I have suffered from panic disorder and generalized anxiety for over 9 years. I have always been terribly embarrassed by my illness and tried to hide it from those closest to me - I felt that noone could possibly understand. I was wrong. There are millions of people worldwide who suffer from this and other anxiety related disorders. They have been called lazy, irresponsible, crazy, etc. but they are none of these! They have an illness, a disorder that should be listed as a physical illness, not a mental one!
In her book, Triumph Over Fear, Jerilyn Ross says "In response to an image or some other kind of information conveyed by one of the senses, neurotransmitters-chemicals that brain cells use to talk to each other-trigger a series of physiological changes. As the messages cascade from the brain throughout the body, they may have the effect of sharpening the senses, setting the heart racing, and sending blood to certain muscles so that the body is prepared to fight or flee." In someone with Panic Disorder the body is constantly bombarded with false alarms. For example, I can not abide loud noises - if someone drops a book in the next room my brain will signal the 'fight or flight' response to my body and off I go - into a full blown panic.
Panic sufferers can not just 'get a grip', as so many of us are told. The fear that races through our bodies is unpredictable, overwhelming and VERY REAL. Family and friends can help a person with this disorder by gently reminding the person that they have done this before, they are not dying and to breathe deeply. You may not be able to comprehend the disorder but the worst thing you can do to a panic sufferer is to tell them they are nuts-that only reinforces their fear of going crazy!
Remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! YOU ARE NOT CRAZY! NO ONE HAS EVER DIED FROM A PANIC ATTACK! August 25, 1998
K. Y. Hamilton, BA, MA - Copyright 2006
RETURN TO Essay Index