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Panic Attacks-Physical Causes-Understanding Your panic-Article

Panic Attacks-Physical Causes-Understanding Your panic-Article

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Posted by jillyd on September 14, 2000 at 09:58:46:

Physical disorders with paniclike symptoms
Everyone experiences the symptoms of anxiety from time to time, caused by any
number of things -- changes in our lifestyle, undue stress, tension. These
symptoms often reflect a normal response to problems arising in our daily lives. In
some cases, however, they may be the symptoms of a psychological or physical
illness. The diagnosis of a serious medical problem is not always a simple process.

Because these symptoms are so difficult to assess, both patients and
professionals can misdiagnose significant physical or emotional problems. Studies
in recent years reveal that a number of physical disorders coexist in patients who
have a psychological disorder, and some physical problem may cause 5 to 40
percent of psychological illnesses. In the majority of these cases the health
professional fails to make the physical diagnosis.

Nowhere is this confusion more evident and diagnosis more difficult than with panic
attacks. If the symptoms of panic are present, there are three possible

1. A physiological disorder is the sole cause of all the symptoms
associated with panic. Treatment of the physical problem removes the

2. A minor physical problem produces a few symptoms. The
individual then becomes introspective and oversensitive to these
physical sensations and uses them as a cue to become anxious. His
heightened awareness and unnecessary concern will produce an
increase in symptoms. If this continues, he can turn an insignificant
physical problem into a major psychological distress.

3. There is no physical basis for the symptoms. Some combination
of the following will help: education about the problem, reassurance,
psychological treatment and medication treatment.

Through a comprehensive evaluation, your physician can determine which, if
any, of these physical problems is associated with your symptoms. In most cases,
curing the physical illness or adjusting medication will eliminate the symptoms. In
some disorders, the symptoms remain as part of a minor disturbance, and you
must learn to cope with them.

When a person suffers from anxiety attacks, one of the greatest obstacles to
recovery can be the fear that these attacks are the indication of a major physical
illness. And in some rare cases that is true. But predominantly, when a person
continually worries about physical illness, that kind of worry intensifies or even
produces panic attacks. In other words, the less you worry, the healthier you will
become. For that reason, I strongly recommend that you adopt the following
guidelines if you are experiencing anxiety attacks:

1. Find a physician whom you trust.

2. Explain your symptoms and your worries to him or her.

3. Let your physician conduct any evaluations or examinations
necessary to determine the cause of your symptoms.

4. If your primary physician recommends that another medical
specialist evaluate your problem, be certain to follow that advice.
Make sure that your primary physician receives a report from the

5. If a physical problem is diagnosed, follow your physician's
treatment advice.

6. If your doctor finds no physical cause for your anxiety attacks, use
the methods presented in the Panic Attack Self-Help Program to take
control of your symptoms. If your symptoms persist, ask your
physician or some other source for a referral to a licensed mental
health professional who specializes in these disorders.

The most destructive thing you can do when faced with panic attacks is to
steadfastly believe that your symptoms mean that you have a serious physical
illness, despite continued professional reassurance to the contrary. That is why it is
essential that you work with a physician whom you can trust until he or she
reaches a diagnosis. No matter how many consultations with other professionals
you need, allow one professional to have primary charge of your case and receive
all reports. Do not continually jump from doctor to doctor. If you remain fearfully
convinced that you have a physical ailment, even when there is a consensus to the
contrary among the professionals who have evaluated you, then you can be certain
of one thing: your fear is directly contributing to your panic episodes. In Part II you
will learn how to control that fear and thereby take control of your symptoms.

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