Six million people in the U.S. have panic disorder or experience panic attacks, and women are two times more likely to suffer from it than men are. This difference is due to hormonal fluctuations during menopause, a common time for panic disorder to develop in women. Because a decrease in estrogen can affect the regulation of the nervous system and mood neurotransmitters, emotional shifts can emerge during the menopause transition.
Even one panic attack is enough to disrupt a woman's daily routine and spark the fear and anticipation of subsequent attacks. Fortunately, both the psychological and physical causes of panic disorder can be treated. In general, it is recommended that any treatment method be accompanied by counseling or "talk therapy." Continue reading to learn more about the approaches to treating panic disorder.
Three Approaches to Treating Panic Disorder
When seeking treatment for panic attacks, there are three approaches to take into consideration. These are defined as: (1) Lifestyle Changes, (2) Alternative Medicine, and (3) Medications and Therapy.
Women are encouraged to begin with lifestyle changes - the least risky form of treatment - while considering counseling as a complement. Because of the risk of potential side effects, medications should only be used as a last resort.
1. Lifestyle Changes
The first approach entails the lowest risk, but it also takes the most determination. All in all, small lifestyle adjustments can make a big different when managing panic disorder, and they can also benefit overall health.
When managing feelings of panic, reduction of triggers and stress is crucial. Lowering stress levels also lowers anxiety, a major contributing factor to panic attacks. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, and guided imagery can all help dissipate stress and take the mind off of panic triggers. In addition, learning new ways to manage and cope with personal stressors can also reduce the incidence of panic attacks. Likewise, getting sufficient quality sleep every night goes a long way to decrease stress, anxiety, and panic.
Eating a balanced diet can also benefit the nervous system, raise hormone levels, and benefit overall health. Leafy greens, whole grains, and dark chocolate are foods that can boost the production of serotonin, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter. In addition, foods containing plant-based estrogens - such as peas, tofu, apples, and cherries - can raise estrogen levels, in turn reducing emotional symptoms.
In addition, some practices address both the psychological and the physical causes of panic attacks. For instance, regular aerobic exercise triggers the release of endorphins, "feel-good" neurotransmitters. In particular, yoga and Pilates promote are exercises that promote stress relief and proper breathing patterns.
Foods to Ease Panic and Anxiety
- Dark chocolate
It is also essential to eliminate bad habits that negatively impact the nervous and endocrine systems. Smoking tobacco and consuming too much caffeine often put increased stress on the nervous system. As a depressant, alcohol can increase anxiety and act as a potential trigger for a panic attack.
Lifestyle changes may be a healthy way to manage panic disorder, but they can be hard to implement and keep up with. Furthermore, not all changes address the primary physiological cause of panic attacks during menopause: hormonal imbalance. Fortunately, while panic attacks are still looming and lifestyle adjustments are difficult to put into practice, alternative medicines can provide relief by balancing hormone levels. Keep reading to learn more about natural treatments for panic disorder.
2. Alternative Medicine
This approach encompasses several ways to lessen stress and balance hormone levels. Treatments may address one of the two causes of panic:
Several methods are particularly helpful in reducing stress and calming the mind. For example, massage can decrease stress and anxiety. They usually have to be carried out with a specialist. In addition, herbal tea preparations of valerian, passionflower, or chamomile are known to calm nerves and promote a relaxed state of mind.
However, to establish emotional stability even in the face of triggers, herbal supplements are the preferred method. Not only can some supplements even out hormone levels, but they are also easier to follow and require less time and monetary commitment than other methods in this approach.
In terms of herbal supplements, two types are used to treat hormonal imbalance: (1) phytoestrogenic and (2) hormone-regulating supplements.
Phytoestrogenic supplements - e.g., dong quai
These supplements are rich in estrogen that originates from plants, or phytoestrogens. When introduced into the body, these compounds function like natural estrogen, alleviating hormonal imbalance. However, because they can eventually lower the body's ability to produce hormones itself, their long-term use is not recommended.
Hormone-regulating supplements - e.g., Macafem
These supplements, rather than using external hormones, support the endocrine glands with their rich nutritive content. This promotes the production of natural hormones, leading to a balance of not only estrogen, but also progesterone and testosterone. This makes these supplements safe and effective, even over an extended period of time if necessary.
From "Nature and Health Magazine," Dr. Gloria Chacon says:
"Macafem nutrients help restore natural hormones in women. Unlike hormone drugs, which are basically resumed in taking synthetic hormone, Macafem acts totally different in your body. It nourishes and stimulates your own natural hormone production, by inducing the optimal functioning of the endocrine glands." Click on the following link to learn more about Macafem and how it works.
The most effective form of treatment is usually not one approach or the other, but rather a combination of approaches - especially lifestyle changes and counseling plus herbal supplements. However, for intense, recurring panic attacks, medical treatment may be called for. However, it is important to know the risks and benefits when opting for this approach.
3. Medications and Therapy
While medical intervention is sometimes necessary, it entails the most risk and is often the most expensive as well. Some forms of treatment address the psychological causes of panic, while others address the physiological.
In general, counseling is recommended for women who suffer from repeated panic attacks and constant fear of the next. Talking with a therapist can help women cope with fears, identify triggers, and conquer anxiety. They also give advice about getting through an attack until the patient is emotionally stable enough that attacks stop altogether.
In addition, some mood-regulating medications may be prescribed, such as anti-anxiety medications or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (antidepressants). These may be a short-term solution to provide some stability while a woman is doing counseling and making lifestyle changes, but care must be taken, since they include the risk of adverse side effects.
Especially during menopause, panic disorder can be brought on or exacerbated by unbalanced estrogen levels. In the Western world, the most common medication to treat menopausal hormonal imbalance is hormone replacement therapy or HRT. This can be a quick and strong way to combat panic and anxiety, but it can increase the risks of some cancers, as detailed in the following study.
In 1991, the National Institutes of Health commenced a new study called the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), the largest clinical trial ever performed in the U.S. It was designed to pinpoint the advantages and risks of HRT, but it was stopped 11 years later, when it was found that the use of synthetic hormones includes the risk of side effects like blood clots and stroke and raises the risk of ovarian and breast cancers.
It is best to first speak with a primary care provider for advice regarding medications and a referral to a psychiatrist or specialized therapist.
Treating panic disorder doesn't have to be stressful. More and more menopausal women are finding that a mix of lifestyle changes, counseling, and alternative medicine is the most effective way of decreasing the occurrence of panic attacks.
A Safe Way of Treating Panic Disorder
Implementing lifestyle changes:
- Joining a support group
- Lowering anxiety and stress
- Getting enough sleep every night
- Eating estrogen- and serotonin-boosting foods
- Alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco
- High stress levels and triggers
- Fried or processed foods
- Negative thoughts
And taking herbal supplements to balance hormones:
- Nourishes the hormonal glands to promote production
- A natural supplement that is safe and rich in nutrients
Click on the following link for more details about Macafem.
- Amin, Z. , Canli, T. & Epperson, C.N. (2005). Effects of Estrogen-Serotonin Interactions on Mood and Cognition. Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 4(1), 43-58. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15886402
- National Institutes of Health. (2014). Learn to manage stress. Retrieved April 21, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001942.htm
- Office on Women's Health. (2010). Menopause and mental health. Retrieved April 21, 2016, from http://womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-mental-health/
- Smoller, J.W. et al. (2003). Prevalence and correlates of panic attacks in postmenopausal women: results from an ancillary study to the Women's Health Initiative. Archives of Internal Medicine, 163(17), 2041-2050. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14504117
- Young, S.N. (2007). How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 32(6), 394-399. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351