Anxiety – Panic Attacks Over and Over
Constant Attacks Can Become Your Worst Nightmare
Anxiety and panic can be a very normal response to a traumatic event; being attacked, losing a job or even worrying about such. An anxiety disorder is about current or possible future events. A panic disorder, on the other hand derives from an anxiety disorder- hence the nightmare.
Sheryl Ankrom, “Panic disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) . According to the guidelines, in order to be diagnosed with a panic disorder, you must experience unexpected panic attacks on a regular basis.” (Sheryl Ankrom, Diagnosing Panic Disorder According to DSM-5, Reviewed by Steven Gans, MD, in Very Well)
“A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart pounds and you can’t breathe. You may even feel like you’re dying or going crazy. Left untreated, panic attacks can lead to panic disorder and other problems.” (Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder, Symptoms, Treatment, and Tips for Overcoming Panic, Health Guide)
Eleanor’s story is about panic disorder:
Eleanor, “I’ve negotiated anxiety in the form of a panic disorder for the last 15 years. Twice, it’s tipped over into a severe depression—the kind that imprisons you in your flat, unable to do anything but watch The Simpsons on YouTube and eat Carr’s water biscuits. Will this be the time it makes me psychotic? Should I call an ambulance? How many sleeping pills would I have to take to sleep for 24 hours but not die?” ( Eleanor Morgan, journalist, author and MSc, This Is How It Feels to Live with Severe Anxiety, cited in Matthew Hunt, How Does It Feel? To live with Severe Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Troubled Relationship?, Counseling on Demand)
Now, Gila’s story- brief excerpts, “One afternoon several months ago, a friend invited me to come to her house to pick from her tree brimming with Meyer lemons, ripe and fat.
This decision was not as simple as it might seem,. My panic disorder made it a daunting one.
Come on, I thought, I should be able to drive eight minutes for free fruit. I weighed both sides- go and experience excruciating fear and physical discomfort, or stay at home and let another activity be slashed from my repertoire.
I could no longer teach, or stay at home alone. I could no longer drive, sleep, shop, shower, wait in any kind of line, eat at a restaurant, or sometimes eat anything at all. I couldn’t make it to therapy anymore, or sometimes even to the kitchen for a glass of water. Everyday activities went through an exhaustive benefit analysis. Was it worth the panic attack I’d endure to return a book to the library? After too many panic attacks at Trader Joe’s, I stopped shopping. After too many while driving, I didn’t drive. But the lemons were calling.
I sat in my car, gathering courage to turn the key. Sweat drenched the armpits of my thin t-shirt, my breathing grew shallow and short. I turned the key and my heart sped. I started driving, and dizziness and nausea clawed at my throat, threatening to blur my vision. I quickly pulled over, gulped some water, spilling half of it down my shirt, and turned the car around. It’s not worth it, I said aloud. It’s O.K., go home. I drove home, got in bed and didn’t get up for weeks.” (Gila Lyons, Read more of her story, When Life Gave Me Lemons, I Had a Panic Attack, in New York Times, disability)
More from Gila- her attempt to conquer it on her own, “I’d been diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder the year before, but I scoffed at the idea that my problems were hardwired in my brain or DNA. Although my psychiatrist and parents pushed me to take medications to control my symptoms, I refused. I had studied Eastern philosophy and devoured spiritual tomes like You Can Heal Your Life, which had me convinced that my mental-health issues were signs of a festering wound — a repressed memory or past-life trauma. I wasn’t sure what exactly, but I was desperate to find out.
I deferred entry to Wesleyan University and instead took a four-day train (add aviophobia to my list of anxieties) from my hometown of Boston to Sedona, Arizona, the epicenter of New Ageism. A reputed home to five energy vortexes—places believed to be especially powerful—it is the land of the health-food store, crystal shop, Reiki master, and aural photographer (they take pictures of your aura; mine was purple). For a naive 18-year-old looking for answers, it was Disneyland.
I twisted in yoga classes until my shoulders ached. I submitted to a massage therapist who pressed so hard that I couldn’t breathe or see. There was a chiropractor who added an inch to my height by tugging on my skull and the shaman who beat a drum near my head while I “remembered” horrific acts from past lives. There were astrological readings, vision quests, macrobiotic diets, vegan diets, Ayurvedic diets. There were flower essences brewed in full moonlight that I squirted on my tongue and a tea of herbal tinctures I drank before bed.
To stay out of the hospital, I agreed to take Ativan when I felt panic arising. It kept the attacks at bay and the anxiety manageable enough that I could finish my master’s degree in writing. But bad days made me realize I needed regular medicine.
I found a psychiatrist willing to prescribe tiny, 2.5-milligram doses of Lexapro. For months, I took it haphazardly, convinced my heart was stopping, my blood was clotting, that I had an ulcer—all side effects of SSRIs I had read about online. I worked my way up to 5 milligrams, then 10. My panic diminished slowly. Eventually, I was able to accept a full-time teaching position and get an apartment in Boston with my friends.
Prescription drugs aren’t a magic bullet. I have been in therapy for years and have benefited tremendously from that hard work.” (Gila Lyons, I Tried to Cure My Anxiety Myself, and I Made It Worse- I realized crystals and coconut oil aren’t the cure for serious mental illness. Cosmopolitan Magazine)
Both Eleanor and Gila found a way to reach out to a trusted doctor as well as a trusted mental health counselor. You can too.
This is where Counseling on Demand comes in.
We are at www.CounselingonDemand.com
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