A new way to banish panic attacks

PITTSBURGH – (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Sweaty palms, spinning head, racing heart and blocked lungs. That’s how someone having a panic, or anxiety attack describes the sudden, intense changes they go through. But now, a new device is training patients to breathe better and banish panic attacks.

For the first time in months, 52-year-old Marge Fekete is able to have coffee. Doctors had banned caffeine because of her panic disorder.

Fekete told Ivanhoe, “When you’re having a panic attack, you think you’re dying.”

Marge’s struggle started more than three decades ago after two personal tragedies.

“I found my father dead when I was 12 and then at age 20, my brother was murdered,” she said.

Eighteen months ago, the panic attacks that started in her teens — skyrocketed after she changed jobs and moved. She’d have an attack every few days.

Fekete explained, “I was a prisoner in my own home for about six months.”

Alicia Kaplan, MD, Psychiatrist at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh told Ivanhoe, “In order to treat the physical symptoms, we talk about relaxation and we’ve taught the patients how to do deep abdominal breathing.”

Dr. Kaplan also added a new treatment tool called the Freespira breathing system. Patients wear a cannula that is attached to a tablet — they follow a program to measure their breathing. Patients breathe in when they hear a tone go up and exhale when the tone goes down.

“They can follow their respiratory rate and their co2 level,” Dr. Kaplan explained.

Marge trained 17 minutes, twice a day for four weeks. She says she’s not cured, but along with medication and therapy, it has made a big difference.

She told Ivanhoe, “I have my life back. It’s normal again.”

In a recent trial of the Freespira device, 98 percent of the patients reported a reduction in panic attacks and 64 percent were free from episodes after the treatment. The device is not covered by all insurance companies.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer and Field Producer; Cortni Spearman, Assistant Producer; Brent Sucher, Editor and Kirk Manson, Videographer.