In 2004 I was officially diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It causes panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of terror when there is no real danger. You may feel as if you are losing control.
You may also have physical symptoms, such as:
Chest or stomach pain
Weakness or dizziness
Feeling hot or a cold chill
Tingly or numb hands
Panic attacks can happen anytime, anywhere, and without warning. You may live in fear of another attack and may avoid places where you have had an attack. For some people, fear takes over their lives and they cannot leave their homes.
Panic disorder is more common in women than men. It usually starts when people are young adults. Sometimes it starts when a person is under a lot of stress. Most people get better with treatment. Therapy can show you how to recognize and change your thinking patterns before they lead to panic. Medicines can also help.
NIH: National Institute of Mental Health
I can recall having my first attack when I was only 6 years old. I'm 49 now and have had panic attacks daily for years...sometimes 2 to 5 in one day! It can be very debilitating. Sometimes, I would wake up in the morning and already feel one coming on. To wake up that way really sets the tone for the rest of day. I wouldn't want to leave the house because I knew I'd probably have an attack and I didn't want to be embarrassed.
Some days I WOULD be out in public and I'd look like a complete unapproachable person. This was due to me internally struggling to keep my composure. Attempting to do this, can cause you to become extremely irritable and snappy to the ones you love.
Over the years I have tried just about everything to subside them; from prescription drugs to therapy. Nothing really worked. I'd STILL have them and with each one, I'd become more and more disappointed in myself and the methods I had chosen to deal with them. I eventually weened myself off the prescriptions as I was on three different ones and none of them "cured" me. Why bother taking them if they didn't help? The weening process was a whole other nightmare I lived through.
What changed? My mindset did. I literally threw my hands up in the air and said "Screw it, this is part of me".
and at that moment, I decided to embrace them. Instead of trying to fight them off, I let them wash over me. I'd have it and It was over. It got better for awhile....as I changed my eating habits, strength trained, added hiking, added yoga and I was meditating and writing in a gratitude journal daily. I finally was finding relief.
However, over time I noticed the frequency of them was returning. UGH! I KNEW there had to be something else going on. I can't explain it, but I just had a feeling something was causing this! There was no way I was doing all these things and having MORE panic! It was frustrating to say the least.
So, I attempted one last doctor's visit and discovered I was severely anemic. (Anemia is a condition where you don't have enough healthy red blood cells, to carry oxygen throughout your body.)
My anemia was so bad, I was having confusion, brain fog, fatigue, panic more often, and my heart was beating weird; which, (obviously) when that happened, would set off my panic! My anemia classification was a grade 3* which is severe; the next grade is considered life threatening. My doctor actually said to me, "No wonder you feel terrible, I can't believe you have been walking around like this for months!"
Once I corrected that issue, I noticed the panic attacks subsided to the point that I was having maybe 1 or 2 a month!
Wahoo! Sweet relief! I doubt I'll every be completely "free" of having this happen to be, but I can proudly say I have them FAR less I even went 19 months without having one!
Over the years, I have developed tools to help ground me when I feel one coming on.
Here is one trick you can try if you feel a panic attack coming on:
Describe 5 things you can see.
Name 4 things you can feel.
Name 3 things you can hear.
Name 2 things you can smell.
Name 1 thing good about yourself.
*According to the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health, anemia can be classified into 5 grades.
4 Life Threatening