T Nation

Panic Disorder

After trying to read the “demonstrations” thread I feel almost guilty for bringing up a personal health issue (almost). Has anyone here suffered from panic/anxiety disorder? I have had really severe bouts of it on and off for about 14 years now and I’m trying to find info from others on how they’ve dealt with it. I’ve been on a massive list of meds that seem to not really work, including @12-16 mg.s of benzo’s a day which caused 4 painful months of withdrawal. The panic is cyclical with no rhyme or reason. I’ve had periods of a year or 2 with not much trouble. The last 2 have been so bad I can’t work and have trouble getting to the gym and working out. Any comments or info would be greatly appreciated.
Happy holidays everyone!
Kaleb

I never had a panic/anxiety disorder. But I was depressed when I found out I had cancer for about 2 weeks. Then Sept 11th happend and I forced myself to refocus on life again. I found out the gym was my safe haven. When I found out I had Cancer again this year I was depressed again but I feel working out got rid of the depression and anxiety. I would highly recommend if you do one thing is to continue to work-out I think this would be your safe haven also.

Hard to believe the “no rhyme or reason” part considering human brain can’t “snap” w/o organic/“neuro-chemical”/drug problems or “emotional overload”.

hmmm…drugs - synthetic [alien to your body]chemicals that ALWAYS directly effect brain chemistry in some way…hmmm…

I’m not sure I follow you. Hard to believe the On’off pattern? How much personal experience do you have with anxiety/panic disorder? There have been periods that I have not been on any medications any your commenting on exogenous chemicals? No offence, but your post seems textbook.

I battle depression by working out; oftentimes to where I drag myself out of the gym. I try to get a 75 minute workout done in 50-55 minutes. I do this because I got tired of trying to find some drug to lift the veil (Zoloft, Welbutrin, etc., etc., etc.,). The routine and the endorphins have helped tremendously. The key is the daily routine. I force myself in everyday and do a workout. Hope it helps. Keep the faith…

I’ve had anxiety disorder since 1990. Xanax was my godsend. I did not find it addictive, having taken it off and on for 12 years now at the same dose. I do find that when I’m exercising every day, I ‘forget’ to take the Xanax. I just don’t need it because the exercise seems to throw-off the anxiety. My doctor put me on Paxil 2 months ago. He said it would replace the Xanax. I’m tapering off of it now because it seems to make me too tired. Bottom line — exercise everyday and you probably won’t need any meds. Then, just keep something like Xanax around just for emergencies. What’s your workout schedule like?

Meditation and Yoga. I also like to read “Hagakure” with my green tea at 5am before my work-out.(But then I don’t have any anxieties) You might want to first find a good therepist who doesn’t rely on drugs only, and then try meditation and yoga.

Just to point out something here (and I’m no doctor): anxiety is the opposite of depression.

Kaleb: have you been taking anything with ephedrine/caffiene? I wonder during your "cyclical" bouts of anxiety you were taking a supplement w/ephedrine?

I just got diagnosed with bad anxiety, possibly clinical depression, a month ago. So far what’s worked was running. Lots of running, keeping the endorphines high. Moving out of my old dorm helped, getting a workout partner that drags me out of bed helps keep me in the gym. Simplifying my life and keeping busy has actually helped ease the anxiety. It’s during the down times that things get rough.

First of all, a thank you to all the people that have given info/advice/comments. Anxiety and Depression are not actually “opposites”. An extremely high percentage of clinical depressives suffer from anxiety and/or panic disorder. This is why many people that experience anxiety and panic benefit from anti depressant therapy. They may seem opposite, but the comorbidity of depression and anxiety disorders is very prevalent.
As far as caffiene and ephedrine go, I haven’t touched the stuff in years. If I was to pop some ephies and caffiene it would probably be the equivalent of smoking a large amount of crack for me! I’m sooo not going there. Thanks for the questioning though as I know a lot of people that do run into problems with the ECA stack and all its derivatives.
I have been researching some stuff that’s kinda interesting. In people with panic disorder, they can induce a panic attack by an injection of lactate. “Panic People” also apparently show low levels of Gaba in the brain. Hopefully there will be some more research done and more help for those of us that need it.
Kaleb

kaleb- if you have not already, learn about the “fight or flight” response to fear. A panic attack is just your mind pulling its "fight or flight " trigger (forgive me if im telling you something you already know). When its triggered at the appropriate times, (fight, rollercoaster, moment of extreme embarassment,etc.,) it seems completely normal to you and causes you no concern. But when you’re watching t.v. or eating dinner and all of a sudden you’re mind pulls the “trigger” it scares the living hell out if you… lightheaded, racing heart, dizziness, shortness of breath,nausea, even numbness in the face and limbs. everyone of those serves a purpose in a moment of danger. what makes the panic attack is the fear of fear, the cycle of fear. You think to yourself, “why am i lightheaded?” which then scares you, you pull the flight or flight trigger again and your heart starts racing and you get short of breath… “oh shit now my heart is racing, i cant breathe, im lightheaded, what the hell is wrong with me!?” now you’re really scared so you pull it again, you get the picture, its the cycle that you need to break. The moment you start feel ing symptoms think logically about what they are and say to yourself its just the fight or flight kicking in, no worries. So thats why i reccomend learning about the fight or flight the more you learn about it the less youl fear it, the less you fear it the shorter the panic attacks will become, eventually you wont be scared at all and therefore no panic. There is too much to say in one post, i hope i made some sense… Paxil did not work for me neither did ativan, i spent four years on medication it didnt help at all. 3 months of learning about panic and fight or flight helped me so much more than 4 years of medication. I have been panic attack free now for almost 3 years. As soon as the panic went away so did my depression. I’ll post some links later on and try and see if the place i went to to learn about all this in depth has a website. I feel your pain. stay strong.

My apologies, Kaleb.

My thinking was that panic attacks/anxiety was due to a discreet period of fear. So, that your heart rate would increase, there'd be a shortness of breath, oh and maybe a fear of dying? While depression is the other end. A sense of foreboding, decreased interest, a sense of worthlessness, etc.

But I just read that depression may be secondary to the attacks and may actually make the attacks worsen. I understand, now.

Okay, do you keep a journal? If not, I wonder if once you start, you do see sometype of association with a event or activity in your daily life that may trigger an attack.

I wanted to thank you for your lengthly reply and positive comments. I appreciate what you have to say and if you ever do come accross a good info site, let me know.
Thanks again.
Yours in health,
Kaleb

I mean there has to be a reason for anxiety/depression

By drugs I mean too many different drugs will mess you up. I worked in a nursing center and saw alot of little old people put on rx drugs for normal physical problems (pain, constipation, etc.). The rx drugs caused more problems…emotional problems…u know what I mean?

10-15 different medications all messing with each other prescribed by 2 or three different doctors that didn’t communicate with each other.

As far as text-book goes, it was. I have a total of 12 credit hours (just started only one class in psychology and made a “C”), so I have no business telling you anything w/o a website/text u can look up yourself. Found info on your issue on brainconnection.com.
I’m going to school for social psychology which doesn’t have much to do with your post. I was just bored.

The other people who posted are right in my OPINION. All of them.

Jay

I was also diagnosed with what was thought to be panic disorder. I was given Inderal, but hated the “aggressive calming” effect it had (Inderal is given to lower blood pressure, but it also has a welcome side effect in reducing anxiety). I’ve been through counselling, to analyse the triggers (nolongerlazy is right on in his comments) and work on ways of dealing with the feelings. The attacks would sweep through at all hours of the day, and even the thought of doing a workout would set me off. None of the medical or psychological help I sought really helped (though they did set me off exploring what I could about the problem). But the thing that has helped me the most, such that I’m virtually over the problem, is a little hint from Dr Kinakin elsewhere on this forum. And that suggestion was - chew your protien shakes! My problems started when I began taking protien shakes regularly as part of a building program about 4 years ago. Two or three shakes a day. His point is that protien digestion starts in the mouth, through mixing with saliva and the amylase enzyme. Gulping it down, without the chance for the mixing to start in the mouth, sends a concentrated stream of “raw protien” to the gut, which then has to process what it’s just received. It’s almost like this protien becomes “corrosive” or inflammatory to the gut lining, such that when a mild stressor such as having to speak in front of people, or pysching up for a workout which causes additional stomach acids/etc to be produced, which, on a tender intestine wall, is very painful. Sometimes even a stressor wasn’t needed - it would just hit. These comments, of course, are my theory only, but it’s correlation with my recovery and eliminating the problem is remarkable. And indeed, you may have a more serious imbalance for which the meds are appropriate. Anyway, I hope this story is something you can use.

First to clear matters up for people, Depression and anxiety are not the same, though many depressed people suffer from axiety as a side effect of that deppression. You can be axious with out being depressed but if it goes on long enough you start getting depressed about being anxious all the time. First of all this increase and decrease in anxiety appears to be related to a threshhold in your brain related to environmental stimuli, i.e. stress. Unfortunately, axiety increases your stress by 100 times so it become a “self-fulfilling prophecy”; a self fedding entity.

Your obvious solution is drugs. Paxil is the most effective drug currentely available. I would not discount the use of benzo's. You will probably need them to break the cycle. Just don't go heavy on them. Take them on an as needed basis. The other fact you may have to face is that you will probably be on drugs the rest of your life. That's ok, be glad we have them. Nothing is more miserable than being anxious all the time, particularly for no reason. Make sure you are seeing a psychiatrist/neurologist about this issue. Is is obviously a physical defect, but it can be delt with. In time it may even go away (this take a looong time becuase it requires your brain to change, but it happens), but the key is to get it under control. Then worry about the next day. Tommorow doesn't matter much if today really sucks.

I’ve found everyones posts helpful. It’s given me many ideas to pursue for recovery. - Arniem, thanks for the protein idea! I will definitely do it. -Patricia, no need to apoligize I’m glad you have contributed. -vjsprint, Thanks for the comments and further explanation of your previous post.
Thnaks everyone.
Cheers - Kaleb

Kaleb, I haven’t suffered from panic attacks specifically, but I have dealt with some anxiety and depression. I’m not sure exactly what you’ve tried (a lot, I imagine), but here are a few ideas:

Jogging: gotta agree with this advice. I specifically remember having a particularly bad depressive episode one morning (COMPLETE hopelessness) and decided to go for a run. Afterwards, I felt better than I had in days. Not sure what it is about running, but it gives me a great endorphin rush, much more so that lifting. And if you’re worried about it being catabolic, I’m sure you’d agree that positive mental health is worth the expense of a little bit of muscle.

Low-carb: I found I have a much more stable mood when I limit my carb intake. I know each person is different, but it helped me out quite a bit.

Good fats: a lot can be said about getting in your omega 3’s, but you might also want to consider taking cod liver oil during this time of the year because of its vit D content. Have your levels checked first to avoid toxicity, though. Also, have you had your test levels checked? Just curious about this.

Meditation, relaxation, etc.: medition/yoga would be a great addition to your arsenal. Meditation really helped me out. Also, I would check out mercola.com for his EFT technique. Very helpful for anxiety.

Therapy: can’t say enough about this. A journal is helpful, but good psychotherapy is invaluable if you can find someone you’re comfortable with. I would recommend something that incorporates some sort of tapping. For the few months that I did this, it got me to deal with some stuff I hadn’t thought about for years.

Reading: check out “Going to Pieces without Falling Apart” by Mark Epstein. This is a great book that I’d recommend to anyone. Also, reading in general would be a great way to keep your mind occupied. I know we’re not supposed to avoid our feelings by distraction, but as long as you’re dealing with “issues”, then I would think it would be beneficial for you so you don’t just sit around waiting for your next episode.

Well, those are some random thoughts for you. Apologies for the legnth. I am, by no means, an expert so I might just be preaching to the choir here as I know you’ve experienced this for a long time. And for what it’s worth, I’m really sorry you’re going through this. I can’t imagine how bad it must be for you at times. But keep working towards a solution; you’ll find something. Take care.

Tyler

P.S. Have you ever tried the Alpha Stim CES unit? Chris Shugart wrote about it a few months ago. I’ve got one, and it does seem to help with anxiety.

P.P.S. To those of you out there who have never expereinced any real anxiety or depression but dish out advice like “snap out of it” or “get off the drugs, they’re toxic!”, do everyone a favor and STFU. You have absolutely no idea what it’s like until you’ve been there.

Great thanks to you Tyler for your post. I will be increasing some cardio style work that they’ve found to be so useful with depression and anxiety, more so than weight training. I never even thought of the low carb approach as a good tool to measure my mood and anxiety versus a “normal” carb diet. I’ going to look in the past issues for the article with Shugs and the “device”.
Oh yeah, I totally agree with your point about people that say, “snap out of it” or “just mellow out”…STFU!!
Thanks again Ty
Kaleb

kaleb- www.bu.edu/anxiety/ this place helped me enormously and broke my fear of panic… Very cutting edge research going on there. Youre probably not in the boston area, but i do remember them telling me that people call them from all across the U.S. to get info and find good doctors that are affiliated with them throughout the country. They know thier stuff and helped so much more than the shrink and meds could. check them out.