Of all the symptoms that a panic attacks sufferer experiences during a panic attack difficulty in breathing would seem to be the one that causes the most distress. Breathing problems associated with anxiety and panic attacks can run the range from hyperventilation where the breathing becomes uncontrollably rapid and shallow, to an almost total constriction of breathing where breathing normally becomes impossible. Because these breathing difficulties are such a common part of panic attacks virtually all methods of dealing with panic attacks, or at least those that don’t resort to pharmaceutical drugs, have as part of their respective methods, controlled breathing techniques of one kind or another.
Deep abdominal breathing done in a controlled fashion is one of the most useful techniques in helping anyone cope with panic attack. A normal stress response during times of severe stress, like that experienced by someone suffering with a panic attack, is a dramatic change in the breathing rate. The breath becomes high in the chest and is very rapid, just like someone trying to catch their breath after strenuous exercise.
What further compounds this problem and what can ultimately lead to a full on panic attack response is that the person having the breathing difficulty begin to focus on their inability to take a deep breath.
Once our nervous system becomes aware of the breathing problem it gives us feedback that there is a problem and we need to do something about it. Unfortunately for the anxiety and panic attack sufferer they cannot do anything about it. In becoming aware of the problem and knowing they can’t correct it they simply create more anxiety and panic increasing the intensity of their panic attack.
This is the vicious cycle of a panic attack.
The practice of deep controlled abdominal breathing will provide options the panic attack sufferer can use at the time of their attack. But a regular training program of controlled abdominal breathing must be undertaken if the ability to apply it during the extreme nervous system responses of a panic attack is desired.
This is just like training regularly for some sporting competition. The more you practice before the actual event the more automatic the desired responses will be come game time.
Ideally if you suffer from panic attacks you will want to practise abdominal breathing during times when your stress levels and anxiety levels are almost non-existent. By practising in these less stressful times the body is given a chance to familiarise itself with this different breathing method. And once the body becomes familiar with this particular style of breathing it should then be practised during times of moderate anxiety and stress.
Over time our confidence and ability to apply the deep abdominal breathing technique in all kinds of situations of varying levels of stress and anxiety increases. So much so that in a very short time the method can be applied during a panic attack situation.
However the real benefit of regular deep abdominal breathing is how it changes your nervous system making it less prone to stress and anxiety and thus over time preventing panic attacks from occurring in the first place.
This way of breathing is very natural and easy. Like any form of exercise please make sure to start slowly and gradually allowing yourself enough time to get familiar with the technique before increasing the length of time of your abdominal breathing sessions.
Believe it or not abdominal deep breathing is the way we are supposed to breathe. It is out natural breathing style that we somehow forget to use. If you look at young kids they are all belly breathers, but as we age we tend to breath more in our chest.
So rather than think of this as learning something new we are simply re-familiarizing ourselves with something we already know how to do.