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essential thing to learn about panic attacks are the experience of panic itself. Once
it happens, a person's life changes dramatically. Panic attacks bring on
the fastest and most complex changes known in the human body. It is
experienced as overwhelming, uncontrollable dread, as if one is terribly
ill, about to die or lose one's mind. It drastically changes the the
functioning of major glands, heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, pancreas,
kidneys, bladder, eyes, and the largest muscle groups. Even violent poisons
or traumatic injuries have less effect. A cascade of stimulants and hormones
- adrenaline, epinephrine, glycogen, cortical, norepinephrine, among others - flood all the cells of the
body via the bloodstream. The impulse is to run, get out, or hide.
The immediate cause is
believing one is trapped and helpless, by some overwhelming threat.
While panic can happen as a consequence of crime or disaster, it doesn't matter
whether the threat is real. Often, panic happens after several weeks or months
of stress. It happens more often with persons who are very worried,
perfectionist, socially avoidant, or who have had abuse in childhood.
Heredity may play some part. What keeps panic going, and getting more intense
and frequent, is worrying excessively about it and strenuously avoiding
situations that appear to bring panic . Look up
Signs and Symptoms of Panic
Disorderfor more details.
Panic attacks masquerade as a
variety of medical disorders. Panic mimics some medical conditions almost
completely, causing years of misdiagnosis. These are hypoglycemia, complex
partial seizures, drug effects, heart arrhythmia and hyperventilation syndrome.
Panic partly mimics others: angina, asthma, irritable bowel, colitis, vertigo, mitral valve prolapse, post concussion syndrome, hypertension, postural
hypotension, and hiatal hernia. Almost everyone who panics believes they have a
serious physical illness, and go from doctor to doctor for several years as
symptoms shift. Yet panic is easily diagnosed by professionals experienced in
About 7.2% of all adults, or
1 in 15, have a panic disorder which is a
primary part of their disorder, (NIH, 1993). In any given year, about 1/3 of
American adults have at least one panic attack; most of these adults never
develop repeated panic attacks. This startling data means that a phobia/panic
disorder is the most common emotional disorder, more common than alcohol abuse
or depression. Phobia/panic disorder also has the lowest rates for seeking help
and finding it, about 22%. Phobia is the most common and the most hidden
condition at the same time.
After a few months of panic,
about 10% of people become housebound and unable to leave home alone. After a
few years, about 30% of panic sufferers have a loss of job, pay or job
responsibilities. Some 17% are at risk for alcoholism and about 40% risk a
chronic depression as life opportunities are cut off. A majority have marital
problems and much reduced travel and social life. The economic cost has been
estimated at about $2600/year in misdirected treatment, and about $12,000 a
year in lowered job earnings. For most, panic closes life off like a prison.
there's a 40% chance you had near relatives who were
phobic. You may have suffered early abuse. In addition,
there may have been a lot of instability in your home,
such as repeated moves or foster care. You have had the
usual childhood phobias - snakes, darkness, lightning -
and they cleared up by themselves. You may have had your
first panic as part of a school phobia.
phobia most likely started with a
panic attack about age 23, as if "out of the blue".
After a while you saw that only certain situations
brought it on, those in which you were trapped in some
way. Just before the first attack, you were likely to
have been under unusual stress, responsibility, or loss
of security. Then you soon started to avoid those panic
situations and to worry and dread going back to them.
Very soon you began multiple consultations with several
physicians to check out your alarming symptoms, which
shifted from year to year. By the end of the first year
you were already avoiding crowds, stores,
transportation, and closed
in spaces. There was a 10% chance you became housebound.
After 8 to 10 years of mostly misdirected treatment, you
found that periods of panic would be followed by 1 or 2
years of some relief, only to return stronger than
before. Because you still didn't know your condition,
you began to feel a bit alien and became good at hiding
you condition. You slowly began to give up on
friendships, social life, travel, work ambition and
other life plans. If
male, you began a period of heavier drinking, as a way
of self-medication. A kind of chronic, low grade
depression set in along with lowered expectations in
life. You started to get resigned to your prison.
20 or more years of having
found you could get by in safe areas or with a safe
friend, but your life became narrow and limited. You
became very dependent on your partner to travel. In
fact, your relationship got strained as your partner
felt increasingly helpless and distant. There was less
sexual desire. There was a good chance you had some loss
of your work role and impaired work performance.
Amazingly, you have not learned what to call your
condition. It has become a way of life, the way your
life has turned out.
it also turns up some of the time in other anxiety
disorders. About 30% of
panic attacks, particularly around the need to stop the
rituals of washing, checking, or cleaning. A good
estimate is that about 40% of those of who have
stress disorderdo have panic
attacks at least occasionally, and sometimes regularly.
These persons have undergone a major trauma such as
rape, assault, a natural disaster, combat, major
surgery, and early childhood abuse of all kinds.
exists in a person by itself, but is much more common
with the above conditions.
Panic attacks are associated with somepersonality
but is not essential to
their diagnosis. The avoidant personality is very shy,
sees rejection everywhere, and shrinks from people. The
obsessive-compulsive person is perfectionist and has
excessive needs to control. The borderline personality
is disorganized, quite vulnerable emotionally, and has
Adding natural alternative treatments for anxiety, panic attacks,
OCD, depression, ADHD, Eating Disorders, and phobias can make a big
difference in your life. We have spent years researching these programs
to help these disorders before they become disabling disorders.
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