Tonight I would like to write about something that has run my life for so long: Panic Attacks. All I have to say is that if you have never has one, then you will never understand what one is. If you have had one, then you will never want to have one again. It feels like there is just a mental feeling of disaster, doom, fear, as if you are being chased, hunted, or enclosed and you need to run. Logically, you know that you are okay and that you shouldn’t feel this way, yet your body has now raised your blood sugar levels, pumping epinephrine, and every sense is enhanced your body into the ‘fight or flight mode’. Are you going crazy? Are you having a heart attack? So many questions fill your head. The more you lose control, the more out of control your fear grows. This can last 5 minutes to an hour.. Having one of these can make one question their sanity and if they want to venture out into the world again for fear of this feeling returning. The Mayo Clinic indicated the following symptoms :
Panic attacks typically begin suddenly, without warning. They can strike at almost any time — when you’re driving the car, at the mall, sound asleep or in the middle of a business meeting. Panic attacks have many variations, but symptoms usually peak within 10 minutes. You may feel fatigued and worn out after a panic attack subsides.
Panic attacks typically include a few or many of these symptoms:
- Sense of impending doom or danger
- Fear of loss of control or death
- Rapid heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Hot flashes
- Abdominal cramping
- Chest pain
- Tightness in your throat
- Trouble swallowing
One of the worst things about panic attacks is the intense fear that you’ll have another one. You may fear having a panic attack so much that you avoid situations where they may occur. You may even feel unable to leave your home (agoraphobia) because no place feels safe.
The continuous fear that you will have another attack is called Panic Disorder. At one time, panic attacks/disorder was just thought of as nerves or stress. However, it is now proven to be a proven medical condition that is caused by mental problems that produce physical symptoms. This can lead to the above mentioned agoraphobia which means you have the intense fear of leaving your home or a safe area because you are scared to have another attack. Many people develop co-dependent relationships on “safe people/person” or a “safe area”. Another thing that patients do it plan exits. If a desirable exit plan can not be reached, then more than likely the patient will not proceed into the area. People with panic disorder also may develop OCD- having to have certain objects with them to feel like they will be safe. I, for instance, always had to have my phone. If I ever went into an attack, I could always call someone and talk my nerved down. If I forgot my phone, that in itself would throw me into a panic attack. There are certain triggers for each and every one of us that may throw us in panic mode. My main problem is when I think I am losing control of a situation. I think the one reason why I never did drugs and rarely drink is that I never liked the feeling of losing control. I am a control FREAK!
There are various treatments to Panic Attacks/Disorder. One way is to develop coping mechanisms. Medicines are fine if your need them, however, in this day and age with medical care being so up in the air, you must rely on your self to help yourself. Therapy is one way you can help yourself. If you don’t have the means for therapy and many don’t, the best therapy is education. Educate yourself. Learn about your disorder. If you have a physical illness, you would do the same. The best medication is education.
If you choose to seek medication treatment, Mayo Clinic offers these options:
Medications can help reduce symptoms associated with panic attacks as well as depression if that’s an issue for you. Several types of medication have been shown to be effective in managing symptoms of panic attacks, including:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Generally safe with a low risk of serious side effects, SSRI antidepressants are typically recommended as the first choice of medications to treat panic attacks. SSRIs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of panic disorder include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva) and sertraline (Zoloft).
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These medications are another class of antidepressants. The SNRI drug called venlafaxine hydrochloride (Effexor XR) is FDA approved for the treatment of panic disorder.
- Benzodiazepines. These mild sedatives belong to a group of medicines called central nervous system depressants. Benzodiazepines may be habit-forming (causing mental or physical dependence), especially when taken for a long time or in high doses. Benzodiazepines approved by the FDA for the treatment of panic disorder include alprazolam (Niravam, Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin) and lorazepam (Ativan). If you seek care in an emergency room for signs and symptoms of a panic attack, you may be given a benzodiazepine to help stop the attack.
The one thing I find so very helpful, is the fact that if you share your fears, you will find that you are not alone. Starting a small support group will ease your fears and assure you that you are not going crazy. And you’re not. This disorder is very manageable if you put in a little effort. Like I said before, an educated patient can be the best doctor. Learn about your condition and learn how to control it.
A little food for thought: NEVER LET YOUR FEAR DECIDE YOUR FATE.
Peace be with you.