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PANIC/ANXIETY ATTACKS

I have suffered from the nightmare of panic/anxiety attacks since November 22, 1995.  When I use the word nightmare, I wish it were that simple.  You awake from a nightmare but you never awake from the horror of when an attack is happening.  First and foremost before I go any farther, please know I am not a doctor or in the medical profession.   I simply want to share with you my personal thoughts and information I have gathered on my own.

I honestly do not believe that there is a set pattern for panic/anxiety.  I do believe that there are many symptoms and guidelines set by the medical profession but they do not apply to everyone.  I think I have fairly classic symptoms:  shortness of breath, heart palpitations, tingling in my hands, brain racing 100 mph and buckets of tears.  On the day of my first attack, I literally thought I was dying.  I thought I was having a heart attack and at the same time, I thought I was completely going insane. I still do not know what brought these attacks on.  I have since learned it is a chemical imbalance in my brain causing them.  They came on suddenly and without warning and I have lived with them ever since.

But, there is good news.  There is help out there for you and you must seek it.  Most regular medical doctors do not know how to help so your first step should be to see a psychiatrist for testing.  This is where I believe there are various types of panic/anxiety attacks.  I believe there are the one's caused by the suppression of something your brain wants to forget (molestation, rape, etc.) and then, like mine, simply a chemical imbalance.  It is a fact that panic/anxiety is also an inherited problem and after discussing it with my parents, my Grandfather had them.  And, you may have to see more than one psychiatrist....the first one I saw insisted it was my sex life!!   This is an old Freudian theory that went out with the Dark Ages but I guess it was better than having him say it was my Mother's fault.  I'm afraid I would've had to hurt him if he'd said that!!  The second psychiatrist I saw did a battery of tests and we concluded that I wasn't suppressing anything so that left a diagnosis of chemical imbalance.

Due to leaving the area this doctor was located, I have found a wonderful medical doctor (there are some willing to treat this problem) who has a good understanding of panic/anxiety.   I am currently taking Buspar and Zoloft and have never felt better in 3 years.   Prior to this, I was on Valium and Paxil which helped but the "weird thoughts" would still come into my head.  Since the doctors don't know why the medicine works (they just know that it does), sometimes it takes a long period of trial and error to find the combination that will work.  But, as a sufferer, you have to also make your own effort to control these attacks once you get them under control by medication.  I've also learned what makes me feel anxious (trying to do too many things at once is my biggy) so I try to avoid it by stopping....and concentrating on taking normal rhythmic breaths.

Not only do panic/anxiety attacks affect you, they affect your whole family.  Unless someone suffers from them, there is no Earthly way they know how you are feeling.  My advice to family members and friends is just to be understanding and supportive. We can't just "stop it" and we "can't just think about something else".  The attack has to run its course and then we'll be fine.  Suicide has been known to occur because of these attacks and that's why it's so important to seek help.  Sadly, some people chose not to seek help and not to take any medication and for the life of me, I do not understand that.  There is help....I can't stress this enough.  I don't like having to take these medications and have been told I will probably have to take them the rest of my life but if they will, for the most part, keep me panic/anxiety free, then I'll gladly take them.

Fortunately I do not suffer from agoraphobia (the fear of leaving one's home, being in crowded places, etc.) but it often comes with panic/anxiety.  Since I don't have this problem, I'm not going to talk about it.

Sometimes I think panic should be left out of this problem.  To me, panic is seeing your toddler getting ready to step out on a busy street.  But there is only a fine line dividing panic and anxiety.  I am terrified of lizards but they do not cause me to have an attack.  I can be here at my computer or watching television and suddenly get this "feeling" so all I can figure is my brain is short circuiting (my medical term!).  The medication helps to prevent this.  It keeps the electricity flowing to all the points it's suppose to flow to instead of zooming over the top and missing.

This page was originally written quite some time ago and now the year is 2001. I am still on my meds and have definitely gotten better over the years. I still have what I call little attacks that come out of the blue and along with them the dread feeling of doom but the intensity has diminished by probably 90% from what it originally was. I now see that what triggers these spells are when I have been experiencing a great deal of stress. It doesn't matter if it's bad or good stress...just plain, ordinary stress. I will end this by saying that I accept this disorder but have also decided that it will not rule my life. You bet I get discouraged...you can even say I get down right angry when I've been having multiple good day's and then....WHAM....an attack hits but I go with it, have my cry and know that tomorrow will be a better day.

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