GENERAL PANIC DISORDER

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panic

This blog could also be titled ‘you mean that literally anything, can set off my panic attacks?’ It would be an accurate description of my thought process, but sounds a little clumsy. On one of my previous blogs, I wrote about my panic attacks and using a low dosage of anti depressants to help control them. These panic attacks were always triggered by the worry, that my life was somehow in imminent danger. They initially started around 15 years ago. The first time I ever experienced one, was after inadvertently eating a chocolate brownie that contained nuts and having a sudden, illogical worry that I was fatally allergic to nuts.

I had read an article in a newspaper earlier that day, about a woman who had an anaphylactic reaction to eating nuts and had tragically died. I have never liked nuts and they had always made my mouth feel tingly and weird if I ate them, so I just avoided them. I wasn’t, to my knowledge, actually allergic to them. That evening I ate the brownie and had what I thought was an allergic reaction. My lips tingled, my tongue felt bigger than usual and my heart was racing. I was sweating, yet cold at the same time and I could not catch my breath. Alarmed P rang NHS direct and was told to get me to hospital immediately.

He jumped red lights, broke the speed limit and as soon as I arrived I was treated by a doctor, who gave me a dose of anti histamine and a shot of adrenaline. By this point, I actually feared the end was near. This was only exacerbated, when I managed to go to the loo. I sat down for a pee and nearly passed out, I felt even worse, than when I had eaten the nut. ‘So this is how it ends?’ were my thoughts, ‘in a dimly lit toilet in a hospital in Swindon.’ Swiftly followed by ‘sod that I am not being found with my knickers round my ankles.’ With a huge effort, I got up and staggered back to the ward to die on my husband, a much more pleasant way to go. Instead I was greeted by a Doctor who cheerily asked me how I was feeling. ‘Much worse, in fact I think I’m about to die,’ I added dramatically. She patted my head and apologised profusely, apparently it was just the adrenaline making me feel that way and someone should have explained that to me. Phew!

It was later explained, although I would be kept over night for observation, I had had, in all likelihood, a panic attack. I would need to be allergy tested for nuts, just to be on the safe side. Of course I was beyond relieved that my time wasn’t up just yet. What I hadn’t realised was, I had just inadvertently signed up for a lifetime of guaranteed panic attacks. For a good few years, they came only when I thought I had accidentally eaten a nut in any shape or form. It took over a year before I was tested for nut allergies and the mostly negative results did help a great deal (I had a tiny bump from Brazil nuts)

Unfortunately a few years ago they came back with a vengeance and any time I feared my life was somehow in danger, I went into panic over drive. Rationally, I knew that it was unlikely a tall building would suddenly collapse and fall on my head; but I still couldn’t control the symptoms. Even understanding that they were purely psychosomatic didn’t help, I felt powerless to control them. As per my previous post, they became so frequent and impacted on my life so much, that I took Citalopram for a year and that really did help. Right up until two months before my 40th birthday, when they returned but in a slightly different format.

Instead of getting a full blown panic attack and all it’s ensuing physical symptoms, I get a less physical, more mental reaction. They are harder to describe, but in short a terrible feeling of dread washes over me and although my heart rate increases, I don’t feel like I am going to die right there on the spot. Instead I just become hyper aware of my own mortality. Although physically it’s preferable to a full blown panic attack, mentally it feels much worse.

Before, I knew that I could wait out a panic attack and it would pass relatively quickly. Although it doesn’t feel like that in full blown panic mode, I think the body can only sustain such an onslaught of adrenaline and other symptoms for a brief period of time. This time however, the feeling of doom seemed to stick around for a good few hours and I’m at a loss as to how to distract myself from it.

So I turned to good old Dr Google and found that I now seemed to be suffering from a general panic disorder.  This means that I can feel panicked or extreme fear over just about anything. ‘Oh ruddy marvelous, how am I meant to make this one go away?’ Were my initial thoughts.After speaking to my doctor, I learnt that it is a not an unusual thing to experience at significant points in your life, ie turning 40. Great, so not only do I have to worry about wrinkles and my boobs hitting the floor, but now this as well? Fortunately a few months after my 40th birthday, these panic attacks vanished.

My mental health history isn’t that brilliant and I guess I’m probably just prone to these things. I am the first to admit to having a slight problem with hypochondria and definitely suffered with the baby blues after each of my boys were born. If I suffer a relapse, I would be happy to take citalopram again and would consider CBT. That said I would love some coping skills of my own. I don’t want these fears to carry on ruling my life and it’s time I tried to stand up to them. So if anyone has any coping methods, please do message me, I would love to hear about them.

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Should I take antidepressants for my panic attacks?

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This is another old post from my blog. The reason I am reusing this one is, several years down the line, I am now able to answer the question I have posed in the title. First of all here is the post from 2011. 

 I had an appointment with the Doctor last week, to discuss my panic attacks. I booked a double appointment and certainly made the most of it by bombarding him with questions. They were mainly about the panic attacks and my ever-growing hypochondria. I also managed to show him the giant bruise I had. It came from dropping a 2 litre bottle of  mineral water squarely on my foot. As every good hypochondriac knows, under the bruise there may well be a fracture, or possibly cancer of the big toe and it’s best to get it checked out by a professional! 

Cheeky doctor noticed that the bruise was in the shape of a bottle cap and said if he looked carefully enough he could just make out the word ’Schweppes!’ Anyway to cut what could be a very long story short, he prescribed me anti anxiety medication. ( For the panic attacks not the bruise.)  

I have suffered from panic attacks, on and off for the last 12 years and have always coped with them by myself. I never wanted to take pills. This time they have returned worse than ever. This time I do need help. I am not entirely sure why I have always been so opposed to taking pills? Maybe because of the side effects? I have always imagined they might turn me into a bit of a zombie. I am also ever fearful of taking anything that might lead to weight gain, because I am more than capable of gaining weight all by myself – thank you.I worry about the possibility of becoming addicted, if these pills do make me feel better, then how on earth will I manage without them?

I also worry about other people’s reactions, when they find out that I am taking a low dose of antidepressant. But most of all I worry about how it makes me feel. I don’t mean that it might make me feel nauseous or peculiar. To be honest with you, it makes me feel something of a failure. Rationally I know that’s a silly reaction, as the Doctor said, why not take advantage of a little help? He even told me he had prescribed the same medication already that morning. So I know that I am not the only one taking it.

One glance on Facebook however, makes me think that perhaps there really are only the two of us taking these type of pills. My friends and acquaintances all seem to be living the life of Reilly. There are new babies, exotic holidays, straight A student children, new homes and romances. I, on the other hand, am somewhat too fragile for the grown up world and need to be cushioned gently by Prozac. Even as I type this, part of me can see that I am being ridiculous and many things go on behind closed doors that we don’t know about.

No one, as yet, knows that I intend to take these pills, my Facebook status certainly hasn’t informed anyone of the fact. And that’s the problem, don’t you wish for a more realistic social networking site? Anxious Mums R US? Hypochondriacs Reunited? My life is boring.com. Somewhere you can announce to all and sundry that you are on Prozac, your child is a straight C student and that you won’t be going to the pub with your friends, as you only have 57p to last the rest of the month and even that was found down the back of the sofa. 

For now I guess I will have to content myself with telling only you, that I am suffering a bit of a blip and hopefully normal service will be resumed soon.

         I took Citalopram for a little over a year and I did eventually end up telling a few people that I was taking them. Mostly close friends and family. All were supportive and the pills did indeed work, so the answer to  my question was a a big fat yes. For now I am in control of the panic attacks without the need for antidepressants and I hope it will stay that way. If not, I will have no hesitation in taking them again. The attacks not only an unpleasant experience but they had a massive impact on my daily life.

         I found myself scared of almost everything, I worried about tall buildings suddenly collapsing on me. I convinced myself that I would suffer from anaphylactic shock should I ingest anything containing nuts. Even a hangover became a worry that my symptoms weren’t caused by overindulgence, but by some undiagnosed potentially fatal disease. I would wake in the night with breathlessness and convince myself I was having a fatal asthma attack. I would be awake for hours trying to calm down. The pills put a stop to the worst of the attacks, I wasn’t completely cured. I did still suffer from anxious moments, but I no longer lost sleep or worried continually that was about to die.  

Sadly I still don’t feel comfortable with telling everyone, I do wish people could be more open to admitting to the more negative parts of their lives. Then maybe I wouldn’t feel so inadequate, or feel pressure that my life needs to be picture perfect all of the time. So this post is my own attempt at rectifying things. Life is sometimes crappy and we shouldn’t be afraid of asking for help or sharing our worries by talking to others about them.