, I found ways to lessen my self-consciousness and tension.

Finally, I took more control over my life in bigger ways. I slowly changed my lifestyle so it more closely expressed values important to me and freed myself as much as possible from demands I disagreed with. That way, when I did panic-producing things, it was because I wanted to, not because someone else required it of me. This helped a lot. I wonder if your sister-in-law finds no satisfaction in her job, which might contribute to her driving panic.

I don't think a single remedy or pill can treat most panic problems. Your sister-in-law may need to consider bigger changes in her lifestyle and diet.

From: (Callie)

>My sister in law is almost incapacitated by panic attacks. She has to

I would suggest some training in breathing - Vipassana meditation, Zen breathing ... whatever is locally available. Cathy's suggestions are all excellent ... there's a chain of events behind an unstable blood sugar and eating concentrated sweets:

  1. Eat concentrated sweet (and don't let anyone tell you that honey doesn't count)
  2. Blood sugar rises sharply
  3. Pancreas overreacts and overproduces insulin
  4. Blood sugar nosedives
  5. This triggers adrenaline production (jitters and fast heart) made worse by caffeine
  6. This triggers fear of having another attack .... and there it is.

And tell your sister that the attacks are real, and they may be very distressing, but they won't kill her.

Research suggests they are located in a specific structure in there and triggered by its activity levels! An article in Science (Oct 92) presented what appears to be the biological source of phobias, "triggers", and panic attacks. One of the local hospitals is researching this in detail, using some very high-tech methods.

A tiny part of the brain, the amygdala, located near the base of the skull, is apparently responsible for associating situations with fear in animals. It starts firing impulses to the rest of the brain when a normal person (they used college students for volunteers) is placed in a situation they are told (or know) is dangerous. The activity level increases smoothly with the probability of the danger (a nasty shock). By comparison, persons with PTSD and panic disorders had amygdala activity above the normal levels NO MATTER WHAT the probability of danger. In plain english, their brain was in full panic at the first hint of danger.

A second part of the brain apparently is capable of re-training the amygdala about what is dangerous. This part of the brain was LESS active than normal in PTSD and panic disorders. It was LESS capable of retraining the amygdala not to send panic signals. In normal subjects, being exposed to the dangerous situation repeatedly, but without the danger actually happening to them, "taught" the amygdala the situation no longer required a reaction. PTSD and panic disorder patients took significantly longer to retrain. The article suggested that selective drugs be developed to either calm the amygdala or stimulate the re-training portion to effectively treat PTSD and panic attacks.

(here is where desensitization training comes into effect, but for the brain to learn, the brain can't be drugged into oblivion ... so her wanting to get off the Xantac sounds like a good idea. Then visualizing driving, sitting in the car pretending to drive, sittin in an idling car, very slowly getting used to the idea that it isn't dangerous.) Still a question - what causes the abnormal activity levels? I'll guess that excessive stimulation (being trapped in a fearful situation with no way out) could do it in suceptible people. A period of unpredictable terror could keep the amygdala at such a high level of activity that it becomes an on-off switch, instead of the normal variable control.

From: Diane Marie Chan <>

>My sister in law is almost incapacitated by panic attacks. She has to

Try Bach's Flower Remedies. My favourite: Bach's Rescue Remedy, which relaxes and restores balance when there is a system overload or shutdown due to shock or congestion (emotional as well as physical). It's the first thing I reach for in an emergency (to prevent or relieve symptoms of shock). Once when my sinuses were totally congested from a bad cold and I had tried "everything else," I decided why not try Rescue Remedy--what the hell?--and within one minute, I was breathing comfortably through my nose again. My sister-in-law has reported its efficacy in calming and reviving victims of stroke. Don't be put off by the small bottle and recommended low dosage (4 drops to be taken with a sip of warm water). It is decidedly potent, yet non-addictive, as far as I know. There are a number of different preparations, which target different problems or weaknesses. Check with your healthfood shop whether they carry the full range. If you cannot find it, e-mail me, and I will recommend the name of an herbalist (in USA) who does sell the full range of Bach's Flower Remedies. Not expensive and worth a try.

From: Deb Skinner <>

Once I had panic attacks while driving...seems I had an inner ear infection at the time. Too much head turning in a car. This seemed so obvious when discovered, I guess that is why it was so easy to miss.

Instead of all the pharmaceuticals she might try Hypericum as an anti-depressant. As with most herbs, the healing is towards the source, not the symptom so it will usually take longer to notice the results. I've had good results.