The Wonderful World of Anxiety: Panic Disorder

My cute succulents ❤ I try to have images on everything, random as they are, as long as they are mine. 🙂

As we know, the tree of anxiety has many branches. They are intertwined together in different ways which makes them part of the tree. This week I want to bring Panic Disorder to the light.

Recap: People who have Panic Disorder have sudden feelings of fear that are repeated and last for several minutes, which are also called panic attacks. As defined in the DSM-5 it states that panic attacks are “an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes.” Panic attacks are a fear of disaster or possibly losing control when there is not real danger. Some people have stated that it felt as though they were having a heart attack. Most people with Panic Disorder dread the possibility of having another panic attack.

It runs in families, but like most disorders, some have it, and some don’t. In an article I read about the causes of Panic Disorder, one stated that “Researchers have found that several parts of the brain, as well as biological processes, play a key role in fear and anxiety. Some researchers think that people with Panic Disorder misinterpret harmless bodily sensations as threats.”

These types of medications are used when someone has Panic Disorder:

  • SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
  • SNRIs (Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors)
  • Beta-blockers (Can help control some of the physical symptoms, such as rapid heart rate.)
  • Benzodiazepines (sedative medications. These are extremely effective is decreasing panic attack symptoms. Can’t have a panic attack if you’re sleeping!)

Medications may take several weeks to a couple months to start working. Especially when starting on a low dosage. As always, medications have possible side-effects such as, headaches, nausea, or difficulty sleeping.

The only treatment option besides medication and therapy that I found was Psychotherapy. “A type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially useful as a first-line treatment for panic disorder.” This type of psychotherapy teaches you different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to the feelings that come on with a panic attack. Panic attacks can start to disappear once you have learned the way to react differently to the physical sensations of anxiety and fear that occur during your panic attacks.

The common physical symptoms people can get when approaching a panic attack are:

  • fast heart rate
  • difficulty breathing
  • sweating
  • chest or stomach pain
  • weakness or dizziness
  • feeling hot or having cold chills
  • tingly or numb hands

I was given the opportunity to talk to three different people about their experiences having been diagnosed with Panic Disorder. They opened themselves up to me and I couldn’t be more honored. As I did with the second post of the series, I am going to let them explain their stories to you instead of trying to myself.

The first question I asked is what their triggers were. They can be one thing, or multiple. Triggers are a stimulus that cause a reaction. With this disorder the reaction is uncomfortable symptoms and potential panic attacks. Here are there answers:

“School, large social events, money and I will lapse into panic easier if I’m emotionally exhausted”

“whew, more like what doesn’t. i can literally have a panic attack for no reason but here’s a list of things that have triggered me: being too full, shoes too tight, going in Walmart, being hot, being yelled at, filling out job applications, going in public period, making phone calls, losing my glasses, my kids crowding me, home school work, traffic”

“Loud noises & social situations”

When triggered, there are certain signs that show when you are about to have a panic attack; So the second question I asked is what are their symptoms which lead them to know they are about to have one.

“Sweats, rapid breathing/heart rate and if its really bad I’ll start hyperventilating. And my eye sight will start to blur and I will get dizzy/light headed”

“my shoulders get really stiff and painful, my face feels hot, my breathing is labored, my hands start to go numb”

“I get heart palpitations (I went to the doctor to get my heart checked out cause I thought I was having a heart attack) & I hyperventilate if I’m really upset. My chest gets tight.”

Because of the intensity of panic attacks, it’s important to know how to manage your stress and my wonderful interviewees gave us some suggestions on some fantastic coping skills.

“Hmm… that 7×7 breathing i said before if its minor. Or I also have clonazapam or however you spell it for the worse ones but those make me really sleepy so I’m limited to when I can take those. Sometimes I just sit in my car and cry it out with some deep breathing and I’m okay. Focusing on breathing usually helps me or watching a funny video on YouTube or something to distract myself. Usually they make me really tired after even if I don’t take the clonazepam because of the rapid heart rate and physical/mental toll combo”

“recognizing the physical symptoms helps a lot. knowing im not having a heart attack. i practice what is called grounding techniques which is basically just focusing on the physical world around you instead of the craziness in your head”

“Of course. & I do my best to practice mindfulness. Hot Showers are amazing. If I’m ruminating I’ll either write it down and try to work out what’s in my head, or I’ll try to distract myself (count how many doors are in the house etc)”

Even though it is difficult to explain to people, they found exactly how to say it. So the last question I asked was if they had something they wanted you guys to know about Panic Disorder.

“Its not as scary as it sounds and you aren’t broken! Also i dont like being touched or around people during mine so if someone close to you has it find out if they want you near or not and don’t be offended if they don’t, it’s nothing against you its just something very personal and sometimes being around anyone is super unhelpful”

“that it’s involuntary. people with panic disorder don’t wanna be this way. we don’t like that everything stresses us out. we don’t mean to be irritable. we don’t like that it can hold us back and put our life on halt. if i could wake up in the morning and not be this way i would.”

“id tell people to do more research if one of their loved ones suffer from it, because sometimes when you think you’re helping (“calm down”) you could be making them feel more alone”

I actually do not have Panic Disorder, but I want to share with you that I have panic attacks. My trigger is vomit or illness. Straight up heavy breathing, heart palpitations, I feel hot, I freeze, and go walk around somewhere to get medicine. After about 30ish minutes, I start bawling. It’s really odd. I have met people who are similar to me with that as a trigger, and it made me feel less alone.

Thank you to those who allowed me to interview them. Not only did you tell me your how it has affected your life, but you told so many other people who could be dealing with it alone and need someone. I am truly grateful to have the “job” I do doing this. 🙂 As always, you are not alone.

Bipolar Weirdo ❤

Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional. If you have mental health related questions, I highly recommend you seek a healthcare professional.

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