GET A PHYSICAL! Be honest with your doctor about your disorder. Tell him or her that you want every test for any ailment that might cause the symptoms you are experiencing. There may be a medical reason for one of your symptoms and if there isn't then at least now you know that you are fine! Specifically ask to be tested for mitral valve prolapse - a disorder (not life threatening) of the heart that frequently mimics panic. The test consists of a non-invasive ultrasound of your heart. Follow the link below to learn more about MVP! By having a physical you will empower yourself by being able to tell yourself that you are not having a heart attack because you have had a full check-up and your heart is fine! Do it today!
EDUCATE YOUR DOCTOR OR FIND ANOTHER! Often sufferers of this disorder are too embarrassed to tell anyone the symptoms they are having. This is partly due to the many trips to the hospital and doctors they have already had, only to be greeted with condescending physicians and nurses. I've been to the emergency three times, once in an ambulance. I was treated like a queen and given full cardiac workups. But when my tests came back normal, the staff suddenly seemed to whispering behind my back. I knew they were calling me a wacko. You don't have to take it! It is not your fault that these people are ignorant about panic disorder! Educate yourself and then educate the people around you - even if it is a doctor!
DIVERT YOURSELF! By forcing yourself to do something - ANYTHING - you will take your mind off the troubling symptoms. A full-blown panic attack lasts less than 3 minutes - talk yourself through it, aloud! Hearing your own voice saying "I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine" is often enough to get you through it. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Place your hand on your stomach to gauge if you are breathing correctly - your hand should move in and out as you breathe - otherwise, you are making matters worse by causing yourself to hyperventilate! Focus on something else - I can divert myself anytime, anywhere, by snapping a rubberband I wear on my wrist! Sounds crazy, but it works! Count by threes, count backwards by threes, name every U.S. President, name the capitals of the states (if you're not from the U.S., then try and name the states in the U.S.! Remember - the panic will end in a matter of minutes!).
FIND A HOBBY! I work on scrapbooks, take photographs, play around on the Internet. Find what works for you!
FIND A GOOD THERAPIST OR SUPPORT GROUP! Follow the links below to find a registry that will help you find a doctor or support group in your area that specializes in anxiety disorders. Call your health insurance company and ask for doctors and therapists in your area who specialize in panic.
PRACTICE SOME FORM OF MEDITATION! Quiet reflection, prayer, Tai Chi, solitary walks - anything that will center and calm you.
CUT OUT THE CAFFEINE AND DIET SODAS! Caffeine is a drug - it speeds up the heart and merely aggravates your anxiety. Another culprit is aspartame, found in diet drinks and food. It is an artificial sweetener - reports show that anxiety and MVP sufferers who eliminated aspartame from their diet report less frequent or the cessation of attacks of skipping and racing heartbeats!
September 12, 1998
K. Y. Hamilton, BA, MA - Copyright 2006