Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

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Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby retrofuturist » Mon May 04, 2009 12:26 am

Greetings,

As a pre-cursor, a quick note to let you know I'm not seeking medical advice or anything along those lines. I'm interested in Buddhist responses, based on Buddhist logic....

A couple of people I know have diagnosed anxiety disorders, but neither of them are currently able to see the connection between their perceptions and responses, and the role that plays in fuelling the cycle of anxiety. Both of these people aren't Buddhist, and one isn't yet prepared to consider meditation as a possible option.

Firstly, does anyone have any suggestions about what type of meditation subjects or techniques would be most suitable for such people, looking to avoid "panic attacks" in the future. Having no meditation experience, it would need to be something simple, possibly something guided, something that could be done in short sessions of up to 30 minutes, and certainly not an extended retreat. It would need to be possible to explain what the meditation practice is, and the simple logic behind how it works.

Secondly, does anyone have any ideas why someone would actively resist meditation or mindfulness as a means to mitigate the likelihood and severity of a panic attack? Some possible reasons that I know of include:

* Fear of the meditation process or coming face-to-face with the "root cause"
* Meditation as "brainwashing"
* The problem being perceived as having physical/chemical origins, and the mental result is therefore uncontrollable
* Disbelief in its efficacy
* Preference for Western methods (e.g. psychiatry, psychology)

Are there any other reasons someone in such a situation could want to avoid meditation?

Thirdly, links to any simple online texts which explain any of the above would be greatly appreciated.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Jechbi » Mon May 04, 2009 1:01 am

Maybe something from Jon Kabat-Zinn?

Can't vouch for this, but they offer online courses. Maybe someone else has knowledge of this?
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby genkaku » Mon May 04, 2009 1:10 am

Dear retro -- You will pardon me if I give you a scatter-gun response based on suggestions I have heard from time to time.

-- A former psychoanalyst friend of mind once wrote to say she was trying to lend a hand with a book a friend was writing. The book was to be a compendium of very quick-hit suggestions for those feeling depressed or uncertain. She asked if I had any fortune cookies to add. Naturally ( :smile: ) , I did: "Go outside."

-- Another shrink friend once suggested the following as a "very powerful" exercise. She was into Tibetan Buddhism, I think, but she didn't gum up the works with any references to Buddhism. Sitting comfortably erect on a chair, close the eyes, and inhale a full inhale. While inhaling, envision a mountain. The mountain represents the most obvious problem at hand. Breathe in on the mountain. This ... mountain ... is ... the ... problem. Then exhale a full exhale ... and while exhaling, smile. Do this three times. At the end of the third time, pat the tops of your thighs gently ten times. Repeat as necessary.

-- Minus the thigh-patting or any reference to the mountain, I gave the suggestion above to a woman whose world was blown apart when it was discovered her teenager son had diabetes. It was wracking for the boy. It was wracking for the mom. I made the suggestion, minus any Buddhism talk. She tried it ... and for her ... well, its efficacy blew her away.

Just very small suggestions, obviously.
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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Jechbi » Mon May 04, 2009 1:16 am

cool, genkaku. That's tonglen. Here's more: http://www.lojongmindtraining.com
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby zavk » Mon May 04, 2009 1:47 am

Hi Retro,

I heard from someone that there are certain techniques in therapy that use body awareness to manage panic and anxiety disorders. It could be something that is done in CBT, I'm not sure. This could be one way of suggesting meditation to them. I think for people with such disorders, it would be helpful to give them a more concrete 'anchor' such as the body to work with, before they begin to explore their perceptual and cognitive processes.

Just my two cents.... I'll let others with expertise in the field of psychotherapy offer a more detailed response.
With metta,
zavk
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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby cooran » Mon May 04, 2009 2:49 am

Hello Retro,

I think this might help your friends. I recently did training with Russ Harris and was quite impressed.
http://www.actmindfully.com.au/

"Mindfulness’ is a hot topic in Western psychology: increasingly recognised as an effective way to reduce stress, increase self-awareness, enhance emotional intelligence, and undermine destructive emotive, cognitive, and behavioural processes.
Although mindfulness has only recently been embraced by Western psychology, it is an ancient practice found in a wide range of Eastern philosophies, including Buddhism, Taoism and Yoga. Mindfulness involves consciously bringing awareness to your here-and-now experience with openness, interest, and receptiveness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a world authority on the use of mindfulness training in the management of clinical problems, defines it as: "Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally."
Mindfulness is about waking up, connecting with ourselves, and appreciating the fullness of each moment of life. Kabat-Zinn calls it, "The art of conscious living." It is a profound way to enhance psychological and emotional resilience, and increase life satisfaction.

Embracing Your Demons: an Overview of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by R U S S E L L H A R R I S

"The more time and energy we spend
trying to avoid or get rid of unwanted
private experiences the more we are
likely to suffer psychologically in the
long term. Anxiety disorders provide a
good example. It is not the presence of
anxiety that comprises the essence of
an anxiety disorder. After all, anxiety
is a normal human emotion that we all
experience. At the core of any anxiety
disorder lies a major preoccupation
with trying to avoid or get rid of
anxiety. OCD provides a florid
example; I never cease to be amazed
by the elaborate rituals that OCD
sufferers devise, in vain attempts to get
rid of anxiety-provoking thoughts and
images. Sadly, the more importance
we place on avoiding anxiety, the
more we develop anxiety about our
anxiety—thereby exacerbating it. It’s
a vicious cycle, found at the centre of
any anxiety disorder. (What is a panic
attack, if not anxiety about anxiety?)"

......

metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon May 04, 2009 3:53 am

Hi Retro,

I have a severe anxiety disorder and at times it's disabling. I would be curious to know a little more about the type of anxiety your friends suffer from. For example, if they have "attacks" of anxiety, or if it's a generalized experience of anxiety.

I've found single-pointed meditation and regular practice with mindfulness throughout the day to be extremely helpful. My experience has been that during an attack there is the feeling of being very out-of-control. Over a period of time meditation has helped me to train my mind a bit to get through the attacks easier, maintain a sense of control, minimize the uncomfortable physical sensations, and minimize racing thoughts that can accompany an attack.

This is just a tiny comment on the matter. I'll reflect and write more, and if you're able to share any more info with your friends' permission that might be helpful too.

Best,
Drolma
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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon May 04, 2009 3:55 am

genkaku wrote:Dear retro -- You will pardon me if I give you a scatter-gun response based on suggestions I have heard from time to time.

-- A former psychoanalyst friend of mind once wrote to say she was trying to lend a hand with a book a friend was writing. The book was to be a compendium of very quick-hit suggestions for those feeling depressed or uncertain. She asked if I had any fortune cookies to add. Naturally ( :smile: ) , I did: "Go outside."

-- Another shrink friend once suggested the following as a "very powerful" exercise. She was into Tibetan Buddhism, I think, but she didn't gum up the works with any references to Buddhism. Sitting comfortably erect on a chair, close the eyes, and inhale a full inhale. While inhaling, envision a mountain. The mountain represents the most obvious problem at hand. Breathe in on the mountain. This ... mountain ... is ... the ... problem. Then exhale a full exhale ... and while exhaling, smile. Do this three times. At the end of the third time, pat the tops of your thighs gently ten times. Repeat as necessary.

-- Minus the thigh-patting or any reference to the mountain, I gave the suggestion above to a woman whose world was blown apart when it was discovered her teenager son had diabetes. It was wracking for the boy. It was wracking for the mom. I made the suggestion, minus any Buddhism talk. She tried it ... and for her ... well, its efficacy blew her away.

Just very small suggestions, obviously.


Great input from Genkaku. There is a similar technique involving a lot of tapping that has been amazing for me. But the information has to be administered by somebody licensed, I believe.

:namaste:
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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Cittasanto » Mon May 04, 2009 8:56 am

The Breath is best I find.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Nibbida » Wed May 06, 2009 2:49 am

I have had an anxiety disorder for over 15 years. It's mostly night time panic attacks that come during sleep, with carry-over day time anxiety. I went to a therapist, took medication. Both helped, but didn't fix the problem. I used to only meditate on the breath, and knew little or nothing about vipassana. One day, after I suffered a night of anxiety, I thought, "Why not make the anxiety feelings the object of focus?" So I did, and I got a more detailed picture of the feelings than I ever had in my life. But this time, I knew to observe them with as much equanimity as I could muster. It worked like a charm. I saw for the first time that it was not something that was happening to me, but rather something that I was feeding into. The feelings change, come and go, if only I allow them. Since then the symptoms have reduced by 99%. And when they do recur, it's no problem. I know what to do. In fact, I realize that it's a precious opportunity for practice, so I almost look forward to it.

The natural response to anxiety is to resist it or try to distract, the exact opposite of mindfulness and equanimity. I believe this is why people with anxiety are so resistant to the idea. The knee jerk response is to try to resist and/or avoid, so meditation seems like it would only make it worse because it's counter-intuitive. Most people who don't know mindfulness think that paying more attention makes things worse. That's true if someone is not using equanimity.

My cousin has daytime, full-blown panic attacks. I gave her some guided meditations that focus on vedana, body scans etc. They have been working very well for her. Just last week, she started having one, sat down and went into meditation, observed closely with equanimity, and it dissipated. So that would be my recommendation, focus on the bodily sensations. For one, it breaks the feedback loop of thoughts and feelings that tend to snowball in panic. Secondly, the body is more tangible and easier to focus on than the thinking process. There are many free guided meditations including body scans that one can download. I also found Shinzen Young's Break Through Difficult Emotions CDs very helpful.
"Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise." --Thomas Jefferson

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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Wed May 06, 2009 4:14 pm

Hi Nibanna,

Thanks for sharing what you did. I get anxiety attacks in my sleep with carry-over anxiety too, but I've never heard anyone else say that.

:anjali:
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