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How can I manage my panic attacks?

Q: I am a 27 years old married woman and used to get panic attacks while travelling alone or in a public place . I used to get stressed over my exams at school and get nervous many times. Currently, I am pursuing a Masters’ degree and 20 days back I had a presentation at my college. I was totally stressed and felt all the physical symptoms like upset stomach, diarrhoea, shakiness, feeling extremely cold even at normal room temperatures, etc. From that day, I couldn’t get enough sleep and started waking up in the middle of the night without knowing where I am. I often hear strange sounds and feel as if somebody is constantly watching me. This thought doesn’t leave my mind and is disturbing me round the clock. I checked with a psychologist and he prescribed me Celexa and Trazadone. My sleep is ok now but when I am awake, all I feel is why I am in this body? How come I can’t get out of this? I think it as an ordeal to manage my body. I don’t feel suicidal and want to be just my old self. This condition has severely disrupted my day-to-day life, my relationships with close family members and my studies. Please help.

A:It is clear from your query how terribly distressed you are. I am glad you had an opportunity to consult a mental health professional. The medicines should help you but you will need to be patient as these are often slow acting. In the meantime you need to recognise these thoughts as symptoms of your condition rather than real or significant thoughts. Your best bet is to use methods of distraction to reduce the amount of time you spend focusing on these thoughts. Also try and include regular exercise into your routine as there is enough evidence to suggest that exercise has a positive effect on mood. Try these steps for a few weeks and hopefully this along with the medication will help. Is there some way in which you can get some counseling? You are likely to benefit from regular sessions that will help not only in getting past this episode but also explore reasons for the breakdown. You can then work on these issues with a view to reduce risk of similar episodes recurring in the future.

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