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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Panic Attacks - America's Secret Mental Illness

by Opeth


Imagine yourself sitting in a room full of your peers at work during a meeting. Out of nowhere you feel a sudden pressure on your chest and your throat starts to tighten. You feel weak, almost faint, while your breathing becomes forced and labored.

Alarmed and confused, your mind races with the possibilities. What is happening to me? Is it a heart attack? Stroke?

While your mind wrestles with the possibilities you are overcome with a deep sense of dread and fear. You start to sweat and your heart beat accelerates. Your rapidly drying throat makes swallowing difficult. As you reach for your water bottle you notice, to your dismay, it's already empty.

You start to scan the room around you looking for the nearest exit. You feel as if everyone is staring at you. You have to get out... fast!

Welcome to America's burgeoning secret mental illness -
Panic Attacks.

Panic attacks are a by-product of our rising anxiety levels over issues such as money, job insecurity, and rent or mortgage payments. When our overall stress levels increase we worry and lose sleep elevating our risk for anxiety and panic attacks.

Chances are if you haven't experienced a panic attack yourself you know somebody who has. Or do you?

Studies show approximately 6 million American adults suffer from panic disorder1 - which is defined as a reoccurring pattern of panic attacks that last at least a month. Panic disorder becomes classified as a mental illness when the condition causes enough distress to reduce ones ability to function socially, occupationally, or psychologically.

What that statistic doesn't show however are the millions of additional people who suffer quietly; entrapped in their own anxious prison. The truth is panic attacks and panic disorder are a secret hell to many people too reluctant, embarrassed, or ashamed to admit it.

Panic sufferers commonly build defensive walls around themselves in an effort to insulate and protect their own delicate environment. They try to hide the problem from family members, co-workers, friends, and even themselves. This can lead to social withdrawal, avoidance, and agoraphobia - a condition in which the individual avoids places or circumstances for fear of panic attacks. If left untreated, these walls can close in to the point where the only perceived safe sanctuary is one's own home.

In some cases people are afraid to admit to panic disorder for fear of losing their job. For example a cop or fireman who's ability to remain calm under fire is a matter of life or death. Or an airline pilot who's responsible for the lives of dozens of people every day.

For others, their panic attack secrecy is a much more personal matter such as a victim of abuse or a veteran returned home from a war. Statistically, women are twice as likely as men to develop panic disorder. A study recently published in the Archives Of General Psychiatry even suggested a link between panic attacks in postmenopausal women and heart disease. That's scary stuff.

Panic sufferers reluctant to discuss their problem or seek treatment are much more at risk for other problems such as depression, drug abuse, or alcoholism. Most are simply looking for a private coping mechanism to get them through the day.

So why is panic disorder increasing in our country? Do you really need to ask? Look at the way we live.

Americans work more hours and take less time off every year than any other country in the world. Many of us jam as many daily activities as humanly possible into both our personal and professional lives. We arm ourselves with electronic gadgets and gizmos designed to simplify our lives but end up only exacerbating our stressful multitasking madness. Case in point: text messaging while driving.

Even when we do take time off to vacation rarely do we act like the carefree couple in the Corona commercials. The BlackBerry, laptop, and cellphone usually take the trip with us and are among the first items unpacked. I doubt many Americans emulate the Corona guy and skip their buzzing pagers into the Pacific.

But it's not just our technologically-enhanced busy lives that are increasing anxiety and panic. Some of us are unfortunate enough to inherit the disorder. Because of the relative secrecy of panic disorder, many sufferers don't learn of a family history until well after the fact. Let's face it - it's not exactly a family topic freely discussed by grampa during Thanksgiving dinner is it?

For every panic disorder victim there are many other people who develop situational panic attacks that cause anxiety in certain situations such as crowded places or fear of stepping onto an airplane or elevator.

Fact is panic disorder is one of the most treatable of all the anxiety disorders. When panic sufferers finally do admit a problem exists and seek out treatment many are amazed when several friends, family, or co-workers step forward to admit to having the exact same problem. It's more common than you think. Shhhhhhh... spread the word.

1. Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.

For more information be sure to visit: Natural Panic Attack Treatment
or visit:
Panic Attack Treatment


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