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Relaxation techniques, which can also be described as fear-fighting strategies, benefit people suffering from anxiety disorder and panic attacks as well as others facing anxiety. How do you know what works for you?

Anxiety and fear strike all of us at times. Both are certainly unpleasant experiences, yet it is important to acknowledge that they are part of the spectrum of human sensations for good reason. Both anxiety and fear have the capability of protecting us. Anxiety prepares a person for dealing with potentially risky situations, while fear alerts us that we have to deal with an immediate real or perceived threat. 

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Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder

Humans do also, however, experience anxiety, fear and panic in the absence of any real danger. When this happens, these sensations do not contribute to safety but rather stand in the way of normal, everyday life and may even create danger when there was none to begin with.

Panic disorder is a serious condition in which fear and anxiety appear without reason in situations where there is neither a direct threat nor a realistic anticipation of one. While its precise cause has not been identified yet, it is clear that both biological and environmental factors are at play. People who have experienced intense stress, have been substance abusers, or have a family history of panic disorders are more likely to suffer from panic disorder than others.

Panic attacks represent one of the main symptoms of panic disorder. During these attacks — which do not occur in response to an immediate and real threat — a person may feel like they are dying.

Heart and chest pains, a racing heart, severe sweating, breathing difficulties, shaking, nausea, stomach pain, and chills are all symptoms of a panic attack. While panic attacks are almost always over in five to 10 minutes, they may seem to last an eternity — and while they are physically harmless, they certainly don't feel that way. In addition, people experiencing panic attacks may constantly live in fear of having another one, something that can damage their quality of life severely.

Psychotherapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and medications are both often integral aspects of treating panic disorder. Together with relaxation techniques, therapy and medication can be very successful at managing panic disorder and patients can frequently learn to enjoy a productive, normal life free from symptoms. People who suspect they are suffering from panic attacks or panic disorder always benefit from treatment under the guidance of a professional.

Relaxation techniques can be helpful to anyone, however: people with panic disorder currently receiving treatment, those who suspect they have panic disorder but aren't ready to seek treatment yet, and people who are simply dealing with anxiety caused by life's stresses. 

Identifying What Causes Fear

The first step on the way to developing coping strategies that work for you is figuring out what feelings or situations cause you to feel fear or anxiety. Look at both external and internal triggers.

External triggers include being in places where you have been hurt or threatened in the past, or where we have seen this happening to others. Facing the real possibility of injury or death, and also ridicule, rejection, injustice, and dismissal from work also fall in the category of external triggers. Additionally, you may need help but not receive it, or may be losing physical or mental competence due to injury, for instance. Internal triggers of anxiety and fear may include being alone, in the dark, feeling you have no control over your life, mentally losing control of yourself, playing out doom scenarios in your mind (catastrophizing), and many others.

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