How Gisele Got Her Panic Attacks Under Control

Mental Health

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder


She appeared to have it all: beauty, youth, the perfect body, fame, a-list celebrity boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio and a $25 million modeling contract with renowned lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret.

But Gisele, one of the world’s most famous and highest-paid models, was panicking - literally.

She had her first panic attack in 2003 [during a bumpy flight on a small plane], and then she developed claustrophobia, and she felt guilty for having these problems when her life was seemingly going so well,” according to Cosmopolitan.

Her panic attacks got so bad she even considered suicide.

“I actually had the feeling of, ‘If I just jump off my balcony, this is going to end, and I never have to worry about this feeling of my world closing in,’” she said.

Now at 38-years-old and a parent of two with her husband, NFL star Tom Brady, Gisele is sharing through her new memoir how she battled and overcame panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.

Just goes to show you, depression is not the only issue that can lead to suicidal thoughts.

Now, What Exactly is a Panic Attack?

We often lump anxiety attacks and panic attacks together as the same, but they are not the same.

“They’re very different emotional conditions,” says Dr. Ricks Warren, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan.

“Anxiety is basically what we experience when we are worrying about some future event — anticipating a bad outcome that might happen. It’s often involved with muscle tension and a general feeling of uneasiness. And it usually comes on gradually. A panic attack is different. It’s associated with a very abrupt onset of intense fear because of a sense of threat happening right now, the fight-or-flight response that we’re hardwired to have in order to deal with immediate danger. It sets off that alarm.”

A person can have both anxiety and panic attacks, which is probably why people tend to discuss these issues interchangeably.

The National Institute of Mental Health discusses panic disorder as a type of anxiety disorder.

Panic attacks are characterized by a fear of disaster or of losing control even when there is no real danger. A person may also have a strong physical reaction during a panic attack. It may feel like having a heart attack. Panic attacks can occur at any time, and many people with panic disorder worry about and dread the possibility of having another attack.”

If you suffer from panic attacks, it may affect your quality of life. These attacks may be detrimental to the quality of your sleep, cause a loss of appetite (which could lead to nutrient deficiencies, lead to binge-eating (which could lead to weight gain and obesity), cause alcohol and substance abuse and many other issues.

It was suggested that Gisele take Xanax, one of the most popular anti-anxiety drugs in the United States, to cope with her panic attacks.

“Xanax is a fast-acting benzodiazepine medication. That means it brings about a big change in the brain in a short period of time. As a result, it is considered one of the most addictive benzodiazepine medications on the market today,” according to American Addiction Centers.

Gisele decided that she did not want to depend on this drug. She instead focused on making lifestyle changes.

“I had been smoking cigarettes, drinking a bottle of wine and three mocha Frappucinos everyday, and I gave up everything in one day,” she said.

“I thought, if this stuff is in any way the cause of this pain in my life, it’s gotta go.”

She also eliminated sugar from her diet and started practicing yoga and meditation to get her stress under control.

Her story really shows that leading a healthy lifestyle is not about how you look. She had a supermodel body but was probably poisoning her body with cigarettes, alcohol and too much sugar. And all of this appeared to be affecting her mentally.

(You should always consult a competent healthcare professional about whether you should take medication or not, but Xanax is said to be highly addictive).

Your Sweet Tooth May Be Causing You To Panic.

“The Standard American Diet, which is full of sugar and fat, does not necessarily cause anxiety but it does appear to worsen anxiety symptoms and impair the body’s ability to cope with stress,” according to a report from Psychology Today.

“Individuals who suffer from panic attacks, for example, are hyper-alert to signs of impending danger. Sugar can cause blurry vision, difficulty thinking and fatigue, all of which may be interpreted as signs of a panic attack, thereby increasing worry and fear. A sugar high and subsequent crash can cause shaking and tension, which can make anxiety worse.”

Nutrition is Key.

Although there is a difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack, a person may experience both. And it’s important to keep your anxiety levels low in order to prevent panic attacks.

According to Harvard Health, here are some nutritional strategies to keep in mind to keep your anxiety at bay.

  • Get enough magnesium. Studies with mice have shown that diets low in magnesium increased anxiety-related behaviors. There are a variety of delicious and healthy foods that are rich in magnesium. Leafy green vegetables (like spinach), legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains contain magnesium. Foods with fiber, like cherries, are also good sources of magnesium, and many cereals are fortified with this essential mineral. If you have difficulty eating magnesium rich foods, talk to your doctor about obtaining a high quality magnesium supplement. There is also some evidence that magnesium may be absorbed through the skin, so taking a bath with magnesium salts may improve your magnesium levels.
  • Get enough zinc. Having adequate zinc has been linked to lowered anxiety.
  • Get your probiotics. A study found a link between a diet rich in probiotic foods and lower social anxiety.
  • Eat your asparagus. It may sound odd, but a study with mice found that asparagus appeared to have anti-anxiety properties.
  • Don’t forget B vitamins. There are a variety of delicious, healthy foods like whole grains, legumes and green leafy vegetables that contain B vitamins (such as folate). Eat an array of these foods to calm your nerves.

“These ‘feel good’ foods spur the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. They are a safe and easy first step in managing anxiety,” says Harvard Health.

Finally, consider taking a comprehensive nutrient test. You want to make sure you have an adequate and balanced amount of all the feel good nutrients found in the healthy foods you are eating.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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