person meditating and deep breathing on beach

Why Deep Breathing isn’t Stopping your Panic Attacks

But Stacey, you tell me to practice deep breathing all the time. You even have a video about how to do it?!

Yes, yes, deep breathing is great, but it isn’t the answer to stop your panic attack. If it was, I wouldn’t be in business and no one would have anxiety……Oh, and this doesn’t mean stop practicing either…

What I’m saying is, to treat panic attacks and panic disorder, the BEST way to approach treatment, is one of prevention rather than reaction.

Say you’re an athlete. Athletes often suffer from injuries. Doing things like stretching and strengthening help people heal from injuries (just ask a physical therapist!). So… if you’re training for your sport, do you wait to see if you get injured and then go see a physical therapist to heal??? or do you incorporate stretching and strengthening into your training routine???

Yes, you incorporate the preventive measure into your routine! This wards off injury! Some people go regularly to a massage therapist, a chiropractor or other means to help keep problem areas at bay.

Problem areas you say?

What athletes do is find out their weaknesses and then strengthen them! Find out your chronic tight spots and stretch them. All our bodies are made differently so sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to know what our individual bodies need.

Weaknesses? Are you calling me week?

No, I’m not calling you weak. We all have weaknesses and that’s OK because we are Human, Not Superman – oh and he had weaknesses too! Not just kryptonite that weakened his powers, but socially and emotionally weaknesses as well! (Little socially awkward with Lois Lane if I remember correctly!)

Having an anxiety disorder (or really any mental health related disorder) can be compared to having physical injuries.

Sometimes, when experiencing a physical injury, you’re more likely to suffer from that injury again… same with anxiety and depression. If you have had one panic attack you’re more likely to have another one than someone who has never had one. If you have had one major depressive episode, you’re more likely to have another… SO… because of this, the best way to go about this is to work on PREVENTION!!

If you never practice deep breathing (or all of the other calming, relaxing and wonderful things you get to do to treat your anxiety), you’re probably going to have another panic attack. And then when you have your panic attack and use deep breathing to stop it, it isn’t going to help.

Just like when you get a physical injury, do you go to the physical therapist one time and your problem is gone?? No of course it isn’t gone! They have you come 2-3x a week for a while until you’re healed. Then when it’s fixed and you don’t engage in prevention strategies and the problem starts up again, do you do a stretch one time and it’s gone? One strengthening rep and it’s gone? Now you have to start all over again.

If you can’t treat a physical injury without ongoing practice and persistence, why expect to stop you panic attack suddenly with working on deep breathing once (and at the point of crisis) and then say “deep breathing doesn’t work!”

The idea is to practice deep breathing and calming exercises to heal from the current anxiety and to keep doing them to help prevent another attack from happening.

Sound awesome?

Give it a try!

Oh, and get some counseling to treat the underlying issues to your anxiety problems. That helps a lot too…. Deep breathing isn’t the end all be all…. practice it, use it, but there is so much more to anxiety!