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  • Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

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    Old 09-05-2006, 08:49 PM   #1
    gav_73
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    Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

    Hi all,

    I have been recently diagnosed as BPII, and started 600 then 900 mg of lithium during the last 2 weeks. I have actually experienced very few side effects of the medication, which has been great. Only a little difficulty concentrating and articulating my thoughts every now and then, but nothing I can't deal with.

    Well, last night I was getting ready for bed, and suddenly, out of nowhere, I started to feel very strange. It first felt like I was dizzy, and then I felt like I was about to black out. I started shaking uncontrollably and thought I was experiencing lithium toxicity. It was so scary. I screamed at my husband to call an ambulance. Instead, he just brought me to the hospital. I was nauseated and my heart was racing. I thought for sure I hadn't drank enough water or something and was being poisoned. Well, after the labs all checked out at the hospital, the doctor came in and told me that he was positive, because of my symptoms, I had a panic attack. It was the scariest thing ever!

    What's strange is that I've never had one before, and I was completely calm before it happened, like nothing stressful happening or anything. I am completely confused. My life just got a lot LESS stressful recently after the diagnosis and the medication seems to be going well. Now this?

    Has anyone experienced such a thing as this. I mean, I'm sure a lot of you have had panic attacks, but like this? Now I'm afraid to drive, scared that if something like this happens during my long commute, that I will have an accident.

    Any advice?

     
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    Old 09-05-2006, 09:26 PM   #2
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    Re: Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

    i hate that you experienced that. it is the worst feeling in the world!

    unfortunately, panic attacks/anxiety go hand in hand with bipolar.
    most people take another medication for that. lexapro, klonipin (sp?), xanax to name a few.

    personally, i like my lexapro. it is an anti-depressant as well.

    talk to your doc about this so you can get the right medication. i don't think it is something that will go away on its own, ever. wish it did, it sucks!

    good luck to you and remember, your doctor will be of more help once he knows of the facts.

    good luck,
    kathy

     
    Old 09-05-2006, 10:01 PM   #3
    gav_73
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    Re: Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

    Thank you so much, Kathy. I will definitely let them know. I have my first counseling session tomorrow and will call the pdoc as well to let her know. I was so scared. I think what scares me most is that if I really did have a episode with the lithium, I might ignore it thinking it's something else. On the other hand, now that I know it's probably not, it might not be as scary since that is what scared me in the first place and made me go to the hospital, thinking that I was being poisoned and might die! I'm so inexperienced with medications, but I am very glad about getting help. So, no matter what, I'm in good hands and I'm glad for that.

    Thanks again for the input, and I will definitely talk to them about it.

     
    Old 09-06-2006, 02:05 PM   #4
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    Re: Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

    Hey gav
    just letting you know ive had 3 very similar experiences to what you described since being on lithium. the funny thing is ive always had panic attacks but nothing like this until being on the meds. Im wondering if it could be a possible side effect?
    Generally my moods have been a lot better since being on lithium, but ive also experienced some very deep depressive episodes which have lasted about 5 hours each time and have made me very suicidal, although they soon pass and im fine. Again, ive only experienced these since being on lithium. People say its the illness when i ask them but im not so sure as id never had anything like this happen before
    Hope this was a one off for you and you dont experience anything similar again, its still early days for you on the meds

     
    Old 09-06-2006, 02:19 PM   #5
    GatsbyLuvr1920
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    Re: Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

    I'm not bipolar, but I get panic attacks daily, sometimes more than that- I think I've had about two or three defined ones today. So, if you have any questions, feel free to ask!
    -GatsbyLuvr1920-
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    -Hans Asperger

     
    Old 09-06-2006, 05:57 PM   #6
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    Re: Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by fallen_angel
    Hey gav
    just letting you know ive had 3 very similar experiences to what you described since being on lithium. the funny thing is ive always had panic attacks but nothing like this until being on the meds. Im wondering if it could be a possible side effect?
    Generally my moods have been a lot better since being on lithium, but ive also experienced some very deep depressive episodes which have lasted about 5 hours each time and have made me very suicidal, although they soon pass and im fine. Again, ive only experienced these since being on lithium. People say its the illness when i ask them but im not so sure as id never had anything like this happen before
    Hope this was a one off for you and you dont experience anything similar again, its still early days for you on the meds

    lol i also had a panic attack and never got one till i found out i was bipolar then the stress finally built up and my mind/body could no longer take it. Anyways im just gonna assume the reason why your attacks are worse is because like me the stress is building up after finding out about bipolar and dealing with it plus the stresses of life. I'm just glad we can all laugh the panic attacks off after they happen.

     
    Old 09-06-2006, 07:41 PM   #7
    gav_73
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    Re: Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

    Thank you so much, all of you, for sharing. I actually had another one last night, but I was able to control it somewhat. Both times, it's happened right when I start to go to sleep, and like most of you, only since I've been on the meds. Last night, though, I was able to "talk myself down" a bit, eyes closed, deep, slow breathing, telling myself that "everything's OK, I'm not going to die, it's not the lithium, everything's going to be fine." Stuff like that. I was able to avoid the frightening feelings of blacking out or feelings that I was going to die, but I was still very frightened. Then, after the worst part was over (my husband was sitting right beside me and never knew what was going on inside my head), I told him it was happening again. But I was unable to avoid the physical illness that's followed both attacks. After I told my husband, I was VERY nauseated, and asked that he get the trash can just in case. About 10 minutes later, I vomited everything in my stomach. It felt like I was throwing up all my anxiety, and I felt a little better afterwards. It was the strangest thing. I told my counselor today and she said she had never heard of that happening, and that it might be a combination of things. I think what might be happening is that the lithium starts to make me feel dizzy and slightly nauseated, then I start to panic a bit thinking subconsciously that I'm having a bad reaction. And then the panic comes, followed by the dizziness that caused the nausea, which is caused by the meds that made me scared in the first place.

    Fallen Angel, do you experience anything like that?

     
    Old 09-07-2006, 12:15 AM   #8
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    Re: Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

    Hi gav,
    i think you hit the nail right on the head with what you said.
    Are you sub consciously a little worried about taking lithium? Because of the toxicity risk? i know that im absolutely terrified of it, even though its doing a great job whenever i feel unwell i panic.
    My panic attacks are slightly different to yours, well the ones ive had recently anyway. I get hot and feel that everything is "closing in on me". Then all sorts of irrational thoughts start flashing through my head and i cant breathe. I normally start crying and feel i have to escape. The effects of mine are more mental than physical at the moment although when i was younger i was often physically sick when i felt anxious in any way.
    It often becomes hard to determine what is the illness and what is the meds!

     
    Old 09-07-2006, 09:59 PM   #9
    gav_73
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    Re: Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

    Thanks for responding fallen, as I think we're onto something here. I'm supposed to talk again with my doctor tomorrow to touch base since Tuesday's attack. So far, so good. I have had to resort to taking Xanax (small dosage of one .25mg pill) at night. I am VERY against this drug, as I have seen family members go through horrible withdraws and deep depression related to long-term use of this drug for panic attacks. I am NOT a fan, not in the least. However, it has helped. My doctor suggested I try it before I have the attack, like with my nighttime dosage of lithium. I did, reluctantly, and it seemed to help in that I avoided an attack. I could even feel my heart racing but I was having no response or attack like before.

    But fallen, I am more than ever now inclined to believe that these attacks are being brought on by fear of the medication and possible toxicity. It seems that so little can cause it. On the other hand, I don't think it works as rapidly as we are thinking it does. For example, if I feel any weirdness or dizziness, I start really getting scared that I am going to suddenly go into some sort of shock. I simply don't think it works like that. I asked my doctor, and she said that the signs would be very obvious and that there would be no mistaking it. Also, I got the impression that if you did reach a dangerous level, you would have plenty of time to respond. On the other hand, I am afraid of seizures and whatnot. I mean, how would you know unless you listened to your body? Something is going on with it for me to be vomitting, right? I mean, my attack came on suddenly and unprovoked, meaning, I didn't feel like I was "trapped" and needed to escape as you describe. My mom has had panic attacks for a long time, and your symptoms sound much like hers. But, my attack was much different. I didn't feel "panicky", I felt like I was about to have a convulsion. My vision suddenly got blurry, I got really dizzy and started shaking violently. But I was not "afraid" of anything until it happened, and the physical symptoms is what made me panic and run to the hospital. I didn't have any of those feelings of being trapped or wanting to run. I wanted to run to the hospital, though, I'll tell you that! And then, the vomiting. I mean, when I read the symptoms of toxicity, I experienced a lot of those symptoms, but also experienced some panic attack symptoms. I didn't feel any anxiety beforehand. It is very, very strange.

    I guess we're all different. And the fact remains that they tested my levels and I wasn't toxic. But like you and I both said, I think it could be a fear of having a negative reaction that could be causing our attacks to become nightmares, hence the level of increased intensity after starting the meds. Like you, I am terrified of having an accidental overdose. So much so that I am probably drinking too much water and dilluting it a little. My doctor said that maybe I drank a little less water those days, and thus increased the lithium in my body causing me to become nauseated.

    Who knows!

     
    Old 09-08-2006, 01:29 PM   #10
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    Re: Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

    Hi gav,
    From what you've said i believe that it is panic attacks you are suffering from. They can be very physical and are not always accompanied by a feeling of actual panic. Sometimes its the physical symptoms that are more overwhelming.
    Im constantly aware of the fact that im taking a potentially dangerous drug, even though im on a low dose. Its become worse since ive been trying for a baby and i sometimes want to miss a dose or stop altogether but i know that would be a bad idea and that ive got to carry on, at least until i fall pregnant.
    Unfortunately being rational is very hard with bipolar, but try and simplify things in your mind, telling yourself that your levels are fine and are being checked regularly, and that nothing is wrong. Keep drinking your water (but not too much!) and take good care of yourself. If its any comfort ive been told that the symptoms of lithium intoxication occur gradually in most cases, so you wouldnt suddenly feel really unwell, and there would be plenty of time to get you treated in the rare occurence that there was a problem. You are still very new to the drug and i think that your worries will ease with time.
    Overall try and remember what a fantastic drug lithium is and how it is helping so many of us get better. One thing i like to remember is that its a naturally occuring substance and doesnt cause some of the problems anti convulsants/ anti psychotics can.
    Take care Gav

    Last edited by fallen_angel; 09-08-2006 at 01:31 PM.

     
    Old 09-08-2006, 03:10 PM   #11
    gav_73
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    Re: Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

    Thanks fallen,

    I agree with you that it's a panic attack. What an awful experience that is! That last two nights I've been taking the xanax before bed and I haven't had one since. I just hate taking xanax at all, for anything. But I guess when you need something, it's better than the alternative.

    And I'm glad to know that a toxic occurance would gradually happen and that I would have plenty of time to respond. I was wondering: did you experience problems with thinking or articulating your words or thoughts, or did you experience any stuttering or anything like that? Because I have been, and sometimes it can be terribly embarassing. As a graduate student, this could be a problem when giving presentations in class. I'm worried about totally humiliating myself. It's a very strange feeling, like I'm in a fog or zone out. I snap out of it eventually, but it's something that I've been experiencing and was wondering if you experienced anything like that when you started. I am now on 900mg and will probably be here for a little while until they check my levels again. Then, depending on where I am, she might increase it again. WHEW! But, that's not for sure yet. Since I've been having such weird side effects, she might try to get me on something else. But, it hasn't been that bad, and I keep hoping that the side effects will subside.

    Thanks for sharing.

     
    Old 09-09-2006, 03:08 AM   #12
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    Re: Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

    Hi gav,
    Ive got to say i didnt experience any problems with stuttering etc like you mentioned when first starting lithium, ive actually been very lucky and had very few side effects overall. But everyone is different so dont worry about it, i believe that most initial problems are just as a result of your body adjusting. Im also on quite a low dose, 600mg. We've spoke about me going higher but ive decided it against it or now, mainly because of trying to conceive.
    Have loads of communication with your pdoc, i ring mine all the time with my questions and concerns, and that tends to help put my mind at ease!

     
    Old 09-11-2006, 12:29 AM   #13
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    Re: Sudden, unprovoked panic attack!

    Hi To All,
    I Started On This Board (my First) To Get And Give If I Can All And Any Info In Bipolar. My Son Has And My Ex (i Didnt Know When We Were Together). Also My Daughter Has Adha And I Thought That Was No Biggie Because My Brother Had And My Mom Made It Like It Was Normal So My Girl Was Normal. My Boy Was Harder For All To Get You They Thought It Was Me Ect..... Not Him ... But On Top Of Getting Great Info From You All For Him. You Are Helping Me.
    I Just Started Getting Panic Attacks, I'm 41 Single Stress To Max Normal With Teens And You Know. Also I Had A Complete Histerectomy May This Year. I'll Tell You Sometimes I Am So Scared And Other Times I Dont Want To Be Here. Wow. Now I Feel Unglued And Weird. My Doc Gave Me Adavan I Like It And It Helps. But I Was In A Car Accd From Behind Neck And Head Hurts I Ok. But New Doc Changed Meds To Relaxers And Pain Stuff. And Now I Feel Really Nuts Oh By Way After Operation I Am On Effector I Do Like. If I Miss I And Short And All. So Now I Had To Reach Me (like I Have Time) But The Panic Attacks Are Bad Bad Again. So Finally I Went To New Doc And Told Him Adavan And Little Pain Pill With Effector And I Feel Better Again. So Always Reach You Stuff. My Friend Is On Xanax And She Now Feels Sick If She Dont Take It. So Becareful. Oh By Way My Son Is Good. We Have A Meet With School Psy Next Week To Work Out His School Program. Last You He Freaked Out And I Hired A Tudor To Be At My House But I Want Him To At Least Go For 1 Or 2 Classes Away From House. Any Advise On This School Matter????
    Thanks As Always For Listening....
    Mslainie

     
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