Ok...you sound exactly like me three years ago after I had suffered my first panic attack. I went from running 40+ miles a week, traveling all over Europe, enjoying life to even being afraid to leave my house. It totally debilitated me for months and I was scared to do even normal mundane tasks that we often take for granted.
I was put on another SSRI like Paxil and it did help me a great deal as long as it is COMBINED with talk therapy. In my opinion, learning about the panic cycle and why think the way you do is the best way to break through and thrive with this. As far as the weight gain, there is alot out there about why it can happen, but for me I became more dedicated to an exercise routine and actually lost weight while on it. Regular exercise can also be like a natural antidepressant as well; it lifts your mood and can relieve stress.
Thinking about death is a very common 'symptom' in dealing with anxiety as well as it coming back. I had almost three years between bouts of anxiety and panic and it really floored me a second time, but because of what I learned talking a psychologist three years ago, I was much better prepared to deal with it. My suggestion is to find a really good therapist (i.e. psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, etc) that you are comfortable working with. By learning about your anxiety and confronting it, you will be amazed how much progress you can make. Also, please keep using this forum. So many of us have been EXACTLY where you are and really care how things turn out. Please keep us posted and feel free to ask as many questions as you like!
Perhaps, Amanda, the time has come and now is that you get some therapy along with those meds. But let's get our priorties in order here first, OK. That weight thing, for example. Surely you are NOT telling me that you would prefer to be physically fit and attractive at the expense of feeling well? True story for you: In my hometown, which shall remain unidentified (Cumberland, MD) there was a young lady of local fame who was very burned out on drugs. She slept on the court house steps, hung out around the same convenience store all day, hitching rides to other convenience stores. I would give her a ride every now and then and did a lot of mouth breathing when she was in the car -she stank! She carried a ratty, filthy blanket everywhere, and she, herself, was filthy and sunburned, and she stalked the director of the local mental health facility. Everyone knew her as "Crazy-------" (and I will NOT disclose her real name).
One day, a friend of mine came to visit and we drove into the local convenience store to fill up with fuel. And there was CrazyXXX standing by the edge of the parking lot. My friend gasped and said, "Who in the hell is THAT?!" And I told him the sad story. "Yeah," he said, but WOW, she is good looking!"
'Nuff said? OK.
So the deal is this: if you get things starightened out in the anxiety/panic and mental stressing department, then you will get your body back to where it should be. Here's another true story for you: I knew a guy in that same town who was a successful and well-liked businessman. But he had panic and anxiety -would even fall to the ground when he was "hit" by a panic storm. His life, he said, was out of control; he was obsessed with thoughts of death and dying and wilted whenever he had to make presentations before a group. He found excuses not to fly anywhere -and his job required some of that. He had all the tests to rule out independent physical causes; his heart was fine, his lungs were fine, HE was fine -only, he wasn't. Finally, he went to see a psychiatrist whose gave him some meds and started a program of therapy. He gained weight -in fact, he added about 100 lbs! But eventually, he started getting better; he could fly again, and function more easily in group settings. And then, he started to lose weight and in one year the 100 lbs was gone. He became fit -even muscular. He spent some time at the gym, learned some martial arts and did more physical things. Today he's a happy camper. Sure, there's a bit of that middle age spread going on and he'd like to take off another 10 or 15 lbs, but his doctor says he's a fine physical specimen and healthy as a horse. And he feels healthy, is active and happy. That guy -is ME.
'Nuff said, again?
The point is this: messing around with various medications, trying this and trying that is OK, but if what you want is results, then get ON PROGRAM. Start the therapy, dig down, figure out what's going on. Put the weight issue on the back burner, and out the brain on the front burner. First things first; take charge, get moving.
For background, check out my journal entries, because I've written quite a lot about this stuff. In particular: "Meet the Panic Family," "On Death and Dying," "East Meets West," and "Where is it Coming From?"
And help some folks here, and keep us up to date. You can get through this.