Panic Attacks and Anxiety - Part One

Posted by Wendy Neal Sunday, January 31, 2010 Bookmark and Share

In my first blog post, I mentioned that I have experienced numerous mysterious symptoms and ailments over the years and my doctors just could not figure out what was going on. Or they just didn't think my complaints were to be taken very seriously (I've heard the phrase "it's just all in your head" more than once).

One of my biggest and most menacing health issues is that I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. Before I delve into how nutrition and natural therapies have helped to alleviate these attacks and greatly improve the quality of my life, I'd like to share some of my experiences and what it actually feels like to have a panic attack. I have a lot to share on this topic, so I am going to break this up into a few posts so I don't ramble on too long.

The very first time I had a panic attack was at school during my junior year in high school. Of course I had no idea that it was a panic attack at the time, nor did I realize that these very weird episodes that I would periodically experience throughout the years were panic attacks until just a couple years ago (I'm now 38).

There are many, many ways that panic attacks can manifest themselves and I've experienced just about every kind imaginable. The first one I had is what is known as depersonalization, or having a sensation of unreality. It is hard to explain but it feels like you are disconnected from your body, as if you are watching yourself and the events around you. Kind of like you're watching a movie with yourself in it. You may be having a normal conversation with someone and suddenly you feel alarmingly isolated and completely removed from the situation. This lasted for a few minutes and then everything seemed fine. I remember telling my parents about it when they got home that night and we decided if it happened again, that we would look into it. Well that particular type of panic attack did not happen again for many years, and so it was forgotten about.

Several years later, I think I was about 25, I started having what I called dizzy spells. I would be doing normal activities and then all of a sudden out of nowhere, I would feel incredibly nauseous and dizzy and I would feel like I was going to faint if I didn't sit down. Typical dizzy spells (perhaps where you have an imbalance in your inner ear or vertigo) may include the feeling of the room spinning around you. But during the spells I was having, it felt like I was spinning around in circles, like I was sitting in a barber chair and someone was making it go around really fast. This sensation would last for only a few seconds, but after I stopped spinning, I felt like you feel after you've been very sick with a stomach flu for several hours - very weak, lethargic, upset stomach, and general feeling of malaise.

The first couple times I had these dizzy spells, I went to the emergency room afterward because I had no idea what was going on. All I knew was, this can't be normal and something is seriously wrong with me. Both times the ER staff could find nothing physically wrong with me and told me it was all in my head. I did go see my medical doctor after the second trip to the ER, who sent me to an ear, nose and throat specialist. He suspected I might have multiple sclerosis, so he ordered an MRI on my brain, which of course came back negative.

I continued to have these attacks several more times over the next few weeks, each time a little more time elapsed between them and they seemed to be a little less severe (perhaps I was simply getting used to them and they didn't seem as bad?). Eventually they nearly stopped altogether. After that I would have only a few a year, and they almost always happened in the summertime when the humidity was bad.

Then it wasn't until the summer/fall of 2007 that I started having panic and anxiety attacks again on a regular basis. I will stop for now and continue this discussion in Part Two of this post, as this is already starting to get a bit lengthy.

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