I am new here and wanted to know if any of you have gone from such bad panic attacks that you crossed into avoidance behavior. In my case, episodes of agoraphobia that last anywhere from weeks to months, depending on the severity of the stress/anxiety that started it.
Since I believe, in my case, that heightened and maintained levels of stress trigger the panic disorders that ultimately keep me housebound, I am wondering how others deal with this. I take no meds and just know in time(often a very long time)it will not be so severe and I will be able to venture out but always with limitations.
I have had this on and off for over 25 years but this last episode is the worst and at this point rarely leave the house even to get the mail. I would be interested to know if others follow this same 'route'...
I've suffered from agoraphobia caused by panic attacks and was treated with meds and counselling which cured the major symptoms. I still have backgound anxiety which I'm working on with my counsellor and taking Paxil for.
Have you never had any professional help for your panic attacks? It doesn't neccessarily have to involve medications nowadays, although some of them are very helpful.
If your quality of life is being severely affected isn't it worth a chat with your doc?
Thank you for your very quick reply. I have years of on and off again counselling from various fields of specialities in these issues. Because I have learned that sustained high levels of stress will probably start the slippery slope to panic attacks=agoraphobia, it is almost not worth it to go. It does seem that some of the stressors are within my control to lessen if not stop outright, but events such as multiple family deaths and divorce occuring very close together prompted this latest long term episode. Realizing I had actually flown home alone, coast to coast, when my sister passed in Dec. 97, staying a month helping to handle those affairs and flying home again alone in Jan. 98, without any symptoms, keeps me optimistic that I will be able to do things again someday. There is much to be said for counselling but when you are beginning to hear the same things from doctor to doctor, it's time to stop.
I am happy to be here because I still have anxiety and panic in the house...and a new thing which I am not used to. When someone comes to my home, whether by invitation or not, I cannot relax. I just get very tense, difficulties in conversing and sometimes just getting dizzy and 'distanced' from the person. I just want them to leave. So, I will try and spend sometime here reading former posts and getting familiar with names and issues...
Sounds like you have a lot of valuable experience to share with us if you are willing!
It sounds like have a touch of social phobia? I've had it all my life and it's improving but I still get very nervous at meeting new people or even going out with friends. Quite often I'll find an excuse to cancel an engagement, especially something like a wedding invitation where there may not many people I know. Indeed, like you, I often just want people to leave my house because I feel so flustered. I understand this distanced feeling very well and it's a horrible feeling to have...it was that that announced my very first panic attack ten years ago. That feeling is called 'depersonalization' I believe and there has been significant research done on it in the last few years....in fact there is now a recognized 'depersonalization disorder' which can be diagnosed seperately from panic disorder, although the two mostly go together....
It's great to see someone here who has so much experience as you although obviously I am deeply saddened by your suffering. I hope you'll stay and help us all support each other. If you suffer from depression in conjunction with the anxiety there is a very active Depression forum here as well....
Hi again Zafu,
I would be very happy to help in whatever way here, using my past and current issues dealing with this. I read somewhere a long time ago, that dealing with agoraphobia is so frustrating because just when we feel we have a handle on it and life is somewhat back to 'normal', a trigger will occur that awakens all of those feelings again. It's amazing how quickly it can get away from you...one good panic attack or response and the circle starts to get smaller that you are able to function in. Of course drugs can deal with the knee-jerk reaction we often go through to prevent that sudden slide but many of us cannot or choose not to take drugs for whatever reason.
I would guess that depression is also lurking around in the bag of symptoms that I have...it's hard to separate between anxiety, panic, stress and depression symptoms.
I have tried various lifestyle changes, diet, vitamin supplements, meditation, acupuncture(long term),etc...and gave them each a long time to evaluate their effect on this disorder. With the exception of meditation, I did not notice an improvement with the others. I am very sensitive to loud and sudden noises, certain chemical smells and sprays and alot of med side effects.
There is also the strong possibility that abusive situations in childhood may be the underlying culprit which several counsellors believe. I have heard this before. But given the mass numbers of children who have had this happen and did not end up with any emotional problems makes me wonder.
Anyway, have run on here. It's a terrific forum and I did see the depression forum and feel though this is the place for me to be....
One thing I have learned about panic, for me, is that the longer you avoid things, the harder it is to widen your "circle of life".
When I first started having anxiety attacks, I began to avoid anything remotely connected to any feeling that made me nervous. Within a short amount of time, I found that almost everything made me anxious and apprehensive - even taking a shower on the ground floor of our house if I was downstairs by myself. Obviously, staying alone became difficult, as did going places without my "safe" person.
My fears impacted everything I did, thought, and felt.
For me, being limited was just as awful as having the panic attacks. I didn't know what felt worse, sitting home doing nothing, or doing things only within my comfort zone.
I have pretty much always been a highly anxious, worrisome person, but I never thought that my fears would escalate to the point where I was controlled by them to this extent. Prior to having actual anxiety attacks, I was extremely outgoing and very spunky; although I did not try new things as much as I would have liked to due to my fears and phobias.
What has worked well for me has been taking baby steps to do the things that cause me anxiety. Kind of like 'weaning' myself off of the fear slowly. It didn't happen over night, but for every day I didn't do something to positively overcome my limitations, that was one more day I was living in fear.
Fear is like a drop of water in a pond. It ripples over everything, until everything is touched in some way by it. So, I decided to reverse that ripple.
What has worked for me included:
1. Getting a clean bill of health from my doctor, so I was assured that the only thing I was dealing with was anxiety.
2. Accepting that my problem was anxiety. Once I accepted this, I didn't fight it so much.
3. Counseling with a therapist who specialized in anxiety disorders. He taught me how to deep (relax) breathe, which made quite a bit of difference for me.
4. A small book called "Hope and Help for Your Nerves" by Dr. Claire Weekes. This book really helped me immensely with the scary symptoms that accompanied my panic attacks. Education for me about panic was essential so I could understand the dynamics of what was happening to me.
5. Permission to go easy on myself and forge ahead at my own pace.
6. Baby steps.
7. Exposure to things that make me uncomfortable.
8. Most importantly, trusting myself and my body that I am okay, that I can handle a panic attack and the scary thoughts/symptoms that precede it, and positive self-talk that I am okay and I will be fine. I don't need anyone but ME to get through an anxious moment.
Meaning, that so long ago when taking a shower was anxiety provoking, first I would take a shower with the door open, and it would be only be a five minute shower! However, with practice and self-reassurance, soon I was able to shower with the door closed, and every time I felt like running out of the shower, I would stand there and say "five more minutes". After a while, taking a shower once again became an enjoyable experience.
I've posted my whole story under this Stress & Anxiety Board. It's called "My Panic Experience". If you do a search on my user name, you'll find it. If something I can say will help someone else, I'm all for sharing. <IMG SRC="http://www.healthboards.com/ubb/smile.gif">
What a terrific amount of information. I always find it amazing how many ways we experience and find solutions to the anxiety and panic attacks in our life.
I remember buying Claire Weekes's book back in the late 70's when this first started for me. She was a forerunner in this and there were very few books that spoke to this problem. I wore that book out and all but memorized it.
I agree that slow and limited exposure to the trigger of your panic attacks is the best way to go and if you are not taking meds, probably the only way to help yourself. I have done this many times but it is still strange in my case that given enough time, the terrible overall anxiety state that leads to panic attacks and avoidance/phobic, will lift by itself. Until that actually happens, the baby step option is limited and does not lead to feeling comfortable in that formerly panic area. But that is just me.
I have learned not to force the situation, in fact I don't feel particularly 'down' while this extreme state persists because I know, in time, it will lift. Unfortunately, there is no knowing how long the time will be. This has been the longest and almost predictable given the prior major life stressors back to back that started it.
For whatever it is worth, my sister had experienced this in her life for a time in a severe state and after that, continued to have problems with it all the rest of her life. I was a young teen when she was about 30 and was aware of these episodes even though she was married by then and I did not see this happening very much. I find it interesting but have no conclusions about this...
Well it's interesting when I do think about what is going on with me when someone is at the house visiting.
First of all I have had those feelings when it was just my daughter who stopped by briefly...it was scary as she was talking, we were standing by the bookcase and I had to reach out to steady myself and I hardly heard anything she said. The children were there also but weren't making any noise, but I just wanted everyone to leave. I felt unsteady standing,so sat down until I saw everyone had their coats on and were heading towards the door rather than be standing all that time. Sometimes when the pet groomer comes over that same feeling will happen or close.
Also my living room has a vaulted ceiling with skylights and I am not comfortable in that room as it is spacious and too bright...so I prefer the smaller rooms.
I recently replied to someone here who was asking about Celexa because my doctor suggested it to me some weeks ago as the least complained about regarding side effects as he knows I am very reluctant to try anything new. I have 2 friends who take it and have had nothing but good things to say. So, I do keep my doctor current with what I am feeling and make appointments to discuss options but my list of therapists has run thin having been to so many with the same old story. Also I am prone to terrible tension headaches, migraine I guess because I get very nauseous and have to lay down for a day or two from the pain.
All of the symptoms are seemingly unpredictable and that is what makes living like this so difficult.....
hi to all of u firstly celexa(cipramil where i come from!!) this worked for me,the first 2 weeks i had heightened anxiety because of it, doc told me to half my dose till my body got used to it,when ithink bak which i dont like to do i was a mess i thought i was gonna die!!! celexa was right for me, but meds alone arnt enough. u have probally heard it all b4 about relaxing BELIEVE ME U HAVE TO LEARN TO RELAX!!! i read books Claire weekes, and god did that help me understanding wots happening is half the problem solved. actually claire weekes knows wot shes talking about as shes been there too!!! read her. learning to relax is hard because we have forgotten how to do it it is something we loose when we leave our childhoods. i got a load of relaxation tapes given, il admit i couldnt do them at first it really takes practise lots of it but if u stick to it u will c the difference it makes to ur life IM PROOF!!! although i do have anxiety its mostly in the back ground, you must NOT stay in ur home the more u put off going out the harder it gets!! I NO!!actually when i was first bad doc insisted i go to his surgery rather than a home visit, i can c y now, anxiety is a vicious circle u think things will happen and ul feel ill if u do this or do that and granted YES u do end up feeling ill cos u allow it to happen, yes u do i done it!! walk to the end of ur path, then the neighbours so on, when ur in a shop distract urself by thinking of tv, a plesant experience anything other than let them nagging feelings take over, learning to breathe propally helps too, theres some really good breathing exercises about for dealing with anxiety , id be overwhelmed to think i could help any of u, but like i said u have to practise it wont happen over night,wish i could stick to a diet the way i stuck to learning how to conquer anxiety!!!! lol now u lot take care there is light at the end of the tunnel if ur prepared to give urself time to learn to rethink and relax good luck xxx
PS can anyone tell me how to do them lovely smily happy men jumping and moving aroun screen thank you
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<p>[This message has been edited by paddington (edited 04-04-2002).]
Hi and thank you to the previous person from England who posted that very helpful reply...I realize how true it is, your words, we forget about relaxing after we leave childhood. We become so overwhelmed with negative life experiences and even positive ones that the ability to toss it all off and as a child would do, just go and play a game, fall asleep or wake up with a smile having forgotten about it. The other day, living in Florida where it is now quite warm, I stepped out into the backyard and stood barefoot in the grass. Kids think nothing about stepping on insects, glass and dog 'residue', they just enjoy the moment. I started to think about the insects, etc. and stopped myself and just felt the grass under my feet. You are so right...kids know how to enjoy life which is why there is that famous one liner..."Youth is wasted on the young."
I know that meditation works very well for me and it took at least a year before I was able to achieve a nice, deep level that is very refreshing and beneficial to my whole being. I have to wait until after lunch though and then again after dinner is the best times for me. I don't use a mantra or any of that, just quiet my breathing down.
But even with that, I still have to 'monitor' my body during the rest of the time because I frequently find my muscles in a tightened condition for no apparent reason. Especially my leg muscles. I can be sitting in a chair reading and sure enough they are tight or and especially my shoulders and neck. I am constantly dropping my shoulders because I have them all pulled in like a turtle.
I like long soaks just for relaxing...this is not wash my body time. Everything helps and gets me through the day....
I'm new here as well, certainly not new to anxiety and panic. I've lived with it for over 25 yrs with some years of remission on and off. I get tense whenever anyone comes over invited or not, it's like I want them to stay but please go all in the same thought. I've spent my time on the counselors couch and cognitive behaviour helped alot in fact a great deal. 5 yrs ago I was able to visit Arizona again after 25 yrs and then it all started again, I have slowly ventured to about a 6 mile radius of my homefront lately and feel I'll not get past that for a long time, this was such a bad one that I dream of it, geezzz. When I went to Arizona it was with my husband and I do fairly well when someone is with me(if that person is a comfort type person)but now that we have cell phones it has made me venture expand a bit. I'm still taking baby steps cuz I seem to fall again and then have to start all over. I've raised 2 kids, held my job for over 20 yrs so I know I can do it again. When my anxiety is high I feel I can't breathe right or I'm going to stop breathing, then it goes away and then back, whenever it does this I have to talk to myself to remind me it does stop in awhile. When I found out I had GERD I found that presented the breathing problem which sent me into anziety and so on and so forth, what a vicious circle it can be. Seems my every waking moment is spent controlling this anxiety(I play martyr and feel I can work through it)and I'll finally take my xanax just to get relief. Oh you people all know this, but doesn't it get so frustrating to be well then not so well over and over again?
Yes it is frustrating to try, work at it, finally get at least functioning again only to fall back again...as I have always said, you never recover from panic attacks 100%. You can manage to 'get better' on meds but without them and recover without ever experiencing them again, I never have heard of it. It's such a devastating experience the first time, that it seems your brain has that memory imbedded and just waiting to flare up with very little prodding. I worked too over 20 years and much of it divorced raising 3 children. I never know all that time when 'it' would happen again. Whenever I opened a car door, there it was sitting on my shoulder and I was filled with dread, or sitting in a meeting at school not being able to concentrate on the speaker because my mind was wondering..."what if?"...etc.
So, we try and adapt to it and our lives are spent either just getting over a bout of anxiety/panic attacks, in the middle of it or wondering about the trip we are taking tomorrow....
Yes I have had one experience I remember very well regarding challenging the anxiety...I was in a large walk-in closet and had to shut the door behind me to keep the cats out. There were lots of boxes in there and I was all the way inside. I noticed it became airless and I felt closed in and split seconds of 'oh my goodness, I have to get out' and the skin flushing. I just stopped right then. REFUSED to move and concentrated on my breathing...I felt a kind of flooding through me of adrenaline I guess but it subsided as quickly and I left when I was ready.
I have done this frequently although, that was my best effort and response to date. I don't have claustrophobia and actually prefer smaller places and have no problems with elevators, give me an elevator anytime as compared with those big, wide open staircases and hallways...
I do have a muscle relaxant that my doctor gave me when I get so knotted up but find the hot soaks with some aromatherapy work just as well and I smell nice too!
Yes I felt empowered when I left the closet and ready to climb Mt. Everest. However as you know that feeling doesn't last long and you have to really cultivate that 'ground' especially during long sieges like this one I am having. Not having panic attacks at the moment doesn't give me an opportunity to work at it. So, I have been edging myself out of the door, inch by inch, every day with a chair. I put the chair outside a little farther and sit with a book for awhile.
You know I could sit in a car as a passenger and be driven all over the place, even hundreds of miles, and I would not get nervous at all. Get me out of the car and make me leave it for a feet and 'those' feelings are immediately there. Same thing if I have to leave walk away from my house where I can no longer see it and I am mess of anxiety. This is an easy read, I am leaving what is safe, the car, the house. It's constant work...