Wednesday, July 19, 2006


First of all, no one ever died from a panic attack. Maybe, if you're elderly and have a heart condition it's possible, I'm not sure. But as far as I know, this is something that happens when arousal in the brain triggers the body to either fight, flight, or freak.

Freaking seems to be a combination of wanting to get the hell out of there but feeling unable to do so. You feel Trapped. Or thinking that you will be trapped.

Public speaking is a perfect example. Say a woman has a panic attack when she's about to get up and speak. The heart races, her breathing slows, she feels dizzy. If she's had a little therapy she'll try to remember to breathe, perhaps take the microphone and sit, grab a glass of water that she's strategically placed on the podium for that purpose.

If she's had public speaking lessons she WON'T tell her audience, "Uh, excuse me, I'm having a panic attack." Instead she'll have a canned sentence ready to go that will buy her some time, like, "Let's all think of a possible joke we can tell on this subject. Go ahead, take a minute, I'm going to look something up." And she'll sit down and chill.

But panic is simply unpredictable. That's why it's panic. A person can have this once or twice in a lifetime, or it can become a predictable response to stress or bad news.

If you've been identity thefted, then panic is routine when a strange credit card company calls to find out why you've not paid anything on a bill that you've never seen. This can happen frequently, yet the sense of panic will not diminish each time, in fact in can get worse.

Does this mean you need medication?

Not at all. If you think you do, ask a doctor. But self-relaxation exercises can bring back your equilibrium, as can working a cognitive therapy program. I really will try to writing more about these things in the future.

For now, know that you don't have to panic about a panic attack, and you really don't have to go to an E.R.

It will pass in a few long minutes, no matter what you do. (Although your level of anxiety may not!)

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc


Anonymous said...

why the heck would anyone want medicine for that? ;) just kidding...
ppl are too keen on being medicated IMHO, besides that though all children and young teens should be taught the basics about breathing, visualization techniques to lower stress and anxiety... but too few are. oh, well.

Anonymous said...

i befriended this guy a few months back and recently he confessed that he has SAD (social anxiety disorder). any idea on how i can help him?

therapydoc said...

I tell people with social phobia (SADS is thought to be Seasonal Affective Disorder, something completely different) to get a therapist who knows cognitive behavioral therapy and social skills training. As a partner or friend, you can be a part of that therapy. That might help, too, but not all docs work that way, include others in the therapy. Family-relationship therapists do.