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Dealing with panic attacks, part II

Published:Wednesday | March 28, 2012 | 12:00 AM

By Dr Wendel Abel

This is a follow-up to article published March 21, in response to questions asked by our readers.

What are anxiety attacks?

Panic attacks or anxiety attacks may occur in many contexts. When an anxiety attack arises out of the blue without any clear cause, it is called a panic attack. Some persons develop anxiety attacks in response to specific objects or situations and these are referred to as phobias. There may be phobias for animals such as lizards or snakes, phobias for social situations called social phobias. Many persons have phobias for height and phobias for driving.

What are the causes?

Anxiety disorders sometimes run in families. They may also occur in situations where persons grow up in homes where parents are very anxious and critical and, as a result, children become very anxious and tense. Sometimes parents may suffer from phobias or social anxiety and as a result, they may transfer their anxiety to their children.

Could you explain the deep-breathing exercise?

In this article, we share with you the deep-breathing technique designed to control anxiety attacks. Many persons who suffer from anxiety attacks are very tense, find it difficult to relax and they cannot control their breathing. This technique is also useful for persons who may have difficulties sleeping or having fulfilling sexual intercourse as a result of anxiety and tension.

If you suffer from anxiety problems, practise this technique.

Deep breathing exercise

Step 1: Breathe in slowly to the count of four.

Step 2: Hold your breath to the count of four.

Step 3: Breathe out slowly to the count of four.

Step 4: Rest and relax. Count slowly to four while you do this.

Repeat this several times.

I suggest you do this every half an hour for about four minutes.

Dr Wendel Abel is a consultant psychiatrist and head, Section of Psychiatry, Dept Of Community Health and Psychiatry, University of the West Indies, 977-1108; email: