Over Come Panic/Anxiety and Agoraphobia Part I.

This is the first of an ongoing series of articles for the effective treatment of anxiety and panic attacks and agoraphobia. The articles are based on a technique which demonstrated an 80% success rate in the participants with whom the technique was used. For the study and data that surveyed 84 clients, go to http://www.panicbusters.com/80%25%20Success%20Rate.htm

While the sufferer certainly will benefit from reading these articles, it is mainly written for the professional treating these disorders via hypnosis, biofeedback, psychotherapy, psychiatry.

This technique is based on a stress management model. Let me clarify. It is often assumed that a stress management model is synonymous with body awareness techniques utilizing inward focus. Even though for a majority of treatment modalities this is true, it is only one of two basic techniques. The other technique is outward focus-far less often used-but initially recognized by a psychologist by the name of Lacy is the one most effective for all anxiety/panic attacks. It likewise is effective for all other maladies, but because it is less defined, it is generally only used in more advanced training and left out of the protocols for initial training sessions.

Basically the difference is between inward and outward concentration-more in a future article which will cover the why's and wherefores of the benefits of outward vs. inward concentration for the treatment of Panic/Anxiety and Agoraphobia.

In this article I want to focus mainly on the why's that contribute to one developing Anxiety issues as opposed to some other stress related issue such as hypertension-not that some individuals don't develop both.

First, anxiety/panic/agoraphobia is generally found in those who

  • Have less than healthy eating habits or
  • Are taking medications that contribute to panic and anxiety as a side effect.

Most are in the first category-hypoglycemic eating habits. They generally tend to eat highly refined foods, drink caffeinated beverages, lots of snack foods. If they were to know this in advance, correcting their eating behavior to move away from foods high in sugar, refined flours, snacks would head off the development of Anxiety/panic attacks for anxiety is simply a hormonal response to big blood sugar changes. However, once the pattern of anxiety has generalized or developed into panic and agoraphobia, then simply changing eating habits usually isn't enough and this is because the mind has begun a conditioning process-more later.

The same can be said for the second group for once the meds contributing to side effects of anxiety are stopped, it too isn't enough because again the mind has begun a conditioning process.

But the main question is, "panic and anxiety sufferers aren't the only group of people with lousy eating habits suffering from hypoglycemia. Why do they develop Anxiety and others develop muscle pains and aches, or hypertension.?

The answer is in one's personality. Effective treatment of an anxiety sufferer requires that the therapist, counselor. understand the personality that contributes to the development of anxiety.

When I first began working with anxiety clients it was under the supervision of two psychologists. Let me give you a setting too. Building #5 of the World Trade Center in the late 70's for an organization known as the World Health Medical Dental Organization. Dr. Joyce Brothers was one of the consultants. Ok, with the setting out of the way, I asked my superiors for advice in how to work with anxiety sufferers. My main treatment modalities were biofeedback and hypnosis. I asked them for the protocol that they wanted used and was told something similar to, "Anxiety patients are basically babies. They use anxiety generally for secondary rewards. We don't expect you'll have much success. Simply teach them body awareness techniques and hold their hands. They are generally an irresponsible group of patients."

I was in my mid twenties and didn't know enough to dispute what I was told and accepted it as truth and fact. Needless to say, I didn't have very much success hand holding and most clients came three or four sessions at most and then stopped coming-they could never get their muscles to relax with biofeedback, much less their breathing.

Two years later I opened my own biofeedback/hypnosis practice in NJ known as the Biofeedback Center of NJ and after about four years of poor results-only 30% improvement--with anxiety/panic attack clients I hired a psychotherapist to work with them thinking it must be something deep rooted causing the problem and I wasn't qualified to do therapy nor did I want to. Remember, the placebo effect is usually around 30%.

After another five years we evaluated her success and even though the clients came for many more sessions than they did with me-she was better at hand-holding-the results were no better. The only consolation was that I wasn't the one seeing the clients-I could focus on clients with health issues that brought me much greater success rates.

One Saturday afternoon I received a phone call from our psychologist who was doing an intake with a new client-I'll call her Jane. He informed me that Jane wanted biofeedback for her panic/agoraphobia and nothing else. She was dictating her treatment. She and her husband drove some distance and they very much wanted to start immediately and refused psychotherapy as he recommended.

It was his opinion that her high motivation and expectation would be instrumental (pun intended) in biofeedback working. Reluctantly I agreed to see Jane and her husband hoping to convince them that psychotherapy was the route to go.

She made it clear she wanted nothing to do with psychotherapy and it was me and biofeedback or nothing. I didn't waste much time trying to convince her re psychotherapy. Instead after twenty minutes of getting to know her, I began her with basic "close your eyes inward focus breathing exercises," and observed her go into a panic attack within minutes. She opened her eyes. She and her husband were quite apologetic, paid their fees, and left quite abruptly. More about Jane in the next article.

Personality? I'll jump ahead and share with you what I leaned about personality. First it was easy for me to see Jane as the classic attention getting irresponsible secondary reward getting individual-a no brainer so to speak which was a total erroneous assumption as were all clients suffering from anxiety that I had ever seen.

Contrary to what I was told and learned to believe, anxiety sufferers are Type A perfectionist individuals. They are totally responsible (in some or many areas of their lives) and don't use symptoms for secondary reward (even though it appears that way). They need to be right. You might ask, "Who doesn't?" Contrary to most of us who like to be right, they really need to be right. In fact it's this universal right to be right of anxiety sufferers that makes the waking hypnosis work. They are the kind of person you would want to have as an employee-minus the anxiety which may totally incapacitate them. In fact it's their high sense of responsibility that works against them in contributing to development of anxiety issues whereas someone suffering from hypertension is also a type A individual, but be more of a driven, less patient person than the responsible one who develops anxiety.

In Part II of this article we'll look at how Nutrition plays into the symptoms and how to make the nutritional corrections.