Panic disorder is characterised by repeated, unpredictable panic attacks as well as severe fear or worry. Unlike normal anxiety, which occurs under stressful settings, panic episodes in panic disorder come unexpectedly and without a clear cause.

Anxiety is a sense of discomfort. It can range from mild to severe, with symptoms including concern and fear. Panic is the most intense type of anxiety. This might lead to a pattern of living “in fear of fear.”

If you are suffering, know you are not alone in your journey of dealing with anxiety. It is okay to feel overwhelmed, and it is okay to seek help and support.

Support Groups:

Anxiety UK

Helpline: 03444 775 774 

Text Support: 07547416905

Mind Charity 

Helpline: 0300 123 3393 

No Panic 

Helpline: 0300 772 9844

What is Panic Disorder?

Anxiety disorders manifest in various ways, with different causes, symptoms, and treatments. The specific symptoms one experiences depend on the type of anxiety disorder. Common physical symptoms include trembling, stomach aches, and headaches. Psychological symptoms may involve:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Unpleasant thoughts
  • A racing heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling faint
  • Problems sleeping and concentrating
  • Feeling like you’re not connected to your body
  • Behaviour changes like avoiding anxiety-provoking situations, crying, defiance, and reassurance-seeking. 

While symptoms differ across anxiety disorders, many share core features like irrational fear, panic attacks, constant worry, and disrupted daily functioning.

Exposure therapy using virtual reality can help people overcome anxiety disorders by allowing them to experience simulated anxiety-provoking situations. In a virtual environment, patients can visit crowded places or board planes to trigger anxious feelings which will gradually fade over time. By learning to manage anxiety in simulated environments, patients discover they do not need to avoid those situations in real life.

VR technology offers Clinical and Health Psychology new possibilities for assessment, treatment, training, and research. One of the ways to treat this disorder is exposure. An advantage of this is that the treatment takes place in a controlled environment, and the patient can stop the treatment at any time and take it at their own pace.

Impact on Daily Life

Living with panic disorder can have significant impacts on various aspects of daily life, including social relationships, work, and overall well-being. Individuals with panic disorder may avoid social situations or isolate themselves to prevent potential triggers. This avoidance can lead to strained relationships and feelings of loneliness. As a result of this, it can be difficult to form and maintain connections.

This feeling of strain can merge into working life. Individuals can experience decreased productivity, absences, and career limitations. This happens as a result of panic attacks interfering with concentration and focus, and individuals may need to take more sick days due to the physical and emotional toll on their bodies. 

These issues can spread to physical health issues, mental health issues, and impact quality of life. Frequent panic attacks can lead to issues such as fatigue, headaches, and muscle tension. 

Individuals with panic disorders may experience a reduced quality of life due to the impact on daily activities, hobbies, and personal fulfilment. It is important to seek proper treatment and support so that individuals with panic disorders can manage their symptoms effectively and improve their overall quality of life.

Current Treatment Approaches

Slow Breathing Training: This technique is used to treat the physiological part of panic disorders. Patients are encouraged to practise slow breathing rhythms (8-12 breaths per minute). When practised regularly, the goal is for the patient to use this technique to control anxiety symptoms. 

Cognitive Therapy: The goal is for the patient to become aware of their body and thoughts when they feel the sensation of panic start to take over their thoughts and body and to highlight the misinterpretation of these bodily sensations. By challenging the misinterpretations, the patient can overcome panic attacks by changing their catastrophic thinking and having positive self-talk.

Exposure Therapy: This is a crucial element in the cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) approach for panic disorders. This involves systematic and gradual exposure to situations or stimuli that trigger panic attacks in a controlled and supportive environment. By helping individuals confront and overcome their fears, panic attacks should be reduced in intensity and frequency. 

VR Apps for Stress Reduction

Hoame Meditation Studio

This app aims to provide a flexible meditation space, allowing users to practice mindfulness from wherever they feel comfortable. It facilitates presence through guided meditations and other mindfulness techniques.

This app can complement therapy prescribed by a professional and serve as a daily training tool to prevent stress. Similar to conventional meditation, it focuses on stress control, tension relief, anxiety management, and general relaxation training.

Tripp

This app aims to evoke a sense of focus, tranquillity, and calmness for the user. It could be considered complementary to a core therapy or to promote wellness. 

Guided Meditation VR 

This app makes meditation simple and visual. It can be used to complement therapy or to promote wellness and as a preventive measure.

Puzzling Places

This app allows users to solve hyper-realistic 3D puzzles of famous locations, monuments, museums, and cultural icons. As users assemble the miniatures, they can enter a meditative state. Once complete, the puzzles spring to life with immersive soundscapes that bring the scenes alive.

Alcove

This app simulates a virtual home with five areas for different activities like travelling, exploring urban and natural places around the world, playing games, watching videos, going on adventures, relaxing, and meditating.

Learning relaxation techniques can provide great health benefits, whether your stress levels are out of control or under control. We hope this list can encourage you to try mindfulness at home and with your patients.

The Benefits of VR Meditation Apps for Panic Disorder

One of the benefits of using meditation apps is VR’s immersive nature can provide a powerful distraction from the immediate and overwhelming sensations of anxiety or panic. Since the environment is accessible and controlled, it offers a space where individuals can practice relaxation techniques and coping strategies. 

Many VR apps offer guided meditation sessions to help ease symptoms of anxiety. This can help to relax the mind and body during heightened moments of stress. 

While VR tools can be useful, it is not a substitute for professional guidance. It is important to seek professional help if you are struggling with anxiety and panic disorders.

spiritvr

Charities like Mind and Anxiety Care UK are useful resources for information and advice about how to manage anxiety and phobias. They can also put you in touch with other people who’ve had similar experiences.

Read about how you can use VR to Ease Stress and Overcoming Social Anxiety.