Acupuncture for panic attacks

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Panic attack is a sudden, overwhelming sense of fear that triggers a strong emotional and physical response, which often includes difficulty breathing, heart or chest pain, sweating and dizziness.

 One way to deal with panic attacks and alleviate the effects of long-term stress is through acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine.

But how does panic attack differ from anxiety?

Panic attack is considered a type of anxiety disorder, but it differs from generalized anxiety disorder. Panic attacks are similar to anxiety in that they can both cause feelings of dread and fear as well as serious bodily reactions. They are both health conditions that are associated with the long-term mental and physical effects of stress. Their difference is that the panic attack is more extreme in intensity, peaks within about 10 minutes and then begins to subside, while stress is a generalized uncomfortable feeling that persists for a long time.

A panic attack is medically defined as involving at least four of these symptoms :

  • Accelerated heart rate, palpitations, sensation of heart pounding or racing
  • Trembling, shaking
  • Sweating, hot flush, or chills
  • Feeling that you can’t watch your breath or are choking
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Nausea, upset stomach
  • Feeling faint, dizzy, light-headed
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Fear of losing control or dying

The symptoms associated with panic attacks are very frightening and similar to other potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart attack or asthma attack.

A person experiencing panic attacks is often in the process of organizing his life around the fear that another episode may occur at any time. Thus he gradually begins to limit his activities and the quality of life can be significantly reduced.

A typical treatment for panic attacks usually involves taking psychiatric medications such as antidepressants or sedatives. However, these types of medication can have serious side effects and can be highly addictive.

Traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture offer natural remedies for panic attacks that work immediately. Many patients begin to feel better after their first treatment.

The exact cause of panic attacks is not fully understood by medical science. In some cases, panic attacks are triggered by specific psychological factors, such as the stress of an upcoming test, an airplane flight, or being in a crowded or small space. But many have panic attacks for no apparent reason. Some may even wake up with a fast heartbeat due to a crisis during sleep.

The natural signs of stress and anxiety are how our body reacts to danger. The nervous system forces the body to produce hormones that put the body in a “fight or flight” state. When a person has experienced a prolonged period of stress or trauma, their system may be out of balance and it is such possible to trigger an extreme version of this chemical response that floods the body, although there is no immediate danger.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the physical, the emotional and the spiritual body are inextricably linked and therefore a large accumulation of emotional energy that cannot be released can cause imbalances.

An acupuncture therapist after a specialized diagnosis can select acupuncture points and suggest a personalized treatment plan to balance the energy and blood flow to the internal organs. Acupuncture therapy has been shown to help balance cortisol and serotonin levels which regulate the body’s response to stress. Also, by bringing the organs in homeostasis with acupuncture, we manage and balance the emotions that reside in each organ, thus dealing with the unexpressed emotions that lead to panic attacks.


Herbal supplements and diet are also key ingredients in integrated panic management.

Concentration on breathing is also an important tool in managing a panic attack. Excellent ways to train your breath and mind are meditation and yoga, which both can help prevent the factors that will cause a panic attack.