Monday, October 20, 2008

Panic Attack Discussion

The following is a reply to the last letter I sent on youtube. What I did is break down the persons letter (the persons letter is in quotes) and my reply to that part of the letter is not. I hope it will be easy for the reader to follow along.
"Hi Brian-

I understand there are still a lot of things that you are dealing with and
I completely understand what you are saying. I agree that people in the medical field "should" be more sensitive but unfortunately they're not. There is no way for them to possibly understand what the sufferer goes through unless they have experienced it themselves."

My Reply: I would have to agree and disagree. Oncologists who treat cancer may not have had cancer themselves. Yet the person with cancer is treated as if they have a real illness.

"And of course, with all the people they see each day and all the different complaints, I am sure it's hard to stay sensitive when you hear it day-in and day-out from everyone. I think they become cold and I don't believe it's always intentional but I do believe that there could be more compassion. There are some that are doctors because it is their goal to "help" others but for many... it may have started out like that but it has become nothing but a profession. If only the world was a nicer place. :)"

My Reply: I agree, but I also would like to say that hearing it day in and day out is their job. Medical professionals should be held to a higher standard because they are not just a cashier checking us out at a retail store. When we are ill, sick and scared we have to entrust our lives to these people.

Teachers teach the same class to children in school day in and day out. They get the same questions asked to them over and over. Over and over they have to show children how to do math for example. The teacher can not just become complacent and on day six, third class, and ignore a child asking how to complete a math problem. The second a medical professional is just doing their job as a professional it is time for them to have follow up compassion classes or be removed.

"The word cure is different to everyone. For me, I don't use the word cure. I use the word recovery. And for me... it is not a destination but instead a point of being. I work hard everyday to stay in recovery. I keep my thoughts in place, watch what I eat, exercise ( to burn off excess adrenaline) and I don't allow my fears to swallow me to the point of avoidance anymore.

Years of personal research, I have learned that it takes a different combination of things to help different people. You really have to try different things to see what works best for you.

For me, it was a combination of CBT, exercise, and diet along with specific natural supplements."

My Reply: Recovery in the dictionary is stated as restoration or return to health from sickness and restoration or return to any former and better state or condition. I would agree that I am way better off now than 17 years ago when this problem first started. So if you take the time I had my first panic attack till now you could say that I am recovered or in a state of recovery. However I am not in a state of recovery if you focus on how I was before I ever had the panic attacks/anxiety start.

For many people who are recovered and/or cured they are not letting their fear swallow them to a point of avoidance anymore. However many are left living their lives not avoiding, but using their "tool box" of deep breathing or whatever their tool happens to be. You yourself said that you use exercise, diet and natural supplements, all are great and I know from experience they can help.

However many people have high stress lives, don't exercise and eating healthy is leaving the tomato on their burger. These people have not suffered from panic disorder and their is a good chance they will never have to deal with panic attacks or agoraphobia. So why are we different is my main point. I am looking for a cause or causes of the disorder. Especially now that the serotonin as well as the brain chemical theory is falling apart. CBT Map III program which claims a 70%-90% success rate states in their book, chapter 1, page 6 {Neurochemicals that may influence panic and anxiety include noradrenaline and serotonin. Although these types of substances may be present in greater amounts during the midst of anxiety and panic, there is no evidence to suggest that a neurochemical imbalance is the original, or main, cause of panic and anxiety.} Just so readers knows CBT Map III is used in the treatment of people with panic attacks by therapists.

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway is great and must be learned to help the person cope, but again I am interested in why this happens to us in the first place.

Mental illness is still a very taboo subject and it is my goal to not let it be one any longer. People with mental illness are still viewed by a large percentage of the public as weak or blamed for their illness. I recently said to my therapist that I do not completely trust the medical community because if this was 1965 I would be seeing a therapist and being treated for being a homosexual. I believe 1973 was when they finally removed homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. Yet in the mean time there were studies on lesbians that received shock treatments to cure them of their perversion. A little under 50 years ago they were trying experiments on people with schizophrenia by rubbing turpentine on their stomachs. Sigmund Freud use to give his depressed patients cocaine to treat their depression. Sigmund Freud later became addicted to cocaine and finally broke his addiction.

So when a doctor says to me take this SSRI it will make you feel better you have to remember I could shoot heroin and feel better it does not mean it is good for me. It does not address the cause. CBT also does not address the cause. Though I will say that CBT does help people learn to cope with the overwhelming emotions they have to deal with.

If you went into a dentist office and told the dentist that you have a heart condition the dentist may prescribe you an antibiotic a week before your visit. The dentist may also call your doctor to talk about if s/he feels it is safe for you to have a certain treatment. This is in complete contrast to what I have experience with dentists in the past and my current dentist. After explaining my state of anxiety and asking if I could be prescribed Valium before I had a root canal I was told "you don't need it." I was also denied nitrous oxide (laughing gas) because "I did not need it". Again the seriousness of the situation is not in many causes taken seriously and the patient is left dealing with a lot more emotional discomfort than is needed or not doing the procedure at all. It took me 3 years and 10 oral surgeon interviews before I found one that I trusted and listened to me. To that man I will be forever grateful. So I am not saying that all medical professionals are bad. I am saying the good ones are rare, but if you can find that gem it feels like a godsend.

"I did not reach my recovery by taking medications. There was a time when I thought I might need an SSRI - but quickly learned that it was not for me from all the research I did. When I learned that I would have to face my problems eventually without medication.... I thought...what's the sense of taking them? I also learned that people who do the CBT without meds have less of a chance of relapse.

This sounded real good to me but at the same time it was a very real, scary reality and these facts pushed me hard to practice everyday.

I am not suggesting that "doing" is what caused me to find recovery.
It was the "doing" along with telling myself the truth even though my symptoms told me otherwise. I felt like I was lying to myself.

My doctor gave me Ativan and told me to take them 3 x's a day for 10 days. I knew ahead of time they could be potentially addictive and so I did not follow his directions- Instead, I took them ONLY when when I felt I needed one. In the process of my therapy, I never finished that prescription and the ones I had left in the bottle became so old they literally disintegrated into powder."

My Reply: I do the same thing with my Xanax I take half of the dose they told me to take because though I am aware I am hooked to them right now coming off will be a lot easier than if I was taking the full dose. I completely understand why you handled the Ativan in that manner.

"There are many natural things that can help balance your brain chemicals. Even CBT has been proven to change the chemical imbalance in the brain during panic/agoraphobia and other mental illnesses. Margo Kidder ( an older actress) is an advocate of natural- alternative mental health. You might want to check their site for some helpful information- They talk alot about diet and supplements - Like I said - for everyone, it's different.... you need to find a combination of things that work for you along with CBT. Do not give up."

My Reply: Again I would like to point out that the balancing out of brain chemicals is becoming a myth of the past when it comes to panic disorder. People seem to do just as well with placebo drugs as they do with the real drug. Now before people then say "well then see it is all in the persons mind" I would like to tell you a story about something called placebo surgery.

People took part in a study were they had a bad knee. The damage was visible on x-rays or CT scans. Everyone in the group had a pre-op exam. Everyone in the group was taken to the O.R. and was put under anesthesia. Everyone in the group then had an incision to their knee. Then 50% of the people actually had surgery on their knee injury. The other 50% after the cut was made were stitched back up right away with no surgery taking place. When the results came in about half of the people that had the surgery were doing better and/or cured. The group that did not have surgery about half of them were doing better and/or cured. The numbers were basically the same. Some how they body repaired physical damage because the person believed they had surgery.

I bring placbo up for a reason. Some people recover from CBT, some from medication, some from just being told it is not dangerous and normal, others pray and Jesus removes the illness or Allah removes it depending on your traditional religious background. The truth is a lot of recovery and cures could be being caused by a placebo effect. Now if a person finds a cure or recovery that way I think it is great because the person is no longer suffering. But what about the people left when these treatments don't work?

Being a homosexual I have been told I can "pray the gay away." and indeed there are many organizations mainly religious that agree, one being exodus international and the american psychiatric association up till 1973.

My main concern is that people with any mental illness be treated with dignity and respect. Someone with diabetes is not seen as weird, lazy, blamed or just not trying hard enough to make the diabetes disappear.

"I also agree that many begin drinking due to self-medicating- I do believe that alcohol does exaggerate a preexisting anxiety problem."

My reply: In the long term it really does so if anyone reading this is abusing alcohol or any drug please try to seek help because it really is after awhile making your mental illness worse.

"Anxiety is a learned behavior and can begin even as young as a small child."

My Reply: Anxiety is not always a learned behavior. Lets step out of the human realm for a minute. I had a cat when I was little. We got her as a kitten about 8 weeks old. She was never beat, she was just a very loved, cared for cat. She was a nervous wreck. Any sound would scare her and she would hide. She would even hide from myself and my family. She was always under weight and ate a lot of food because she always had so much nervous energy. She was tested for physical disorders to make sure nothing was wrong with her and she had a clean bill of health. If a stranger came over to the home to visit forget it, she was gone under a couch or into a closet. She would disappear at the speed of light. Now one good thing I will say about her is she lived to be almost 20 years old which is a very old age for a cat. I and my family have had cats since her passing and none were treated any differently and none were nervous like she was. For anyone who is interested reading this her name was Daisy. She really was a cute cat. :-)

O.K. back to humans. Many people have had panic attacks and did not develop panic disorder. They continue on and off to have a panic attack through out their life and just are not scared about having them. Yet they still get them. What would be the cause of their panic attacks, especially if they do not have a high stress lifestyle or worried?


"I believe I had anxiety as a child and it followed me through adulthood and blossomed into a full panic/agoraphobia event. For me,
It was a severe amount of stress in my life that brought this on. I think it would have been easier for me to understand and recover.... if I knew more about stress and how it affected people. I am a type A personality and I work myself to the point of exhaustion. I was a people pleaser, do it all.... for everyone.... and I never put myself first.

My personalities along with being a negative thinker was a bad mix for me. I had to work hard to undo the habits that I learned from my own father."

My Reply: I agree this can be a major factor for some people with panic attacks, agoraphobia and anxiety. But again this brings me back to the example, everyone can have a seizure, but not everyone has epilepsy. I am not saying it is not as difficult for some people than others no matter what the reason. What I am saying is this could explain why treatment works for most, but not all. It could also explain why treatment works in different ways in different people and why there is so many different levels of recovery.

I would also like to state that information came out a few years back that it was discovered that the most common seizures, panic attacks and migraines seemed to be coming from the same area of the brain. Whatever became of that discovery I am unsure of. (Just so everyone knows anything that I am talking about can be looked up for free on google. No need to go out an buy a ton of books..unless you prefer books) :-)


"Recovery-Inc.Org is a FREE CBT program for people with all kinds of mental challenges. Yes, it's hard for someone with agoraphobia to go to these meetings but it's all about baby steps. I realize that finding therapies that are affordable is difficult , however, programs like this one are priceless. Recovery-Inc.Org is based on the works of Dr. Abraham Low."

My Reply: I will look into it as I am always trying to get more information on the subject. Just so my readers know I have not yet heard of Dr. Abraham Low so at this time I can not make a judgment call on his work.

"There is also Lucinda Bassett's program "Attacking anxiety and Depression" through the Midwest Center. I did this program and although a lot of the information is the same as in Claire Weeke's books, I enjoyed listening to her tapes over and over again. Repetition was very important for me in retraining my brain to think the right things.

The only way to overcome agoraphobia is by taking small steps EVERY day."

My Reply: Lucinda Bassett's program costs about $300 and really is not new information for anyone that has been in treatment with an anxiety problem for a long time. Lucinda Bassett's approach is not much different than the CBT Map III program I brought up earlier. So to save money, and to get the same information buying some books by Claire Weeke's would be much cheaper for you and are just as inspirational. I would also like to say for people who are religious Christians you may enjoy or find comfort in a book called "Battlefield of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer.

"When it came to the fear of "passing out". I heard conflicting stories.
As well with vomiting. I used to fear all kinds of things. In fact, one of the REAL things I struggled with was ulcerative colitis. I had diarrhea very bad. These were extreme urges to run to the bathroom about 40 times a day or more. Many times, there would be nothing but blood."

My Reply: I too had this problem as well and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in late 1994 and took a drug called Azulfidine for 8 months. One night I had too much blood come out and was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY. where I was living at the time and going to college. I have been in remission for many years now thankfully.

"I feared many times that I would not be able to find a bathroom. I had 3 small children at that time in my life as well. But I forced myself to challenge myself anyways. I would be in a store, facing my symptoms, and I worked the CBT while with little children that whined, I had to rush to the bathroom and take them along. Instead of leaving the store, I would stay. I went to the store daily - I thought people would think I lived there. But I was so focused on getting better that I did not care what others thought. In fact, I told myself "it's okay if I vomit in public - "it's okay if I faint"..... "I know that someone will help me should this happen". " I don't care what others think"..." I am not helpless". I realize some have vomited and some have fainted and it really is okay. It is inconvenient but at the same time, it is more important to face those fears and do it anyways."

My Reply: When it comes to facing my fears about vomiting in a store I have no problem. I am at a point in my life where I do not really care what the general public thinks of me. Do I want to throw up in the store? Not really and I know it would not be the end of the world. For health reasons I would like to not vomit when I get nervous. On average I throw up about twice a week for the past 17 years. That would mean I have vomited on average 1768 times. This has taken a toll on the back of my throat as well as the back of my teeth. Stomach acid has caused a large amount of damage to my teeth and is why I am having to go to the dentist for repairs. Sometimes I have thrown up so much, blood has come up and is the cause of why I was yet again taken to Bay Medical Center Emergency Room in Panama City, FL where I was living in 2006.

You made a statement that you know someone would help you. I hope that would be the case for you and all of us. I have my doubts in humanity in it's current state as shown in the video clips below:


"Dr. Archibald Hart talks a lot about the challenges men face in having these disorders- men suffer just as much as women - if not more due to the fact that society places upon them the stigma that they are supposed to be "stronger" than women in this sense. It's not right but the world is like that."

My Reply: I agree and it's not right but as you say "but the world is like that." Well it is up to all of us to change that. Many times people say "that is awful someone should do something about that." That person is you, me and all of us. If we do not stand for that any longer things can and will change.


"Brian- hang in there. It is one thing to "do" and other to feel peace while "doing". Feeling the fear and doing it anyways is not the "cure".
What matters more is how you talk to yourself about being sick.
It is our own personal perception of things that can keep us stuck or make us free. The mind is a very powerful thing and many times there are things in our subconscious that we are not even aware we are thinking. Journaling helps get into this area of our brain and so I am glad you are blogging! It will allow you to go back and reread things and you may notice something later on in life that you didn't notice before. "

My Reply: Thank You. My goal is to have people put pressure on the medical community to find the cause and the cure. We have a war on cancer and a war on drugs...where is the war on mental illness? But more importantly it is to get people with mental illness the respect they deserve like any other human should have. My other goal is to have the proper training and up to date information passed on to medical professions. My blog is not just for me, but for anyone that has been through the ringer and still no better off and searching for answers.

"I don't believe anxiety happens for no reason. I believe there is a reason for everything. Anxiety can be the result of a hormonal imbalance or something as simple as a prolapse valve in the heart.
There are different things- for me, it was too much stress...for too long of a period mixed with not understanding what I was feeling or going through.

Education is key and the earlier people are educated and understand, the sooner they can find healing so they can prevent further episodes.

I personally believe children should be taught about stress and anxiety in school in their health classes. If you train a child to see it for what it is, and how to deal with it, along with common fears and common feelings , they will be less likely to be afraid of their feelings and thoughts in the future."

My Reply: I agree that children should be taught about mental illness in school and how to handle their own feelings. I think this education is just as important for adults and especially medical professionals.


"Well I must be going- Your long email has required a long response!
Sorry about that!

I wish you well in your journey Brian- there is still much to learn and I hope you find a combination of the right things that work for you. :)

Take Care! "

My Reply: Thank You and I wish you well as well. Thank you for taking the time to write to me and I hope others will take the time as well. If anyone would like to see my videos on youtube just search "silentjealousy77" and my videos will come up. Again thank you to the person who sent me this letter. I would also like to say to get caught up please return to the begining of my blog and read everything. This will give you a greater understanding of me, but also allow you to read questions that were already asked. :-)

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