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Is this a panic attack ?
Q. I wish to have some advice if possible? I have been to the emergency room twice in the past two weeks. The first trip to the hospital I was diagnosed with a bladder infection and sent home with antibiotics, which I took till they were gone and that was fine, I thought About 2 days after all of the antibiotics were gone, I had another weird physical thing that took me back to the emergency room. After spending a couple of hours at the hospital, they told me that my infection was gone and I was probably just having a panic attack. WHAT ME NO WAY I'm just not like that. So, I went home and tried to relax but it continues to happen. I decided to try an acupuncturist and herbal meds she gave me and I think they are helping but today I felt it starting to happen again. WHAT is WRONG WITH ME?
SO, I went to Doctors on Duty and explained the whole thing to a DR. there, he gave me Xanax and said to go see a neurologist...Here's what happens to me: I start having a feeling of a total body rush and soon after I feel this I also feel scared that I might pass out. I tend to get extremely cold and sometimes shake and jerk uncontrollably while yawning through the whole ordeal. All of the people I've talked to experience panic attacks differently and I just want to know If you have heard of these symptoms? I really think it's something physical and think I will just die suddenly. I'm most afraid of this when my husband leaves and I'm home with my 3 yr old alone. Can you tell me what you think?
A. We are unable to diagnose. This does need to be done by your doctor as panic attacks can mimic a number of physical illness. From what you have written your symptoms can be typical of a spontaneous panic attack.
If you go into our research pages on our web site and check the research, 'An analysis of an uncued panic attack' you will see the symptoms you describe, including the fear that we will die from the attack.
It is important you do have a full medical to rule out any physical cause, but if no physical cause is found it is very important that you:
a. Accept the diagnosis. If not you will only increase
your anxiety and the frequency of the attacks may increase. When you can
accept the diagnosis you can move forward and break the cycle before it
actually begins. Having panic attacks/panic disorder is not a life sentence,
nor is it any reflection on you or your abilities.
b. Learn as much as you can about the attacks which will in turn lessen your fears.
c. Consider seeing a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. They can help you reduce your fear of your experience.
d. Be mindful that Xanax and all of the other tranquillisers are addictive and the addiction can begin with 2 - 4 weeks of taking any of these drugs. Withdrawal from these drugs include increased panic attacks and anxiety.
When you say "NO WAY I'm just not like that" you probably don't realise we all say this or a variation of it, 'This is not me, I'm not like this'! It is difficult to imagine that we could have this type of problem. There is a genetic predisposition for this type of attack and if one person in the family has them there will also be others. In our parents and grandparents generation it was never diagnosed and in these generations it can be very hidden and not talked about. The attacks were possibly triggered by your infection. Many of us develop the attacks following an illness. You are in an ideal position to prevent the fear, anxiety, panic attack cycle from developing. Don't hesitate to contact us if we can assist you further.
Q.I have what you have said are spontaneous panic attacks. They just happen any time any where and they can also wake me up at night. But my therapist tells me that 'spontaneous' panic attacks is just one particular theory amongst others. He believes this theory is wrong and thinks that I must have some sort of phobia that I am not recognising. He also says my night attacks are a result of having a nightmare. I know what I experience, but now I am beginning to become confused and I am beginning to doubt my own experience. After all my therapist is an expert.
A. There was definitely some opposition to the three 'Panic Attack' categories in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Number Four (DSM 4)when it was released in 1994. This manual by the American Psychiatric Association is the definitive Diagnostic Manual and is used widely in the USA and other countries including Australia.
Some therapists did question the validity of these categories, primarily because it appeared to be at odds with their own particular schools of thought and the therapies they provide. Irrespective of the other varying theories about Panic Attacks, the DSM 4 is correct. My own experience of Panic Disorder and the thousands of people I have spoken with over the years show that this type of attack is very real and without doubt does happen. Not only is there the personal experience of so many of us who have this type of attack, the research and the subsequent release of the DSM 4 confirms the scientific validity of these attacks. The sleep research also confirms that this type of attack is not a result of dreams or nightmares but occurs at the change of consciousness from dreaming sleep to deep sleep or from deep sleep back to dreaming sleep. Many people also report it occurs as they begin to enter the first stages sleep or as they begin to wake up.
Panic Disorder is not a phobic response and people are not afraid of situations or places but are frightened of having a spontaneous panic attack. A conclusion we agree with without reservation. Even though the attacks do occur for no apparent external reason, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the one therapy that has been proven internationally to be the most successful long term therapy. I would suggest you discuss your concerns in detail with your therapist. If your therapist does not agree with your experience and is not prepared to work with you on this basis then you may wish to consider changing therapists. Your recovery must be your number one priority. Trying to fit your experience into a model that does not recognise the latest scientific research and diagnostic criteria is going to mean an unnecessary and costly uphill battle in your recovery.
Q. Could you please steer me in the direction of articles/information dealing with people who have experienced panic while driving on the highway and subsequent avoidance behaviour? Any info on that approach? Thank you so very much.
A. There are various reasons why people panic while driving. The most common are : frightened of driving ie being in control of the car and/or the traffic : frightened of having an accident : Some people may have had an accident and may have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder : Some people have the ability to dissociate and can enter a trance state very easily while some people will become caught up in the 'what ifs'...what if I have a panic attack..what if I get anxious'
The last two points are the major reason people with panic disorder have problems driving. Most people with panic disorder have the ability to dissociate ie enter trance states. Driving, especially on the highway or freeway, means we are usually staring straight ahead at the road. Our gaze becomes fixed and without realising it we can go into a deep trance state very easily. People without an anxiety disorder can also go into a trance state while driving and this is known as 'highway hypnosis' eg they may get to their destination and not know how they got there.
For people with panic disorder the trance state can be a lot deeper. It can also happen while waiting for a red traffic light to change. People can experience a range of symptoms: 'nothing seems real', 'they don't feel real', they seem to be looking through a white or grey mist, stationary objects appear to move up or down, back and forth etc, they may have an 'out of body experience' and of course they panic, If this happens to you, it is a matter of learning how you dissociate and by learning to stop it as you begin to dissociate. As far as Panic Disorder is concerned we do agree with the international literature which demonstrates Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, with the emphasis on 'Cognitive' is the most successful therapy which gives long term results. We use a different cognitive approach based on a Mindfulness technique. This is how we and so many other people have recovered.
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