Panic Attacks Can Strike without Warning.


Have you ever suddenly been overcome by fear, trembling, sweating, head pounding, and a racing heart? Relax--and breathe. That is the advice from psychiatrist Alex Dimitriu, who says a focus on slow, deep breathing can help patients get through a panic attack.

His comments follow research reported in Psychophysiology by Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, demonstrating a direct, neurophysiological link between respiration and the brain. "The study indicates respiration can prompt release of a chemical messenger, noadrenaline, in the brain, and this chemical plays an important role in enhancing the brain's overall health," says Dimitriu, founder of Menlo Park (Calif.) Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine.

"Physicians have long known that the relaxation, visualization, and breathing techniques taught in yoga and used in meditation help many patients manage their anxiety, including panic disorder. The study finding that breathing effects changes in brain chemistry goes a long way toward supporting claims of yoga practitioners about how regulation of respiration benefits the mind, reducing stress and improving cognition and attention."

Panic attacks are brief episodes of intense, incapacitating apprehension and anxiety that occur seemingly without warning and are accompanied by real, physical...

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