Dealing With Panic Disorder And/Or Agoraphobia....How Do You Deal With It?

@pyewacket (44036)
United States
April 20, 2008 1:21am CST
..."My heart was palpitating so hard, it felt as though it was going to pop out of my chest; my knees were shaking and felt as if I was going to collapse at any moment. Sweat was pouring down my face, and I could hardly breathe; my breaths were short and shallow, and it was as though I was being smothered by a pillow. My vision was blurred, yet I was aware of seeing my right hand slowly reaching out for the doorknob, but then I pulled it back quickly. I just couldn't open that door...." What I'm describing here, is not the scenario of the beginning of a Stephen King-like horror novel. It was the way my life was some twenty-seven years ago, for you see, I had developed the known condition of panic disorder with agoraphobia, and at one time I was completely housebound. I wasn’t even able to leave my second floor apartment, to do a simple task of going downstairs to get the mail. The why or how I developed my condition shortly after graduating college will remain a mystery to me, and to this day I still don't know why, but I did. It wasn't as if I had suffered any traumatic experiences in my life that could have triggered it off. I had so many plans, dreams, goals for my life, and then it was as if my life was taken away from me, and all those ambitions seemingly died the day my symptoms began and put a screeching halt to everything. The above two paragraphs here is my opening to my article that I wrote and recently submitted to that MedHunters. It's a long article and two of my friends here have read it in it's entirety and gave me the thumbs up that it was good..This was probably the hardest article I had to write since I had to kind of relive just how really bad my panic disorder with agoraphobia was---I am thank God no longer housebound, but I'm still not ready to book flight anytime soon on a trip to Europe--I still have far to go. Strangely enough, now, I'm almost the opposite...I can't standto be home all day, it drives me daft, and will feel more worn out and tired being stuck home...I love going out now even if it's just a quick jaunt to the store--but I just have to get out otherwise I'm restless as hell. Now I happen to know many of you folks here have varying degrees of panic disorder and am curious how do you deal with it? Do you take medications to help you? Or have you been trying to overcome it with the behavioral cognitive type way, that is, exposing yourself to places that might trigger panic attacks? Thankfully I haven't had a full blown panic attack in I don't know how long, but I have more like generalized anxiety..of course that might be different story and might feel a twinge of panicky feelings if I were to go somewhere new or different. For those of you who are relatively housebound, does it drive you bonkers to be home all day or have you gotten comfortable with being home all the time?? For anyone who does have this problem....the tapes (now on CDs too) I've been listening to are the Lucinda Bassett's program "Attacking Anxiety and Depression" are a tremendous help...bit pricey though...nearly $500 (got mine awhile ago) but can pay in installments..It's a wonderful program as it helps one to relearn one's thinking process...since in most cases one can actually talk themself into a panic attack by anticipatory anxiety...you're doing something or about to do something that in times past made you have a panic attack...so now you're thinking of it, anticipating it...and bingo...guess what? You get that panic attack. The Stress Center's website has forums where people with our problem can share our experiences...good or bad, and the great thing is, it makes one feel good in the knowledge that you're not alone with this problem...there are others out there just like you with the same stupid, and yes, it is a stupid problem.... The website is here http://www.stresscenter.com So I'm inviting my fellow phobics to share your story here...how, when and why it may have started for you, how you deal with it...and if you want to rant by how frustrated you are by all means do!! To all the folks here with panic disorder and/or agoraphobia...my prayers and wishes that one day we will all get over this stupid condition and have a panic free life again
7 people like this
16 responses
@faith210 (11233)
• Philippines
20 Apr 08
Hi pyewacket! I am glad to learn that somehow you were able to overcome it somehow and I hope one day you will totally overcome it and booked yourself a flight to Europe soon are even here in my country. I guess, i really don't have any phobic attacks on anything to that extent. I do have fears but not to the point that i get breathless and put my life to a halt because of the fear. I guess the only fear I have is the future! I hope and pray too that to those who have this condition will overcome such trials. Just my thoughts dear friend! Take care and have a nice day!
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
20 Apr 08
Hi faith....thank you I hope all of us who have this condition can overcome it as well. Fear of the future is fairly common actually, that's why I'm learning to live in the now, the present and take one day at a time
1 person likes this
@faith210 (11233)
• Philippines
21 Apr 08
Hi pye! Very true, my friend! Take care always!
1 person likes this
@cmelton (160)
• United States
20 Apr 08
I was just recently diagnosed as having panic attacks and I also suffer from depression.I did not even realize that is what I was having but when I described what I was feeling and he said it was a panic attack. I felt like I couldn't breathe, I got sweaty and dizzy, my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. I thought I was about to pass out. He has put me on 2 types of medicine. One to take daily and one if I feel an attack starting. It really has helped. I too did not have anything happen that triggered this. The Dr thinks it is just stress and I have had more than normal lately. Thanks so much for sharing your story.
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
20 Apr 08
Yes, that is how it started with me...I didn't know what the heck was happening to me when I first got the symptoms and there was nothing there to trigger it off, no traumatic experiences in my life and no stress at the time..just came out of the blue. Have you ever considered a program like the one I described though? I'm not really an advocate of medications as I kind of view it as a band-aid approach...the program I follow is to teach one how to control the panic by simple exercises and positive self talk before one gets a full blown panic attack--it really does help!
1 person likes this
@cmelton (160)
• United States
20 Apr 08
I have considered that. I am not a big fan of all this medication they have prescribed for me. It is really putting off the prblem. I will defiately try the approach that you take. Thanks
2 people like this
@youdontsay (3503)
• United States
21 Apr 08
Anxiety disorders are more often than not chemical imbalances in the brain. Too many people get blamed for anxiety and depression as if they did something to cause them. But usually it is biochemical. Once the anxiety and/or depression sets in the experience of dealing with it often makes it worse, becoming a terrible cycle. Thankfully, most of these conditions are successfully treated with a combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy so that the victims can lead a more normal life. My admiration goes to all those who struggle with either or both of these disorders.
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
21 Apr 08
Well I had so many tests done early on and it was ruled out that it was biochemical with me...though I do have a low blood sugar problem that can often trigger panic attacks but I've gotten that under control as well...as I mentioned I haven't had a panic attack in years and years and have managed to keep myself panic free without meds...not a advocate of meds to begin with unless really absolutely necessary. Even Lucinda Bassett of that program I relate here isn't keen on meds...that it's only a bandaid cure--but do the cognative therapy type thing
@irishmist (3820)
• United States
20 Apr 08
I had panic attacts many years ago, when my daughter was a baby, so it made it hard for me to take care of her, my mom had to come everyday and help me. It was a very painful time in my life. I couldn't drive my car, I was afraid, as my first attact happened while I was driving home one night in a snowstorm. I was afraid of everything, like eating and swallowing food, walking up and down stairs. The Doctors gave me medication, but I decided not to take it, I didn't want to become addicted to it, I also went to counsling, and it did help. the reason for my attacts was my ex husband. He drank to much, and did unpredictable things to name a few. Once I got rid of him, I slowly became my old self again. to this day every once in awhile I will feel the onset of an attact, but I can usually talk myself out of it or work through it.
2 people like this
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
21 Apr 08
I never wanted to take medications either, also heard so many bizarre side affects by others who have taken the number one med prescribed..Xanax. That really is the key...at the first twinge of an attack to do some positive self-talk and deep breathing helps
1 person likes this
@Aurone (4758)
• United States
20 Apr 08
Luckily my agoraphobia is not that bad. Sometimes I have to leave stores or areas because there are too many people but for the most part it doesn't restrict my life. I have just found clubbing in Las Vegas is out of the question--they pack way to many people in those places for me to be able to stay inside.
2 people like this
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
20 Apr 08
Fairly large crowds never really bothered me...I live in a very crowded type environment to begin with...my one friend from upstate whose closest neighbor is a few miles away came to visit me once...SHE was starting to have panic attacks cause she couldn't understand how I could live and be surrounded by so many people...LOL..yet, don't think I would ever want to celebrate New Year's Eve at Times Square....ekkkkk! now THAT'S crowded!
1 person likes this
@winterose (39918)
• Canada
21 Apr 08
Another excellent piece, if medhunters do not take it they are crazy. Once before I asked you if you would share this piece with my members on my e-zine you have so much helpful information within it.
1 person likes this
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
21 Apr 08
Well it might be awhile before I hear from MedHunters about this article..submitted it about two weeks ago...so here's hoping they do...what e-zine? I don't remember you mentioning one to me..I'm also hoping to sell my Hipaa Law one elsewhere..oh, and just submitted an article to Chicken Soup ...how long do they take to hear from them?
@winterose (39918)
• Canada
22 Apr 08
chicken soup only answers if they want your article, it is very competitive though. storytime tapestry is mine, the link is on my home page.
1 person likes this
@Hatley (164640)
• Garden Grove, California
21 Apr 08
pyewacket I used to have panic attacks everytime we went to this humongous grocery warehouse. it was huge and tons of people shopped there as the prices were so good. I would start picking out my produce and then all of a sudden hordes of people were just shoving at me and fruit and veggies tumbled ontothe floor. they trampled on them and I would freeze and could not move. I could not breathe and my hands and back were covered with sweat.my husband came over and took me back to an area with tables and chairs and a lucheonette. I washyperventilating and thought I would die. He sat and talked to me calmly and quietly and after awhile I was breathing normally.then i felt like an utter fool. This would happen almost eveytime we went there.I finally got some help with a psychologist who taught me how to overcome these attacks and now I rarely have one. the only thing close to it now is that two years ago Ihad broken my shoulder badly due to a bad fall and had a shoulder joint replacement done. Now when i come to these steep three steps at my apt. complex I just cannot go up them as I see myself falling again. my hands sweat my breath comes so hard I get dizzy and I will not go up those steps. i caN easily climb up the sloped lawn to my apartment with no problem but I cannot go ups those steps. I just cannot do it Iam afraid I willfall again.My best friend and my son think I am nuts but I cannot make myself go up them.I know what I feel and stupid or not I am not going to take a chance. I did do it just once when the sprinklers were going full tilt and there was no other way to myapt. but I stumbled and almost fell and I was in a real panic attack by the time I got to my apartment. I wish I could shake it.I can go down those steps but I still do not like to. I am 81 and I do not need another fall. so I feel for all people with panic attacks.
@Hatley (164640)
• Garden Grove, California
21 Apr 08
I forgot to add that there are no handrails along those three big steps so nothing to hang on to and that is my problem . I walk with a quad cane but it does not help me in climbing up those three steps. once a lady stood behind me and sort of just pushed me and I did manage to climb them and not fall but it remains a big problem for me. I can climb on the solid ground of the slanting lawn and am not afraid but that is entirely different.
1 person likes this
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
21 Apr 08
I don't blame you for being afraid of those stairs especially since you already had one bad accident They should at least install some kind of handrails in your apt complex...that kind of a accident waiting to happen..not just you but for everyone that lives there...I wouldn't feel too keen on going up or down stairs without handrails either...I live on the second floor of my building...no elevator...thankfully do have handrails on either side
@blackbriar (9080)
• United States
20 Apr 08
Hi Pye.. Happy to hear your overcoming your panic attacks and agoraphobia so you can enjoy the freedom of the outside world again. Maybe some of your plans you made back when this all started can still happen after all. Never know. Thankfully, I don't have this problem. Only my anger problem which the classes I took to help manage it helps alot so I don't let my anger build up like I used to. Just comes in small spurts now like it did in your one discussion about the chinese killing cats. My bro-in-law has panic attacks and is on meds for it. Seems to be helping him although he still doesn't stay home. He doesn't stutter anymore which is a good thing.
1 person likes this
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
20 Apr 08
Hehee...yup we kind of got flak about that one discussion about the cats..I knew what you meant though...and yes I have an "anger" problem too especially when I hear of any harm to any animals Glad to hear your bro-in-law is getting better with his attacks..
• United States
20 Apr 08
I knew you would know what I meant but the others sure didn't. lol ah well! Another day, another few pennies here in mylotville.
1 person likes this
@ElicBxn (60884)
• United States
20 Apr 08
I've had a couple of panic attacks, both related to money. My client has had agoraphobia off and on for a while, she took anti-depressents the first time, but now, even with the anti-depressents she's not being helped as much. When she wanted to go vote, she nearly seized up. To go out to look at the wildflowers I think she didn't worry as much about it, didn't think as much before doing it, and didn't have a problem. Right after I retired I stayed home a lot and my roomie said she thought I was getting that way, but really I wasn't, I was just trying to save gas money by staying home. Sometimes, while it was cool, I'd stop on the way home from taking her to work at a park and read for a while.
1 person likes this
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
20 Apr 08
Yes how is that friend of yours doing as I remember you telling about her in one of my other discussions--is she getting out a tad more now? Mmmm....money...yup that can be a drawback....like I have to actually plan what things to do out of the apt that won't cost much to do...bummer really...not a bad idea though there....I have a park near me....could always go there with a book to read and just soak up the sun a bit...hehe
1 person likes this
@ElicBxn (60884)
• United States
21 Apr 08
Last week - on Tuesday - we went out to look at wild flowers without any trouble. Getting her out is quite the production since she's so heavy and her knees are shot, but she had a good time on our little drive. But going to the movies is another production. It probably isn't helping her that I hate to take her out, since its so much work for me.
1 person likes this
@emeraldisle (13146)
• United States
20 Apr 08
I've had agoraphobia or social-phobia most of my life. When I was younger I was able to control it better. I tried to over come it by taking drama and this did help. Sort of forced me to deal with being in groups and being in front of groups. I was able to manage for a long time although I still avoided major crowds because those I couldn't handle at all. Added to this I also have manic/depression or bipolar so I have major mood swings at times. Combine this with the other and it can make life interesting. Still for a long time I managed to over come my panic when dealing with some crowded situations. That changed though several years ago. I was in a car accident and did a lot of damage. As the years went on the chronic pain was worse. The expression you can only fight on so many fronts is very true. When you struggle to deal with the pain, the mood swings, and also agoraphobia it's just to much to fight at once. My agoraphobia got worse. All my energy goes into being able to do daily activities and doing for myself through the pain and not giving into depression. I just don't have the strength to fight the panic and anxiety I get with crowds anymore. At this point I just try to avoid them if at all possible. There are times when I can't and in those cases I try to just concentrate on one little area and try to block out the fact that there are others pressing in (that's how it feels even though they aren't). This will work for short periods but some times it won't at all and I have to just leave. Forget whatever it was I was attempting to do and try another time. It's very frustrating and it's very hard to explain to those who don't understand. The worst part is I can never tell what will constitute a crowd. Three people in an elevator can be a crowd for me but thirty people in Walmart isn't. It's very subjective and that makes it even harder to explain to an outsider.
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
20 Apr 08
You hit it on the nail there....that people who don't have this problem can't even guess or imagine what we're going through. From what you're saying you're doing exactly what I'm doing, just really living in the "now" the present moment, time...one step at a time each and everyday...my greatest and frustrating hinderence now to me is the pain I often have in my ankle-joints making for a fun filled time of walking...NOT...I realize it's no longer really my phobia problem holding me back but my pain there....but I still try to go out everyday..for as I said I've almost have developed cabin fever and HAVE to get out awhile...often makes me feel a whole lot better
1 person likes this
@emeraldisle (13146)
• United States
21 Apr 08
Yeah I try to live in the moment and try not to borrow trouble. I also try to avoid areas that I know could cause problems. I do try to get out now and then because I do get the cabin fever as well. That and family can drive me crazier then I already am I understand about the problem with the ankles. I have bad ankles as well but it's more my hips that make walking difficult. It's amazing how such a small area really can cause so much pain.
1 person likes this
• India
21 Apr 08
its mind game its ur problem with fear ur weak to overcome this promblem when u fear think why are u fearing what for it soon realise its waste of time to thinking ure a cowred think brave handle thias stiuation like do die first attempts may doent yeild result but practise can yeid good results practise meadtion
1 person likes this
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
21 Apr 08
I do realize it's a mind game thing, but I certainly don't think of myself as a coward or weak by any means and yes I do practice meditation
@rlc456 (415)
• United States
20 Apr 08
I am so sorry for you, I don't have this, but I have heard of people that suffer from panic disorder. I hope you get the right treatment for this, God Bless.
1 person likes this
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
20 Apr 08
Thank you ric456....yes I do plan to overcome this--too much I want to do in my life
@gemini_rose (16193)
20 Apr 08
Over the years, I have heard of people having panic/anxiety attacks and always wondered about it. How could they be like that, what on earth could cause it to happen. Hearing of people trapped in their homes for years because they simply cannot go through the door. I still do not understand it all fully, but I do now know how people feel when they have them as I have had 2 of them in the last 3 years. They were caused by stress and upset and I have to say it was the worst feeling I could ever describe and must be absolutely awful to have to deal with on a daily basis every day of your life. The two that I had could have quite easily become a regular thing, but I was aware of what was causing it and I was aware that if I did not take a hold of myself then I was going to be in trouble, and it was hard but I did it I got over the things that were causing me to feel like I did and stopped the fears before they started.
1 person likes this
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
20 Apr 08
Panic disorder is more understood now too, than say when I first got the symptoms..I didn't even know what was wrong with me...thought I was just having weird "episodes"--it took me some years just to find out what was wrong with me...but as you say having panic attacks is the most god-awful feeling to have, and yes, at one time I did have them on a daily basis...no more! Thank goodness
@TerryZ (22083)
• United States
20 Apr 08
Well I remember when we first became friends here on mylot and that was a year ago, you explained to me what agoraphobia was. Because I didnt know what it was. That sounds like the scarest thing that someone could ever go through.And I think youve come a long way my friend. You know I wish you only the best and keep that good work up. It really is something to think about because your going through life and wahm something like that hits you. I dont know how it feels because Ive never been through anything like that but I can imagine the fear you went through. Stay brave girlfriend! Hugs!
1 person likes this
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
20 Apr 08
(((hugs))) back at ya Thanks my cyber sister....nope, this stupid kind of thing I wouldn't wish on my worse enemy...and it really is a dumb thing to have and have no idea why it hit me...there were not great stresses in my life, I had so many plans for my life--they say (whoever they are) that things happen for a reason...one day maybe I'll understand...like when I'm 90...hehee
@Ravenladyj (22937)
• United States
20 Apr 08
I've had to deal with panic attacks and major anxiety for several yrs now in fact pretty much my whole life...these days I've learned various techniques on how to handle them and i actually have a list of "what to do" that I printed off a few copies of for my kids, my husband, bf and some close friends etc that comes in handy..What is done or what I do depends on the situation and severity of the attack...Sometimes its just a matter of removing me from the situation and letting me ground and centre.. Agoraphobia...now thats a different story..I had a short bout of that that was SO bad I wouldnt leave my room let alone my house which made going to the bathroom really trying actually....All I could do during that was inform the family (hubby and kids) of what was goin on and then I just let it run its course..I can't even remember what triggered it actually but luckily it only lasted a week or so...that major episode I mean...I, around that same time in my life, had to deal with very mild agoraphobia but again the key at that time was making sure my husband and kids were aware and they worked with me on it until I could work my way out of that mental stage and so on....Bottomline for me when it comes to ANY of my mental disorders has been slowly but surely dealing with my past and conquring my demons...Healing is hell but totally worth it in the end
1 person likes this
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
20 Apr 08
I went through a spell like that too...where I hardly came out of the bedroom either...but for me I just don't think it was the phobia problem, but depression and have no idea what triggered that either..I hardly ate (lost a LOT of weight), slept most of the time, but would at least go to the bathroom---To be honest I forget how long this lasted...maybe a few months? But then it was like one day a flash went through my mind that this was no way to live...and "snapped" out of it and became somewhat normal at least to the point where I wasn't staying in the bedroom anymore....in fact the opposite...even now the only time I'm in the bedroom is to sleep...I stay out all day and night--maybe it's a stubborn refusal to go back to that "lifestyle"?? There are days of course now when it is time for me to wake up that I just don't want to get out of bed or just plain want to sleep real late..but I refuse to do that--another reason maybe...as a kid I was always sick with something and stuck in bed....so even now when I am sick, I will get out of bed and get dressed, fix breakfast, put some make up on and get the heck out of the apt, even just for a little while..I just don't want to go back to that frame of mind or state ever again
@Aussies2007 (5339)
• Australia
20 Apr 08
I have been tempted to ask you several times how you were dealing with your agoraphobia and all your bank problems at the same time. I dealt with my agoraphobia for 32 years without consulting a doctor about it. I was never housebound... because it was not a luxury I could afford. And still can't. I have always pushed myself out of the door and managed to control my fears as best as I could... while using every tricks in the book. I only force myself to do what I have to do in order to survive... and I avoid the rest. I don't see any point in putting myself through agony to go to a party which I am not going to enjoy because of the agony. For the last 10 months... I have seen a doctor... I had 4 visits with a psychiatrist... which told me he could not help me because I was too sane. And for the last 8 months... I have seen a psychologist once a month to do some CBT... and she has not done a single thing for me. She listen to my life stories and send me home with a piece of paper telling me to do some exercise and meditation to control my agoraphobia. To which I respond that I have been controlling the freaking thing for 33 years and I am miles ahead on her. Furthermore... I don't do meditation... I'm a man! Not a priest. I only go out once every 10 days to do my shopping... as I am in the middle of nowhere... 40 miles from the nearest shop. Even so... I was never housebound... it did stuff up my life in a big way from an economic point of view. I could have made twice as much money... and I would still be working. So yes... it has costed me big time. And nobody understand it... including me.
1 person likes this
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
20 Apr 08
LOL....dealing with the bank business and agoraphobia is a piece of cake considering some of the things I've endured in the past. Like 2006 was my real "winner" year...the kind that it was one thing after another....first with my mother's deteriorating mental/emotional and medical health..her refusal to be taken care of by anyone else but me, so I was her caregiver...oh, joy. Then receiving an eviction notice, my having to scramble up getting a lawyer, finding places for the extra cats we had...fast...then the court appearances that ran from May 8th to Oct. 19th...and in the middle of the court hearings my mother passing away on Aug. 27th...gee, am I leaving anything out....Ironically what should have been my most anxious time I was the most calm about it, even my friends would ask, "How can you be so calm?" One I think I was just too damn busy during that year to panic, and two, I guess I had an inner knowing that getting into a tizzy panic wasn't going to solve anything....if at any time I needed a clear mind, that was it Mmmmm...parties don't bother me...in fact I have come to enjoy them....not wild parties of course, but just cozy get togethers with good friends I stopped seeing my shrink (the second one I had) as he wasn't doing shat for me...just wanted me to keep rehashing the past and talk about my mother all the time...never made a "game" plan to overcome the phobia business and on top of that kept wanting to push meds on me...no thanks...rather have my full faculties than being in zombie land, and heard too many weird stories from people of the side affects involved especially with Xanax Yikes..40 miles away from stores? I'm lucky in that aspect that I can walk a fairly short distance anywhere and all kinds of stores are nearby No, you're right no one who doesn't go through this has the slightest clue what we go through--my grandmother and mother thought I was faking it and my lovely grandmother called me a lazy beech since I wasn't out in the "work" force, but technically speaking was working, just at home--and yup-- I don't understand why I got this crap myself