It’s a sunny, beautiful day here in Panama City, Florida.
With temperatures between 63 and 80 degrees, who could find fault?
I’m getting over a rare case of the common cold. It’s been years since I’ve let myself catch that particularly nasty social bug.
I wash my hands a lot.
When I’m out and about, I clean my hands with antibacterial soap immediately upon getting back into my van.
And, I make a conscious effort to not touch my face with my hands, until I’ve washed them properly.
Nevertheless, I somehow missed killing whatever viruses that caused me to get sick.
Speaking of being sick…
Let’s talk a little about a serious ailment that some people may have without knowing it, or have and are ashamed to admit it: panic/anxiety disorder.
If you’ve ever had a panic-anxiety attacks, you know it’s an explosive, frightening, and overwhelming experience.
I started getting them in my late 20’s. The episodes would strike suddenly, without any warning signs that they were coming.
My panic-anxiety attack symptoms:
- my heart would race like I was having a heart attack.
- I could hardly breathe, or catch my breath.
- I’d became dizzy, light-headed,
- and was afraid if I passed out, I’d die while unconscious.
And, worse yet for a guy with a huge dose of Type A personality, there was absolutely nothing I could do to control any of those symptoms.
Although the episodes only lasted a few minutes, they left me shaken, weak and increasingly worried about having another one. Panic-anxiety attack symptoms
Although I was scared, for some dumb reason, I felt embarrassed to talk about it.
Other than during the attacks, I couldn’t come up with supporting ‘sick’ symptoms.
Kinda hard to explain being scared witless, without having facts to back you up, isn’t it?
Nevertheless, after having yet more attacks, feeling sheepish, but afraid, I finally carried myself to a doctor I hadn’t seen in years.
So began the rounds of medical testing.
It’s good science to methodically eliminate possible causes, before you can reach a reasonable diagnosis. I knew that, but it didn’t make me any happier during those weeks and months that followed.
Eventually, I was diagnosed as having PTSD.
Panic attacks aren’t the only symptom of PTSD (post-traumatic-stress-disorder).
In my particular case, it seems that the PTSD triggered my attacks. Still not sure how the two are related.
Yet, whether a lucky guess, or brilliant doctoring, these many, I’m talkin’ many, years later, I’ve had no other full-blown panic-anxiety attacks…
In my case, treatment was, and is, daily medication.
Because PTSD treatment was fairly new back then, finding medication that worked for me wasn’t easy.
By chance, my doctor turned out to be a truly wonderful, caring man whom I trusted, and more importantly liked and respected as a human being. Still miss that good man…
He studied my case and prescribed…pills!
Even then I hated taking pills. Yet, I swallowed up those experimental pills, no questions asked.
As doctor predicted, the effects of some of those early drugs we tested, weren’t much better than the panic attacks.
I still remember the one which made me feel kinda ‘mellow’. But, on the same time, I couldn’t ‘speak’ the words I wanted to say. I could ‘see’ them in my mind, yet they wouldn’t come out.
You’ve no idea how frustrating that was to someone who fancied himself the king of quick quippers…
Then there was a drug which gave me visions and helped me see things not seen by others present. Uh, sorta liked that one, in a weird, self-destructive kinda way.
Despite setbacks, my doctor was adamant the best treatment was through medication. And, eventually he found one that didn’t immediately trigger mental bedevilment, or cause my body to wig out.
After some tinkering with dosage, which I sometimes must do, I’m still taking that same prescription…
Which, I guess, is the downside of my treatment: I’ve not been able to get off that med.
And, I have tried to live without taking this PTSD drug prescription.
Seriously dangerous to cold turkey this class of drug. You should be under professional health supervision while you taper off in measured installments.
With me, when the drug’s residual gets below a certain level in my body, stressful feelings and anxiousness builds up inside me.
Worse though, is how these feelings are quickly followed up with really unpleasant thoughts of anger. Because anger is an expression of fear, this makes sense.
June and July, 2010, was the last time I tried to end this particular chemical dependence.
Another experiment in disaster. It culminated with me ‘this close’ to laser beaming an innocent cashier at my local Pet Smart store.
Regretfully, it looks like I’m stuck with this prescription for life. Thankfully, the script worked back when Dr. Dayton found them, and are still working for me now.
For that, I’m grateful.
Along with the chemical treatment for PTSD, I also have to watch for signs of stress.
Exercise, plenty of sleep and a healthy diet, also make a difference with how I feel and help control symptoms.
Panic-anxiety attacks are serious, possibly life or death issues. Knowing the symptoms could help determine whether you’re having, or have had, a panic-anxiety attack, or if something else is going on.
As with most things, panic attacks, affect different people in distinct ways. Yet core symptoms are universal enough that, once you know them, you should be able to decide if you need medical help.
Core panic-anxiety attack symptoms:
- Feelings of fear, terror
- Pounding heart
- Shortness of breathe, can’t get enough oxygen
- Excessive sweating
- Weakness, numbness
- Feelings of dizziness, lightheaded. Feel faint, about to pass out
Many people having symptoms of an attack say they feel short of breath, or as if they’re choking.
Even though those suffering through an attack aren’t experiencing any physiological problem preventing breathing, the sense is being breathless, or being smothered, feels quite real and is frightful.
Chest pain is frequently a panic-anxiety attack symptom.
Sufferers may experience a tightening of the chest, an accelerated heartbeat and other associated sensations when they’re in the midst of a panic attack.
Many anxiety attack sufferers having felt these sensations, believed they were experiencing a heart attack.
These feelings tends to escalate the intensity of the attack even more. Which produces a vicious cycle of increasing panic, and so on…
Some panic attack victims will experience shakes or tremors.
They may feel a sudden change in body temperature. They might sweat, and feel like they have a fever. Others may get chills and shiver while they’re undergoing attacks.
There’s no real physiological basis for the experiences. Instead, it’s completely related to the psychological condition of the individual.
However, the involuntary movements are very realistic, and are downright scary.
Dizziness, a sense of lightheadedness, or imbalance, is also common during anxiety attacks. These feelings could be particularly dangerous, as the sense of dizziness can make us fall.
Some people having an attack may feel an incredibly intense sense of foreboding and a body tremor. Others may break into a cold sweat and feel their heart beating faster as they gasp for air.
Similarities aside, specific symptoms are unique unto the individual.
If you’ve had any of the symptoms listed here, you may want to consider consulting with a medical professional soon.
With appropriate care, most people with panic-anxiety disorders, can find ways to manage the problem while living a productive, satisfying life.
Yet, if left untreated, panic disorders can become debilitating and cause both physical and mental problems.
There’s no shame in getting help. And, these types of medical conditions rarely carry a social stigma.
My many, many, years without any panic-anxiety attacks, makes me think you too can survive and flourish with proper diagnosis and treatment.
If you need it, get help!
As usual, we’ll remind you… “I don’t know anything for certain and I’ve no advice about anything. My role is reporting upon my research and sharing personal stories with you.
Still, I hope to inspire you to take personal responsibility for whatever’s going on in your life. And to remind you that your attitude makes a difference.
Attitude is also a personal choice.
Ideas for me, your aging related story, or comments are always welcome…