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Panic attacks

gerbil runner

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My mom has been prone to panic attacks for the past 12 years or so. She takes Paxil, and was able to pretty much head off an attack by breathing deeply, etc. But a couple of days ago she was out wig-shopping and got one so bad she threw up (panic attack, not wig). It's very disconcerting to her, because she never knows when an attack may come, and it makes her worry about going out. She's seeing the dr. for a scan on the 20th and planning to ask for help. Mom's determined to get this back under control, and pronto.

I was wondering if anyone else here has experience with panic attacks, or whether anyone knows if chemo or other meds (such as pain meds or steroids) might increase panic attack problems. Everyone here is so great about sharing info! Snowflake, I told her about your "Fantasia" episode because she had had hallucinations in the hospital after coming off the respirator. Her visions involved barking dogs - not nearly as entertaining.

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Hi Jen,

My Mom is also prone to panic attacks and anxiety/depression. She had been off all her meds for these for about a year and a half, but when she was diagnosed with the cancer, I could see the axiety/depression return, so I asked the doc to prescribe her Xanax again and it helped. Xanax is for anxiety.


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Several years ago (18 or so) I developed the most terrible panic attacks. My Dr. at the time had no idea what caused them but started running every test he could think of. They finally discovered (after about 3 months) that my thyroid was way off. Once we got that under control the panic attacks stopped and I have not had one since. I can sympathize with your Mom because I had to go home or seek treatment more than once when I thought I was "going to die" right THEN!

Prayers being sent your way.

God Bless,


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MO is right, first rule out anything that may be physically contributing to the panic attacks such as irregular heartbeat, blood sugar problems, hormone, and thyroid conditions. If the cause is determined to be physchological, it can be easily dealt with with anti-anxiety medications and cognitive behavioral therapy. To treat it with just medication alone is like putting a bandaid on it.

Just some tips to get you started:

* Do not avoid people or places...it only reinforces the fear

* Go with the panic, as a matter of fact try to force yourself to have a panic attack. It is like visiting the doctor and him asking you to pee in a cup when you don't have to go! It is hard to force yourself to have one. It also takes the "surprise" element out of panic attacks, which typically come out of the blue.

* Prepare for a panic attack by sitting down, carrying snacks to level bloodsugar, breathing in a paper bag, etc... If you prepare for the storm, it's effects are less devastating.

* Do relaxation techniques and self-hypnosis. Learn to recoqnize when your fight or flight symptoms are coming on and try to calm yourself down.

* Deep breathing helps, so you don't hyperventilate. Sit next to exits, so that you know an escape is possible, which psychologically helps.

* Take along a friend or family member to help talk you through an attack. Proving to yourself that you will not die from your fear desensitizes you to it.

*Your body is responding to an imagined fear. Dispute irrational thoughts.

* Change "self talk" to positive thinking. (IE. Instead of thinking "I'm scared," think "I'm excited!." Eventually you will begin to believe the positive "self talk", just as you have the negative.

* Pack things to take with you to preoccupy your mind and hands- like knitting, reading, etc...

* Place a rubberband on your wrist and snap it when you began to think illogical.

These are just a few suggestions. Meds will help, but they don't get to the root of what fuels panic attacks. Learning what fuel the fear and confronting it is currative. A combination of therapy and psychotropic meds is most effective. I hope this helps.


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Looks like you're getting lots of good information. I have dealt with panic attacks from the passenger seat - my step-daughter purported having them and called her father to calm her down. Funny though, she only had panic attacks when she was "busted" for lying about her whereabouts, etc.... Makes a step-monster wonder if the attacks are real or a subterfuge like the killdeer (birds) that feign a broken wing to get a wouldbe nest-snacker away from the babies.

I think Cheryl had some really good advice on concentrating on dealing with the psychology of the attack and nipping it in the bud if at all possible... As everyone else here, I'll stick with the disclaimer of "talk to your doctor" -and ensure that your concerns are addressed.

Xanax is good for the occassional dose, but for something ongoing the prescription will probably be for something taken at least daily, such as Wellbutrin or Zoloft. I have a bottle of Ambien and one of Xanax tucked into my night stand for the nights that the statistics dance in my head and the doubts start teasing me - a very good crutch to have.

I HAVE been on the daily stuff before, had the boss from Hell and was a single mom and REALLY needed the job/insurance. Since I left her employ, I've been off the daily stuff....even the cancer diagnosis didn't cause as much anxiety as working for that piece of "work" - and that says a lot, doncha think? :wink:

Good luck! May the hallucinations be FUN, not scary!!


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When I returned home, after my first lung surgery, I was afraid to go to sleep. I would drift off, thenbe sitting striaght up in bed, trying to catch my breath. My wife was finally able to get to sleep, for short periods by stacking no less than 6 pillows behind me. I was literally scared I was going to die, if I fell asleep. After going about 3-4 days with little or no sleep, my wife called our family doctor. He had me come in to see him and he prescribed Lorazapam and an anti-depressant. The Lorazepam is what did the trick. After about one week, I was able to start going without the Lorazepam and was able to sleep. I am still on Lorezapam on an as needed basis. Now, I only panic when I have a new ache or pain. Which all of us know that a new ache or pain will trigger all kinds of things going through our minds.

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Thank you all for your input. Mom has mostly dealt with panic attacks by deep breathing and other self-help techniques. She was worried because the last panic attack was the first time since she started experiencing them that she was unable to stop it.

She is a cardiac patient (2 minor heart attacks), so she's had several EKG's since this all started. Still, it's worth keeping in mind. Thyroid is a good one to check.

When she originally started having the attacks, her dr. prescribed Xanax in small doses. It didn't help at all.

The idea of inducing a panic to learn how to stop it is interesting. Wonder if Mom would try it.

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