My name is Matthew. For many years I suffered from anxiety, panic attacks, which led to panic disorder and agoraphobia. Eventually, I was able to beat these things and I now want to help others.
I believe the best way to help you is to provide comprehensive, easy to understand, information. And, that’s why, in this site, you’ll find a tonne of regularly updated resources — articles, videos, audio podcasts — dedicated to helping you recover from panic attacks / disorder, anxiety and agoraphobia.
Simply put, clarifying information is very important to start with
Many people who first experience a panic attack don’t know what is happening to them. Moreover, people who experience a panic attack or panic attacks find it reassuring to understand what is happening to them biologically and psychologically. This knowledge can be a real and initial form of help (don’t worry, there’s plenty more help after this) with panic attacks.
So let’s get started with a clear explanation of a panic attack …
As per the Mayo Clinic’s website:
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that develops for no apparent reason and that triggers severe physical reactions. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.
You may have only one or two panic attacks in your lifetime. But if you have had several panic attacks and have spent long periods in constant fear of another attack, you may have a chronic condition called panic disorder.
Panic attacks were once dismissed as nerves or stress, but they’re now recognized as a real medical condition. Although panic attacks can significantly affect your quality of life, treatment is very effective.
According to the American Psychological Association:
Only a licensed therapist can diagnose a panic disorder. There are certain signs you may already be aware of, though.
One study found that people sometimes see 10 or more doctors before being properly diagnosed, and that only one out of four people with the disorder receive the treatment they need. That’s why it’s important to know what the symptoms are, and to make sure you get the right help.
Many people experience occasional panic attacks, and if you have had one or two such attacks, there probably isn’t any reason to worry. The key symptom of panic disorder is the persistent fear of having future panic attacks. If you suffer from repeated (four or more) panic attacks, and especially if you have had a panic attack and are in continued fear of having another, these are signs that you should consider finding a mental health professional who specializes in panic or anxiety disorders.
My Initial Experience
I know how scary it can be, first hand. I initially felt like I was going crazy – the thought that I might be suffering from a panic attack – a highly treatable illness – never crossed my mind.
Unfortunately, I was not sure where to turn to for help with my panic attacks (of course at the time though I did not know that I was suffering from panic attacks).
When I described my symptoms to multiple doctors, after having many panic attacks, they didn’t provide what I considered helpful treatment or advice on what the problem might be. Fortunately, my family doctor eventually recommended that I see a psychologist.
While the doctor’s referral to a psychologist led to me receiving help, it was really hard going through this period not knowing what was happening to me. Knowing something about the process would have put me somewhat at ease.
Now in fairness, most medical doctors, at least general practitioners, are not trained in panic attacks, mental health issues, at least in any real depth, and are not prepared to provide any type of counseling, as their training is in only a biological model.
Furthermore, most healthcare systems require physicians to work within many time constraints. Obviously this does not help the panic attack sufferer. So dealing with panic attacks, in many senses, is outside a general practitioner’s expertise, hence the recommendation made by my doctor was a good one, real help followed because the psychologist really had the right training and experience.
Fortunately, though, awareness of panic attacks is increasing, and now, when patients experience a panic attack, more family doctors will tell them so and can then direct them to the help they need.
Once a physical exam is completed by a medical doctor, and this exam rules out any physical causes/issues, then he/she may then suggest you have suffered a panic attack. If you suspect you might be suffering from any of these conditions, then see a health professional as noted above.
Now although a medical doctor can prescribe medication, when appropriate, more help is necessary. A treatment referral to a mental health professional with experience in panic attacks is very important. This is where the real help continues, in my opinion.
In the next page I will describe in detail the process of a panic attack.
Before you go: being informed and proactive in your recovery is key. You can continue to learn more and get regular updates by joining my free newsletter. Just enter your email below and click Submit. (We won’t provide your email to others and you may unsubscribe at any time)
References (Help and Recovery from Panic Attacks / Disorder & Agoraphobia)
1.Mayo Clinic. Panic Attacks. Retrieved on September 2, 2011, from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/panic-attacks/DS00338
2. American Psychological Association. Answers to Your Questions about Panic Disorder. Retrieved on April 2, 2016, from: http://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/panic-disorder.aspx