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panic disorder

Hi, my name is Cori, I am 19 years old and I live with my parents because I have extreme panic attacks and agoraphobia.  I was on Valium for a year, most of that year I spent tapering it, and I have little to no memory of that year.  For that reason, I am searching for alternative therapies to conquer this anxiety and agoraphobia that is greatly affecting my life.  

I have panic attacks centered around the idea of having an anyeurism, even though I have had a CT scan, MRI, and advice from two doctors who have both diagnosed me with migraine headaches, and no symptoms of an anyeurism.  The panic attacks become unbearable during the course of the migraines.  I also have fears of fainting, loud snap-like sounds occurring in my head (only a fear, not an occurrance), and death during these panics as well.

When I experience multiple panic attacks, I feel unable to drive or go anywhere outside my house with my parents, and it takes me a few weeks to get the courage to leave the house again.

I have an extreme fear of driving, as I have lost 4 friends to driving accidents.

I am currently searching for a psychologist who will help me work through these fears without the help of any medicines, though this is proving to be a difficult thing to find!  I have applied for a bio-feedback program nearby where I live.  Has anyone had experience with that type of therapy?

While I admit my life is largely disrupted by this panic disorder and agoraphobia, I am not suicidal or depressed, I am actually quite hopeful when I look back on myself 4 months ago, I have made progress and have been able to hold a job as a waitress.  I am confident that with the right help, I can overcome this...  So any advice you can offer me as to non-medicinal therapy, or personal experience, I will listen to with an open mind.  Thank-you!

-Cori, FL
24 Responses
242532 tn?1269553979
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
You are already on exactly the right pathway, finding a therapist to help you work this through. I would prefer you find a therapist who has a dynamic and cognitive approach rather than bio feedback alone. Get that therapist...that is your answer.
Avatar universal
HELLO THERE..
  I'M 35YRS YOUNG; AND I TOO SUFFER FROM PANIC ATTACKS/AGORPHOBIA. I SAID "SUFFER"; BUT THAT IS HARDLY THE CASE ANYMORE...
  I'LL TELL YOU A LITTLE BIT ABOUT MY EXPERIENCES & WHAT HAS HELPED ME. MY FIRST MEMORIES OF THESE ATTACKS WERE IN 2ND GRADE. I REMEMBER IF I GOT CALLED TO GO UP TO THE TEACHERS DESK OR HAD TO SIT WHERE EVERYONE IN CLASS COULD SEE ME, I WOULD INSTANTLY GET VERY DIZZY AND FEEL AS THOUGH MY EAR WENT DEAF OR WAS POPPING, OR HEAR A LOUD SNAPPING NOISE IN MY NECK.. THEN I WOULD HANG ON TO SOMETHING OR THE TEACHERS DESK(CAUSE I'DE FEEL LIKE I WAS GOING TO PASS OUT)I WOULD GET SO AFRAID OF THAT HAPPENING AGAIN THAT I EVENTUALLY STARTED TO WITHDRAWL FROM SOCIALIZING AND WOULD SIT IN BACK OF THE CLASS...TO LET YOU KNOW..I WAS A STRAIGHT A' STUDENT,AND AM NOT 'CRAZY' OR UNINTELLIGENT. I SAY THAT BECAUSE SO MANY PEOPLE ARE UNEDUCATED ABOUT THIS DISORDER;AND WANT TO PERCIEVE PEOPLE WITH IT, AS 'CRAZY' OR STUPID'.
FINALLY IN 6TH GRADE I WAS TAKEN TO THE DOCTORS BECAUSE MY PARENTS THOUGHT I WAS ON STREET DRUGS...THEY HAD NO CLUE WHAT PANIC ATTACKS WERE. THE DOCTOR GAVE ME A MILD TRANQUILIZER; AND SAID I WAS JUST A NERVOUS PERSON.
AS I BECAME AN ADULT I THOUGHT I WAS GOING CRAZY...I WOULD HAVE SUDDEN ATTACKS WITH MY HEART RACING, AND SWEATY HANDS AND HYPERVENTILATE, AND ALSWAYS STARTED CHOKING ON MY FOOD DURING A MEAL...WENT TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM ATLEAST A DOZEN TIMES; AND I WOULD SAY I WAS HAVING A HEART ATTACK!! WELL ...NEVER HAD A HEART ATTACK,AND NEVER QUIT BREATHING; AND NEVER PASSED OUT...JUST ALWAYS FEELS LIKE IT.
  ONE OF MY LAST 'BIG ATTACKS' WAS IN CALIFORNIA AT THE DR. PHIL SHOW..I WAS A GUEST AND SITTING IN THE 2ND ROW WITH THE AUDIENCE;SUDDENLY THE SHORTNESS OF BREATH AND SWEATY HANDS CAME..THEN THE AUDIENCE(AND MYSELF) WERE ASKED TO STAND UP AND CLAP OUR HANDS AS DR. PHIL CAME ON STAGE. I JUST WAS FROZEN IN FEAR OF PASSING OUT AND THOUGHT I WAS DYING OF A HEART ATTACK. THE CAMERA MAN WAS SIGNALING FOR ME TO STAND UP AND I COULDN'T. I WAS FREAKING OUT AND WENT 'RACING' OUT OF THE AUDIENCE WHILE HANGING ON TO CHAIRS AND PEOPLE BECAUSE I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO FALL OVER AND PASS OUT..THEN I WAS SEEING 'TUNNEL' VISION AND IT SEEMED LIKE IT WAS GETTING DARK...THAT WAS IT...I GRABBED A SECURITY OFFICER IN THE BACK OF THE ROOM AND YELPED FOR AN AMBULANCE AND TOLD HIM I WAS DYING...THEY PUT ME IN THE 'GREEN ROOM'(THIS IS WHERE DR.PHIL AND HIS GUEST SIT BEFORE THE SHOW BEGINS TAPING)THE LOS ANGELOS FIRE DEPT. WAS THERE IN MINUTES AND A 'STUDIO' NURSE WAS AVAILABLE IMMEDIATLY...THANK GOD FOR THE NURSE!! SHE IMMEDIATLY GRABBED MY HANDS AND TOLD ME TO LOOK AT HER IN THE EYES AND BREATHE WITH HER...SO NEXT THING WE DID WAS BREATHE VERY SLOW FOR A FEW MINUTES...AS I REGAINED MY COMPOSURE, THE NURSE AND PARAMEDIC ASKED ME MY MEDICAL HISTORY. I TOLD THEM THE PRESCRIPTIONS I WAS TAKING(NONE FOR THE PANIC ATTACKS AT THE TIME)..THEY TOOK MY PULSE AND BP. BLOOD PRESSURE WAS VERY HIGH...WITH IN 20 MINUTES I WAS BACK TO 'NORMAL', AND VERY EMBARASSED TO SAY THE LEAST. THE NURSE TOLD ME AFTERWARDS THAT SHE KNEW IMMEDIATLY THAT I WAS HAVING A PANIC ATTACK. THAT IS WHY SHE KNEW TO 'DISTRACT' ME WITH HER BREATHING TECHNIQUE; AND TREATED ME WITH VERY MUCH COMPASSION...THAT IN ITS SELF HELPED ME RECOVER QUICKLY...
SO NOW I WILL SAY THIS MUCH HAS HELPED ME IN MY LIFE TODAY...1)EDUCATING MYSELF ON THE DISORDER; SO I UNDERSTAND WHAT MY BODY IS GOING THROUGH..WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR BODY; IT HELPS YOUR MIND...IF YOU HAVE CONTROL OF YOUR MIND...YOU THEN CAN CONTROL YOUR BODY. 2)I TAKE A VERY LOW DOSAGE OF XANAX EXTENDED RELIEF. IT SEEMS TO TAKE THE EDGE OFF OF MY NERVES AND HAVE BARELY HAD A PANIC ATTACK IN 2 YEARS. I KNOW XANAX IS ADDICTING AND NOT A PERMANENT SOLUTION, BUT FOR NOW....IT'S A LIFE SAVER. 3)REGULAR THERAPY AND THE THERAPIST HAS TOUGHT ME TO RELAX MY MIND WHEN I FEEL THE ATTACKS COMING. HE ALSO SHOWED ME A LITTLE TECNIQUE THAT SOUNDS CRAZY BUT ACTUALLY WORKS...WHEN YOU FEEL THE ATTACK COMING; YOU CAN PINCH YOUR FINGER TIPS OR PRESS YOUR FINGER NAIL INTO THE TIP OF YOUR FINGER. JUST DO IT HARD ENOUGH TO DISTRACT YOURSELF FROM THE ATTACK. THE PINCHING OR THE NAIL IN THE FINGER TIPS WILL GIVE YOU A 'PAIN' SIGNAL TO YOUR BRAIN(THIS IS NOT TO HURT YOURSELF IN NO WAY), AND THEN THAT WILL DISTRACT THE PANIC ATTACK FROM COMING ON AS STRONG. 4) LIFT WEIGHTS OR RUN...SOMETHING AS VIGOROUS AS POSSIBLE FOR 10 MINUTES 2XDAILY..IT REALLY HELPS..5) A 'SAFE' PLACE OR SAFE PERSON...I HAVE A FRIEND FOR 10YRS,AND HE GREW UP WITH A YOUNGER BROTHER WITH PANIC DISORDER THAT WAS CRIPPLING FOR HIM. JUST FOR ME TO KNOW THAT MY 'SAFE' FRIEND UNDERSTANDS ME WITH NO JUDGEMENT; MAKES ME FEEL SAFE AND AT EASE TO CALL HIM WHEN I'VE HAD ATTACKS. HE KNOWS WHAT TO SAY AND DO TO HELP CALM ME...
      I KNOW I'VE WRITTEN A NOVEL HERE...I TRULY HOPE I'VE GIVEN YOU AND ANYONE ELSE 'SUFFERING' A BIT OF HOPE AND ALSO A GIGGLE(I LAUGH AT MY DR. PHIL STORY).....JUST KNOW THAT YOUR MIND IS THE MOST POWERFUL THING. YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR THOUGHTS. I KNOW IT FEELS AS IF THE ATTACKS ARE REAL(AND WE DO EXPERIENCE THE FEELINGS), BUT TRY AND CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS....YOUR THOUGHTS WILL CONTROL YOUR BODY. ALWAYS TELL YOURSELF THAT YOUR HEALTHY AND ALIVE AND YOUR NOT GOING TO DIE FROM A PANIC ATTACK...JUST RIDE THEM OUT AND 'SELF TALK' WITH POWERFUL ,STRONG MESSAGES TO YOURSELF...IT WORKS!!!! GOOD LUCK!
Avatar universal
SORRY...I FORGOT TO MENTION ABOUT THE BIO-FEEDBACK. IT DIDN'T WORK FOR ME AT ALL; NOR DID ANTI-DEPRESSANTS. SEVERAL DOCS HAVE TRIED TO GET ME TO TAKE THEM...I DON'T DO WELL WITH THOSE. FOR YOU...I WOULD LEAVE NO STONE UN TURNED...TRY AND DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN; OFCOURSE WHATEVER YOUR DR. SAYS TO DO..i'VE NOT HAD ALOT OF GREAT LUCK WITH 'MY' HEALTHCARE DOCTORS(AND I HAVE REALLY GOOD INSURANCE), SO I TAKE IT UPON MYSELF TO EDUCATE MYSELF THE BEST I CAN...AND IT SEEMS THAT IS WHY YOU ARE HERE TOO..GOOD LUCK!!
Avatar universal
You can make it! Find a good psychologist and get started on some medication, anti-depressents that work for panic (Paxil or one of the older tricyclics). Don't use valium. Xanex will block panic attacks short term. Find someone who does cognitive behavioral therapy. Find out everything you can about anxiety disorders--sounds like you also have some obsessive thoughts which the meds will also help with. Read "The Anxiety Disease" by Dr. Sheehan and anything you can find by Claire Weeks. Find a support group of fellow panic disorder people. Start exercising.

You are not alone. You are not dying. You are not going crazy. You can get better.
Avatar universal
I know you said you wanted to do it without medication, but why? It is a chemical imbalance in the brain which medication can fix. If you were diabetic, wouldn't you take medication? If you had strep throat, wouldn't you take anti-biotics? Same difference.
Avatar universal
Thank-you for the replies thus far...

In response to why I would rather not take medication:  I have tried 4 different anti-depressants prescribed to me for anxiety, and unfortunately I had more adverse effects from all of them than I was willing to handle.  The psychiatrist thought this was a bit unusual in a patient, and stopped trying more medications for me.  Aside from other personal reservations against the medications at this point, I don't see them the same way that you do - I feel that diabetes or step throat can be potentially fatal, but that anxiety is not, as disruptive as it is, it's not going to kill me.  Of course I will keep my mind open, as I don't want this anxiety to progress to any worse level, but before I go popping pills to solve the problem, I would rather exhaust every other method first.
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