Panic Attacks and Anxiety - Part Three

Posted by Wendy Neal Thursday, February 18, 2010 Bookmark and Share

This is the last post in my 3-part series on panic attacks and anxiety. If you haven't seen them, you may read the first two posts in the series now:

Panic Attacks and Anxiety - Part One
Panic Attacks and Anxiety - Part Two

In my last post I mentioned that my doctor had put me on antidepressants to try to curtail my anxiety, which she believed was attributing to my panic attacks. One thing she mentioned that alarmed me was the fact that if you were on them long term, they could damage your liver. The reason that was shocking to me was because it was a medical doctor warning me of the potential side effects. I remember thinking at the time, wow this must be really nasty stuff if my doctor is actually mentioning long term side effects.

So I started researching on the Internet for natural ways to deal with my stress and anxiety, so that I could wean myself off of the drugs. First though, I want to mention some of the short term side effects that I went through before my body got accustomed to the drugs. For the first two weeks, my panic attacks got WORSE, and I had terrible mood swings, digestive issues, insomnia, drowsiness, mental exhaustion, and overall I just felt awful. My doctor encouraged me to stick with it, because after a couple weeks they said those side effects would subside and I'd start to feel better.

Let me just say that I can completely understand why some people become suicidal when taking those drugs. And let me clarify that I DID NOT ever contemplate taking my own life; however, I do remember thinking that if I were faced with some life-threatening danger, that perhaps I would not go to great lengths to save myself. Mood altering drugs are very dangerous and if you know anyone taking them, PLEASE watch for signs of depression and suicide, especially in the first couple weeks of starting them or changing doses.

In the third week the terrible side effects did subside, and by week four I was actually feeling a lot better, as far as the anxiety and panic attacks went. It's hard to explain, but I almost felt giddy most of the time. It really didn't feel natural at all. I just wanted to feel normal.

I stayed on the medicine for about two months before I decided to wean myself off of them. It's recommended that you work with your doctor to come up with a schedule, because if you go off of them cold turkey, you could have horrible withdrawal effects. I didn't consult my doctor - I just cut my dosage in half for about a week, then took half a dose every other day for a week, then every third day for a week, then stopped altogether. I had no withdrawal effects and I continued to feel fine after stopping.

During this time I had also started taking a good multivitamin, vitamin C, fish oil, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and rhodiola rosea (a Russian herb that is supposed to help with anxiety). I also started eating a lot better - I completely cut out sugar and processed foods from my diet, and started eating more whole, organic foods and home-cooked meals. I believe it was these changes that helped me curb my anxiety and panic attacks, and also helped a lot with my hypoglycemia and digestive issues that I'd also been having during this time (more about these later).

Here is my disclaimer: I would strongly recommend before you start taking any supplements, that you work with a doctor (preferably a naturopathic physician, if you can find one) who can design a supplement and diet program specially for you. I really wish I had found an ND back then but there just weren't any around at the time. I think I could have avoided some health problems that I had later down the line if I hadn't been "going it alone."

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