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Awareness Anxiety
Bzzebee posted:
I'm a 32 year old female that has been relatively active most of my life up until the last 5 years. Since 9/11/2001 I've experienced panic attacks. They didn't come as frequently, but once in awhile I'd get one and think I was going to die, so I'd rush myself to the emergency room only for them to shoot me up with Ativan and send me home. Recently the panic attacks have been happening every day. I try to think of any serious recent changes of my life, but there is nothing stressful really happening. I find my anxiety comes when I allow myself to become physically aware of the present moment. It usually starts with, I feel like I'm not breathing correctly, then it spins out of control where every sensation in my body is causing me to panic. I do have a history of Hypothyroidism and Hypertension which I do take Synthroid 150mcg for the thyroid issue and 40mg/12.5 of Benicar HCT for the high blood pressure. Both seem to be in order. I've had my heart checked EKG, ECG and Stress - my heart is fine. I've been diagnosed with prediabetes which I believe is under control now.

I have never taken any anxiety or anti-depressant medicine because I do not like the idea of something having the potential to alter my state of mind in such a way as to make the situation worse. Suicidal thoughts, acting different and being more aggressive aren't options for me. I went to a recent psychiatrist that prescribed me Prozac 10mg and wants to increase the dosage gradually to 80mg and seemed to be more concerned that it would help me reduce my weight instead of helping me with anxiety. I have lost about 40 lbs because of the panic attacks and at one point being so afraid to eat anything but salad because of the hot flashes I would experience when I would eat.

Right now, I take Hyland's Calms Forte. I take three a day and usually only take them when I feel the anxiety coming on or if I know I'll be put in a situation where I will have anxiety such as being in a car, taking the bus or train or being left alone in the house. I've tried deep breathing exercises and meditation but sometimes even these things cause more panic than relief. Is there anything I should be asking my doctor or any natural remedies that could help me? Or any therapies I should be considering to help with this intense disorder? The panic isn't new to me but the frequency is and I'm just not sure what to do anymore. I've researched pills to death and even that causes some form of anxiety. I'm also starting to develop new symptoms such as sensitive hearing and wanting the "world to shut up". Please offer some advice...

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Patricia Farrell, PhD responded:
Panic and anxiety aren't really a question of pills because it's much more complex than that and there really is no one pill that will help everyone. I'm not an M.D., but in your case considering that you are prediabetic, it would seem to me that the medication the psychiatrist is giving you may cause weight gain. You may have lost weight because of your concerns about eating, but that class of medication causes many people to gain weight. In your case, I suspect, gaining weight would not be good because it would cause what is known as metabolic syndrome, a.k.a. diabetes.

There are several things that you can consider and I would suggest that you give some thought about getting a referral for two specific types of therapy; cognitive therapy and biofeedback training. The biofeedback training can help you to learn how to control your body's physical reaction to things. What happens, in many instances, is that you experience a bodily sensation (such as increased heartbeat or perspiration) and this is interpreted by your brain as a fear response. Biofeedback will help you to change this and to learn how to physically calm yourself down.

Cognitive therapy will enable you to learn additional techniques and ways of helping yourself. Whatever therapy you do decide on, be sure that the person is licensed, experienced, and appropriately trained. I do have a page on my website ( on the Therapy page where I provide some information regarding selecting a therapist. I've also provided this in my book, How to Be Your Own Therapist, which is available at Amazon.

I hope you find these thoughts helpful and I hope you do give some consideration to the things that I have mentioned.

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