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How David manages and reduces panic attacks with Muse

Julia Park
Customer testimony

Panic attacks are sudden, intense surges of
anxiety and fear that can severely disrupt daily life. Affecting 2-3% of adults in the U.S. annually, with women twice as likely to be affected as men, these episodes are not just frightening but deeply debilitating.

Symptoms include heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, and an intense feeling of impending doom, striking unpredictably and adding a layer of constant anxiety for those affected. The amygdala, a key part of the brain involved in emotional processing, activates this "fight or flight" response. It releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, simultaneously overwhelming the prefrontal cortex—responsible for clear thinking—and heightening physical and psychological distress during a panic attack.

Meet David, a 65-year-old member of the Muse community, who himself claims he looks more like a mob boss than someone who might suffer from panic attacks. But as viewers of "The Sopranos" know well, even mob bosses can experience mental health challenges. 

Using the Muse S Headband, David has found a way to manage his symptoms effectively, improving his quality of life and demonstrating that tools like Muse can provide support to those living with panic disorders.

David's journey with Muse

Can you describe the impact panic attacks have had in your life?

I can’t pinpoint when my first panic attack occurred, but it started over twenty years ago. At their worst, I was experiencing two to four attacks weekly. The frequency wasn’t the only thing that increased; the severity did as well.

I'm not talking about the kind of nervousness you feel before giving a speech. I mean a paralyzing, terrifying reaction that convinces you you're in mortal danger, even though you're safe in your bedroom. These attacks develop rapidly, reaching peak intensity within minutes and lasting up to twenty minutes. Although brief, their effects can linger for hours, sometimes taking two hours to fully subside.

The most profound effect of these panic attacks has been the constant fear of not knowing when the next one will strike. This vicious cycle started with my first attack, each subsequent one making it easier for the next to occur. This uncertainty dominated my life, compelling me to avoid everyday activities, what psychologists term the “Instrumental Activities of Daily Living” (IADLs), in an effort to stave off further attacks.

How did you discover Muse?

Once I started my quest to interrupt the panic attack cycle, I dove deep into researching potential solutions. I scoured online articles, watched countless YouTube videos, consulted with my doctor, and read several books. A major breakthrough came when my doctor recommended "The Body Keeps The Score" by Bessel van der Kolk, MD, which explores the body's response to stress. A specific chapter on neurofeedback particularly resonated with me. It detailed how EEG feedback could help individuals modify their brain's response to stress, leading to a calmer state. This was the silver bullet I was looking for. 

This prompted me to seek an accessible EEG solution that I could use at home. However, I soon discovered that most equipment was designed for professional labs and came with a hefty price tag. That’s when I discovered Muse. It was exactly what I had been searching for: an affordable, simple-to-use EEG headband that provides real-time feedback. Convinced of its benefits, I immediately ordered the Muse S headband in March 2022 and have been using it ever since.

LEARN MORE: What is neurofeedback and biofeedback? >>

How has Muse specifically helped in managing your panic attacks?

Despite years of meditation practice, I still faced frequent panic attacks. It wasn't until I read Dr. van der Kolk’s book that I realized I was missing a crucial element—neurofeedback, something the Muse headband is specifically designed to provide.

With Muse, I explored its features like feedback for Mind, Body, Heart, and Breath, and found my sweet spot with the Mind biofeedback using the Rainforest soundscape. This setup not only guided my meditation
but also provided instant feedback by varying the intensity of the sounds of the weather to confirm if my methods were truly calming. The detailed session reports showed progress in real-time, covering my mental calmness, bodily stillness, and heart rate reactions.

This real-time neurofeedback allowed me to refine my meditation techniques. Almost immediately, I noticed a reduction in the frequency and severity of my panic attacks. Over time, the benefits compounded. By the second month, I wasn’t just managing better; I was no longer constantly worried about when the next attack would hit. I started sleeping better, and while I still experienced attacks, they were less intense and less frequent.

In what ways do you find Muse different from other methods you've tried?

Before Muse, I tried numerous methods to alleviate my panic attacks, including herbal supplements, an external Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS), prescription medications, and other headband devices. None provided significant relief until I started using Muse.

Herbal supplements, while widely promoted, had little effect on me. Despite the promising research around VNS and its potential to modify neurotransmitter activity linked to anxiety and depression, the tangible benefits were limited. Prescription medications, particularly benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, and Ativan, are effective but pose risks of dependency and other side effects, which discourage long-term use.

What sets Muse apart is its focus on calming the central nervous system through neurofeedback-enhanced meditation. Meditation continues to be a method that research has shown to be effective and may be the safest long-term option for managing anxiety and panic without the need for drugs.

What advice would you give to someone struggling with panic attacks?

Don't give up, keep looking for what works for you. You are worth fighting for. Believe relief is possible—you can make it better.

For me, what's worked includes:

  • Being faithful to my use of Muse and regular meditations, which has significantly reduced the frequency and severity of my attacks.
  • Going softer, not harder. Instead of fighting the attacks, learn to manage your response, which diminishes their power.
  • Educating yourself extensively. There are numerous resources available, but it's crucial to choose those with credible credentials. I highly recommend Dr. Bessel van der Kolk's "The Body Keeps The Score," especially Chapter 19 on "Rewiring the Brain" which discusses neurofeedback.
  • Understanding your nervous system through Stephen Porges' Polyvagal Theory, which elucidates how it reacts to stress, danger, and safety.
  • Resisting the urge to self-medicate, which is a temporary fix that often exacerbates problems in the long run.
  • Reaching out for help. You don’t have to face this alone. Consult with your doctor, who can guide you to specialists like neurologists or psychologists equipped with the tools to help manage panic disorders effectively.

Can you share how you're managing panic attacks today?

While I'm not cured and still experience occasional panic attacks, I've developed a routine that effectively manages and mitigates their frequency and severity. My primary management tool is the Muse headband, which I use daily. My routine includes a ten-minute Breath biofeedback meditation after lunch for a midday reset and a more extended session at night. The nighttime routine starts with the Rainforest soundscape under the Mind section, followed by the Resilience Refuge meditation, totaling about thirty minutes, which significantly calms my mind.

Additionally, I wear a Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS) during the day to maintain a natural calm. This combination of neurofeedback through Muse and nerve stimulation from the VNS has proven effective in keeping my panic attacks at bay, reinforcing the importance of adhering to this routine.

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