Panic Disorder: Panic! At Everything

One of the most common sensations that humans feel is anxiety. It’s what’s helped us survive all throughout history. But, as many things in life, too much of something can be bad. And anxiety is a perfect case of this.

Anxiety can help you run away from danger, giving you the right amount of blood and oxygen to anticipate it. But what about when you get up on a podium and have to speak publicly? As a comparison, anxiety is, in most common situations, an annoyance. Sure, a small amount can be helpful for focusing on a speech. What about when the anxiety becomes so intense that your mind blanks? Things can become even more complicated if your anxiety increases and causes more than sweaty palms and a trembling voice.

One of the hallmark signs of some of the highest levels of anxiety is a panic attack. Panic attacks are–at least, for me–one of the most horrible things that a person can experience. If you’ve had a panic attack before, you’ll probably agree with me.

Panic attacks are terrifying. They’re scary for the people that have them and worse for those who witness them. The best way I can describe my panic attacks is one of those heart attack scenes from every single medical drama there is. It’s much worse than sweaty palms. Your entire face starts sweating. Sometimes things become cold. Whenever I’m at my worst, my breathing becomes so rapid that my throat hurts. The scariest part of panic attacks for me is that I become so spaced out and uncomfortable that I just seem to blank out enough to be hard of hearing. Like I said, one of the worst experiences ever.

I’ve personally lived with panic attacks since the 9th grade, so I was about fifteen years old. It was difficult enough to try and fit in and make friends in high school. Adding panic attacks into the mix made finding and making friends more difficult. For the longest time, up until about junior year, I was distant enough to not hang out with friends outside of school. Even in school, I could be a bit flaky because my fear of having a panic attack in front of friends was so strong. I couldn’t bear to be around people at all when I was feeling anxious. It was one of the loneliest points in my life.

I’d gone to a psychiatrist before, and I was put on an antidepressant and was told that I had just Generalized Anxiety Disorder. But when my panic attacks became more persistent, my doctor finally decided to re-examine my condition and change his mind.

Things started relabeling themselves whenever I told him that I was afraid of being around friends when I was anxious–which was all the time at that point. That was when he gave me an official diagnosis of Panic Disorder. He started by giving me sedating medications usually used for sleep, but those didn’t work. After we’d exhausted all other options, I was given that small, peach-colored pill called Xanax.

It was a hard decision for my doctor, since Xanax is a known narcotic. But it’s one of the best choices he made for me. The medicine worked wonders and snapped me out of my forty-five-minute panic attacks in fifteen minutes. It even stopped some in their tracks before they could even fully happen.

It’s still been a long journey. I still have panic attacks, and they still suck, but after four years, things have improved. Even though Panic Disorder doesn’t have a cure, it’s easy to forget if it’s under control. When you have a panic attack, there’s an obligatory feeling of doom. Everyone who has a panic attack has probably felt it. But despite that feeling, the world isn’t going to end after or during a panic attack. Life goes on, and because of it, I’ve been able to make some form of peace with my mental illness. I’ve been able to channel that anxiety into something I love–creative writing. Finding ways to harness the anxiety like some people can to focus during a speech is essential for someone with Panic Disorder to heal.

It’s a rocky road, and things don’t always work on their first try. But one thing I’ve learned about people who suffer from panic attacks is that they’re the most resilient people in the world. Even though hope seems lost sometimes, the people who suffer from the worst always find a way to grab hope by the horns and make a better future for themselves.

How do you cope with Panic Disorder? Let me know in the comments below!




Edited by Viveca Shearin

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  1. Enjoyable personal disclosure about a condition that’s hard to understand when one doesn’t experience it. I have OCD and GAD but this article makes it easier to understand the extreme levels. I have had situational panic attacks, but only in one situation and I don’t believe it was to the degree you are describing. Kudos for the article describing the diagnosis and medication process! Your experience is the perfect example of how one can’t give up receiving help when the first diagnosis/med doesn’t work!
    I look forward to reading more of your work!

    1. Thank you so much! I love reading comments like these on my writing, especially when it’s something fairly personal, considering it’s a very vulnerable type of article, and I’m really glad you enjoyed it as much as you did!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story! From the title I expected this to be a standard informative article but with your life experience input, it was extremely insightful! Just like you said, having too much anxiety is not a good thing and in many cases it will affect a person ‘s life. I also have a lot of anxiety and get stressed for things that are unnecessary. This is something that you think is just in your brain, but can cause physical symptoms as well which I find very interesting. I get a lot of headaches when I am stressed and I get a specific shoulder pain only when I am under a lot of pressure. It makes me feel like I literally have pressure on my shoulder which is a really weird thing to think about because it shows how powerful our brains are. It is not good to be stressed at everything and panic, but it also shows that we are human and not psychopathic (which is a pretty nice thing to know). Thank you!

  3. While I do not suffer from panic attacks, I do appreciate getting a perspective from someone who does. It was quite a personal article, and I know it would probably help a lot readers out there. Though I would have also liked to know more of the medical background and causes of panic disorder as well; a short summary on the way the brain works through something like this, or why it does it. I actually looked up some stuff after reading this article, but would have appreciated a few facts sprinkled into the article itself.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience with panic disorder. I truly appreciate the first hand account of how this can effect other people as someone who has suffered with frequent panic attacks for most of my life, mine also starting around the age of 14-15ish. I do have a few notes in how you could improve the piece beyond just the personal anecdotes however.

    First off, I would like to say I am very happy that Xanax has been working so well for you. However I do think it would be important to note for those also coping with panic disorder and other alike conditions that Xanax is not the perfect cure of everyone. As someone who works at a medical office, a general practice physician who DOES NOT specialize in mental health, I would just like to stress how important it is for everyone to do as you had and go to a psychiatrist for this kind of medication rather than your primary care physician. It deeply troubles me how many Xanax, Clonazepam , Valium, etc. prescriptions I file daily that in my fairly educated opinion have not been prescribed by the proper person to get you the best and safest medication for a specific condition (I apologize for the mini rant but I just think that is so important and I am very glad you went through the correct channels and it is working for you.)

    As for some added information that I think could take the article from anecdotal to medically informational is some Intel on what biologically speaking happens during an anxiety attack. To be I think this is some of the most important information for both sufferers and loved ones of those with the disorder as it really explains what exactly is causing the wide array of crippling symptoms in an attack. I will link some further reading on this below.

    And lastly I would just like to say, fantastic title.

    Thank you again for sharing your personal experience with your attacks. That is a very brave thing to do and can be helpful for so many to relate to or even learn from. Fantastic article overall and hope you continue doing well.

    Biology of an anxiety attack:

  5. I love that you referenced Panic! At the disco in the title. It’s very amusing and grabbed my attention.
    I’ve often found that most of my anxiety is due to the amount of work I have to do, especially my coursework. It usually leads to procrastination as I relieve my stress over anxiety by avoiding work in pursuit of leisure to distract myself. However, this leads to more work to be done in a shorter amount of time, which leads to more anxiety. The most productive way is to try to fight the urge to procrastinate, which is easier said than done.
    I’ve had many panic attacks caused by procrastination to the point of having excessive workload that just doesn’t seem doable. I think the main issue, at least in my case, is that not dealing with anxiety and stress in a productive way forms a vicious cycle and one needs to break out of that cycle to get better.

    Do you feel like medication was the only cure or was it possibly curing the symptoms of your disorder where the underlying causes can perhaps be treated with cognitive behavioural therapy?

    1. Medication and CBT worked hand-in-hand for me, I think, but I do think medicine was the seal on the package for me, but I do 100% agree that CBT AND medication as treatments really do work to treat both the symptoms AND the underlying causes. That’s why I believe doctors prescribe both medications and CBT. I wrote an article for my school’s newspaper once that talked about the relationship between cases with just medications, just CBT, and then those with both, and I am a firm believer that although I do think medication has been one of the defining facets of me thriving, for some people, just CBT can work just as well. Both just happened work together to treat each issue and give me the best possible outcome. So I think you hit the nail on the head. 🙂

      1. That’s great! I’m glad to hear you’re doing well ^_^

  6. I first of all want to thank you for writing such a personal article, I believe that nothing helps people understand one another and connect than sharing a piece of ourselves. The fact that you are willing to put yourself out there in order to help someone else is both admirable and very honorable so I salute and congratulate you on that. And it is articles like this that really help people understand and empathize. However while reading about your personal experience was great and eye-opening, maybe a little more information about your condition would be a good added bonus. As a reader, the combination of personal experience and factual information helps a great deal to understand to a better degree.

    1. Thank you so much! I agree, perhaps I got a bit ahead of myself and forgot that not everybody understands the ins-and-outs of the science as well, but as they say, hindight’s 20/20. Thanks for the feedback 🙂

  7. I have had panic attacks since I was a young tern I also was ashamed and embarrassed. I was afraid I would throw up and so avoided being in situations that might cause anxiety. I had stomach cramps that were so bad that I had to get in the back seat of the csr.
    Now I know why I had panic attacks, for me, it’s entirely the autonomic failure, dysautonomia. My brain misinterpreted signals. The brain is where to look first for causes of these severe reactions. I’m good now, I have learned how to handle an oncoming attack but I’m 63, I’m still afraid of panic but I haven’t had an attack since I started taking a medication used mainly for seizure disorder. Good luck and thank you. I can share my tips on how I handle an attack another time. Breath deep.

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