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Dealing with panic attacks - Part III

Published:Wednesday | April 11, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Dr Wendel Abel, consultant psychiatrist, demonstrates the stages of the four-by-four deep breathing technique used to manage panic attacks. The model is Teisha Brown.

This is a follow-up to articles published on March 21 and 28, in response to questions asked by our readers.

What causes anxiety attacks?

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; email: