Panic Disorder

forum post

Panic Disorder

Published on 02-26-2024

"WillRex" is a generally interested contributor who lives in Cypress and has authored 1 other post.

Hello everyone.  This is my first post and I’m looking for help!  I am working with my daughter to find help for my 16-year-old granddaughter who has an extreme case of panic disorder.  She also has agoraphobia so is virtually homebound.  This started during the pandemic (over two years ago) and has steadily gotten worse.  She won’t take medication because of the side effects.  I’ve read some very encouraging things about using acupuncture and acupressure for anxiety but virtually nothing about using it for full blown panic disorder.  (She would use acupressure since she or her mother could do it at home, but I would hope that both acupuncture and acupressure would work the same on the same acupoints.)

I have several questions to get the ball rolling:

--  Does anyone here have any experience using acupuncture or acupressure for panic disorder, or do you know of a colleague who has?  If so, please elaborate on its effectiveness.

--  If it helps to prevent panic attacks, about how long would you expect it to take to notice a difference in the number and severity of panic attacks?

--  If a panic attack is already underway, can it be used to stop it?  If so, about how long would you expect it to take to stop it?  (Some of her panic attacks last over an hour.)

Thank you very much for reading this and for any help you can provide!

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Comments / Discussions:

comment by "ChadD" (acupuncturist)
on Feb 2024

The short answer to your question is, yes, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine (in many cases together) is commonly treated and can be quite helpful.  Our blog section on anxiety has any number of articles, many discussing published research, on the subject generally.  And while they range in audience, our forum also has a host of other discussions related to anxiety.

A few general statements, first acupressure is not acupuncture.  While acupressure can be moderately helpful for certain things or as "maintenance" between treatments, it falls far short of what properly applied/tailored acupuncture treatments can provide.  The same goes for self-treatment of commonly used herbal formulas for anxiety vs. a tailored set of formula(s) from a licensed practitioner - they are just worlds apart for most things, but certainly for anything serious.

The rest of your questions have to be generalized of course, particularly with something as often unruly as panic disorder or even anxiety generally.  The shortest answer possible is that you would expect results from a licensed practitioner with weekly treatments ideally with both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine within 3 months, but treatment can go on much longer than that in some cases to work towards a deeper resolution of issues.  

Nearly every acupuncturist has seen many, many cases of anxiety/panic disorder/depression the whole gamut of the most commonly experienced mental health issues.  And, in part, this is because while western medicines can be quite helpful, particularly initially (minus the time finding the right one of course) either the range of side effects and/or the often experienced decline in effectiveness over time bring people in.  It's irrelevant to the discussion but I've treated many hundreds of anxiety disorder patients in my time and many practitioners who have been in practice at least 5 years would be in a similar ballpark.

How treatment actually plays out depends greatly on the individual patient and even some times their resources (time to come in, money for acupuncture vs. herbs (herbs can be less expensive), etc.).  The benefit of Chinese Medicine is everything is heavily tailored to the individual and that is the critical differentiating point between Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine - standardized vs. wholistic/tailored - my article "What does acupuncture treat?" gets into this and "How does acupuncture work?" gets into some of the understood mechanisms.

An example of how this might play out in some people with severe agoraphobia, drawn directly from my own clinical experience - but, again, should be taken as generalized.

1) If they cannot make it into the office due to agoraphobia, phone consultation with prescription of chinese herbs and some general acupressure points, perhaps (over time, not initially) some basic training in meditation/mindfulness to help during panic attacks and generally.

2) Herbs (which, as with acupuncture, will be adjusted/altered over time) would likely be at least moderately helpful within a few weeks.  Then they can come in weekly or every other week depending on the patient for proper acupuncture and likely continue on the herbs (but not always).  At least 12 treatments.

From this point onward, it is impossible to generalize.  For some patients with very acute issues that are not necessarily tied to anything deeper they would be done - (panic attacks, for example, can often be heavily GI related and less brain/mental health related even though they overlap).  For others, similar to psychiatric therapy, this would open into a world where they are doing well, but still need treatments/guidance to keep them moving forward.

At the end of the day, there are two things I would recommend - First, find a therapist that does cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and get your granddaughter seeing them if possible, probably online at least initially.  They will be able to help her, particularly calm the panic attacks at the time and offer general mindfulness related techniques among others that are clinically proven to be helpful.  Then find an acupuncturist with at least 5 years of clinical experience who practices both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine and start seeing them in whatever way possible initially.

All that said, the walk away from the world of panic disorder can be difficult for some, easier for others, and may require a whole range of techniques.  Having led many patients through this process, all I can tell you is that it is possible, but what needs to be done varies and depends on many factors.  This is where the skill and experience of the individual practitioners comes into play - and ideally without ego so they know when to refer to someone else vs. keeping going with their tailored approaches.

I wish her the best!

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comment by "WillRex" (general)
on Feb 2024

Thank you very much for spending the time to write this very thoughtful and comprehensive response.

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