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Individual Therapy | Diaphragmatic Breathing | What is a Panic Attack? | What is Depression?

Diaphragmatic Breathing

If you suffer from Panic Attacks or General Anxiety, learning how to breathe from your diaphragm is very beneficial in overcoming the symptoms that develop from the shallow chest breathing which occurs during a panic attack and when you are experiencing anxiety. Anxious people tend to breathe more shallow and faster than non-anxious types which can cause many physical symptoms. Shallow breathing will also lead to hyperventilation. If this happens to you often, then you have what is called Hyperventilation Syndrome. This is very common to have if you suffer from panic attacks. If you breathe shallowly or actually are hyperventilating you may experience several, if not all of these symptoms: symptoms:

• lightheadedness
• dizziness
• feelings of unreality
• shortness of breath
• trembling
• tingling in your hands, feet and lips

What's happening to you is that by "overbreathing" you are exhaling too much carbon dioxide in relation to the amount of oxygen in your body. Note that these symptoms are some of the very same ones that you experience during a panic attack. So, if you do suffer from panic attacks then these symptoms which mimic a panic attack can actually lead to one. People who are generally anxious but don't suffer from panic attacks will feel these same symptoms but to a lesser extent.

The traditional cure for hyperventilating is to breath into a paper bag. This actually does work by breathing back in the carbon dioxide that you exhale into the bag and restoring the carbon dioxide/oxygen balance in your system. BUT, because it's not always appropriate to put a bag on your face in public, learning the diaphragmatic breathing technique is a good alternative.

Begin by breathing in slowly, through your nose while mentally counting to five. When you are inhaling, picture the air going down into your stomach, not your lungs. Put your hand on your stomach and you should feel it expanding. Now, slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of five. Picture the air emptying out of your stomach until it's totally expelled. Repeat this ten times during practice and as long as needed when you are experiencing the above symptoms. If you are doing it properly, your shoulders and chest will have very little, if no movement whatsoever.

It's important to practice this everyday so that when you are hyperventilating, it'll be second nature to you. It's hard to think clearly when you are having these symptoms so you have to be prepared. Also, if practiced long enough, some people will actually breathe diaphragmatically all of the time and won't experience hyperventilation anymore.

In conclusion, whenever you feel any of the symptoms listed above, and or the first twinges of adrenalin from an oncoming panic attack, immediately start your diaphragmatic breathing. I can't stress it enough, the fact that this technique is one of the best you can learn in overcoming panic attacks. Since I learned this technique, I haven't had a full blown panic attack and it's so simple to do and very easy to learn.


by Laura Bisnett

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