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What is Panic Disorder? What is Panic Disorder?

Panic Disorder is basically the fear of fear. Everyone experiences panic from time to time - some people even seek it out! Have you ever been on a roller coaster? Are you one of those people who relish the rush of adrenaline, the pounding heart and the shortness of breath? These are just a few of the symptoms that accompany Panic Disorder.

People who suffer from this disorder have no way of knowing when the 'rush' will descend. They could be driving in the car, standing in line at the store or falling asleep when, seemingly out of the blue, their heart begins to race, they find it hard to breathe and they have a feeling of unreality. Many times the first episode feels like a heart attack and the person will be rushed to the emergency room. But the attack only lasts about 4 minutes - a very long 4 minutes to the panic sufferer.

Now the person lives in fear. When will another attack happen? Where will I be when it hits? Am I dying? And now all the other anxiety disorders come dancing in - agoraphobia, social phobia, hypochondria, claustrophobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder are but a few of the phobias that often appear. Is there any help? The Internet is full of helpful information! There are links to therapists, on-line support groups, personal stories, inspiration, coping techniques, pen pals, medication and therapy discussions and much more! Follow the links to get you started!

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 no one 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!

To learn more about Panic Disorder follow the links below. If you suffer from Panic and Anxiety Disorder, you will find the following links extremely helpful!

Remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! YOU ARE NOT CRAZY! NO ONE HAS EVER DIED FROM A PANIC ATTACK!

January 16, 1998


K. Y. Hamilton, BA, MA - Copyright 2006


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