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From "When Panic Attacks..." by Ann Stapleton, Spirituality and Health Magazine (September/October 2005):

When panic attacks...sing "I'll go crazy, then I'll die...doo dah! doo dah!"

"He who sings frightens away his ills," wrote Cervantes. In the case of driving and panic attacks, he might have been right. Psychologist David Carbonell, Ph.D., director of the Anxiety Treatment Center in New York and Chicago and author of Panic Attacks Workbook: A Guided Program for Beating the Panic Trick

, advocates singing aloud as a simple, drug-free method of preventing and interrupting panic attacks while driving.

According to Carbonell, "A major source of panic symptoms is short, shallow breathing, which produces the same symptoms as overt hyperventilation - labored breathing, a sense that you can't catch your breath, chest tightness and pain, tingling in the extremities, and so on." Singing causes you to breathe more slowly and deeply, relaxes your chest muscles, maintains a favorable balance between the oxygen you inhale and the carbon dioxide you exhale, and helps prevent dry mouth and throat.

Refreshingly upbeat about the serious subject of fear, Carbonell considers humor "a great response to panic and anxiety." An amusing song will probably provide more distraction than a serious one, he says, and to that end, he offers some lyrics of his own (to the tune of "Camptown Races"): "I'll go crazy, then I'll die doo dah! doo dah!" But any song that has positive associations for you - a hymn, a television theme song, an aria -

An audience member from one of Carbonell's lectures once halted an attack by singing the national anthem. Singing aloud can be an effective and safe technique, but Carbonell cautions that it is "not a lifesaver, and you don't need one, because panic won't kill you. It just fools you into believing that."

Although singing is not a remedy for panic disorder, it's a useful way to cope while you investigate your options for a full recovery. And it might get you where you're going with a smile. For more information about defeating the panic trick, including a video of diaphragmatic breathing, visit anxietycoach.com


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