Do You Have Panic Attacks?




Opinion.jpgI’ve always considered myself a pretty healthy person. I was a high school and collegiate athlete, have had good friends at every stage of life, and have largely been successful in my academic and professional pursuits. I’ve always been a mentally strong person and have felt at one time or another that the sky was the limit and that I could really overcome any challenge.

Several years ago, a lot of that ended when I had my first panic attack. I had gone on a medical mission to Guatemala, and as a flight was about to take off from Texas to the West Coast, I had my first panic attack. We were stopping in Texas from Guatemala City and allowed to get off the plane. When reboarding, the plane was extremely hot, crowded and we were lined up in the aisle moving very slowly to our seats at the rear of the plane. I suddenly began to perspire and had a fear that if I did not exit the plane immediately, I would die. I was almost to the back of the plane, and I suddenly turned around and started marching fiercely toward the front of the plane, pushing everyone aside and begging them to please step aside and let me off.

I got off the plane for a few minutes until the flight attendants told me that if I did not get back on I would be left behind. Still with the fear of death in my mind, I realized that I had to get on the plane to return home. So I made it back to my seat and shut my eyes and forced myself to sleep. Luckily I awoke when we were landing.

I’ve had some issues with flying ever since. In looking back to my childhood, I’m pretty sure that I had claustrophobia as a child. My sister used to cover me with a blanket and not let me out. I remember that feeling of helplessness, struggle, and fear that I could not get out. I got that same feeling when sitting in the back seat of a two-door car without windows in high school and feeling a little queasy about it.

I’m pretty sure that the real trigger was our transportation in Guatemala. We were always packed like sardines into buses. Or we were sitting sideways in cramped vans. Always without enough personal space and without fresh air. I’m pretty sure the two weeks of constant claustrophobic stimuli culminated to that point on the plane.

Since then, the panic attacks got worse for a while, then better. I can fly again pretty comfortably. But I won’t get on a plane without my bottle of ativan (sedative). I’ve never actually used it, but just in case I freak out, I want to be able to settle down without having a seizure or a stroke.

In an effort to connect with you guys, I would love to hear if you have had any panic attacks and how you have dealt with them.

  • NITTIN KENI

    This problem is very easy problem.This is a type of phobia.The cause of a phobia of a person may be different to phobia of another person.Exactly what are the unbalacced forces there in your brain it can not be said without your proper examination and esimation of your brain at subconscious level. But our expert of brain is suggesting some line of treatment with which any type of fear, stress phobia, insomnia,mania,psyzophrenia,is being cured.If you are visiting to india our expert will see you,or if he will be visiting in close to you he will see you,
    we are much sympethetic to you.
    thanking you

  • I never had a problem with flying until after the 911 attacks in 2001. Since then, I learned to become fearful of flying. It literally felt like I was having a low grade and sustained panic attack the entire time I was on the plane. Every little bump or sway would amplify the sick feeling in my stomach, and I was a basketcase for the duration of the flight.

    I wouldn’t say that the level of fear I felt was as high as yours, but it made my life miserable especially when the job I had at the time required me to travel at least 50% (via planes). I tried homeopathics, but that didn’t work for me, and I would use OTC antihistamines and dramamine so I would be too sleepy to be afraid. This went on for at least a couple of years. Over time, however, I discovered that since the root of my fear is the fear of death (and potential preceding pain), I cognitively dealt with the root fear on my own.

    I still get occasional butterflies when flying now, but now I can again enjoy my time on a flight.

  • Hello Dr. J.C,

    Very informative blog on brain…Thank you for sharing. Well I am new here on your blog first wanted to say hi then start my journey…

    In today’s fast-paced world, most of the people do not find 24hours a day adequate to carry out the tasks they want to. This lack of time, load and pressure of work creates nervousness and produces panic situations. The result is mind filled of tensions and worries. Combination of all these factors causes loss of sleep, loss of health and other kinds of mental and physical illnesses.

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  • Paige

    Oh yes, I get terrible panic attacks. The first one I had I was on my couch and had just heard the news of the death of a family member. Suddenly my heart started beating really fast and hard – I thought I was about to die of a heart attack or something! Anyways, I’m still dealing with them, and learning how to not be afraid of them. It’s the fear of the panic that keeps it going and gives it power. By the way, I’ve done extensive research on panic attacks. They do not cause strokes or any bodily harm. They just feel terrible. Sorry to hear you had one.

    Some root causes: sugar, caffeine, cigarettes, lack of sleep, phobias, long term stress.

  • Although I don’t suffer with panic attacks, I have recently writen a review of The Anxitey and Phobia Workbook by Edmond Bourne, which covers panic attacks in quite detail.

    The author wrote a great section on coping with panic attacks and addresses the incorrect beliefs (which Paige touched on above). For example, although a sufferer might have heart palpitations and think they are about to have a heart attack, they won’t. And although they might feel as though they are choking and believe they will stop breathing and suffocate, they won’t. And so on.

    He does really well to address these fears and correct those false beliefs. It’s definately worth a read.

  • Janice

    I have panic disorder and agoraphobia and I can completely relate to your story and have had many many bad experiences with this disorder.It is very scary but I refuse meds.I haven’t taken any that seemed to help anyhow and i,m paranoid that they will kill me haha,yeah I have become a hypochondriac and i,m always think something is wrong with me,even though i,m only 24.I feel like this has claimed my life.I am unable to work,lost my job because of running out in mid shift and now am 100% dependent on my father because the state of Florida says I haven’t worked enough to receive benefits.I feel like a burdon.

  • amy

    i’m having my first flight in less than 2 weeks. i feel like i’m just gonna freak out and panic. i’ve had panic attacks in the past and am so afraid of having one on the plane and embarassing myself and my bf because i have no idea what it will be like. i always think the worst of things and everything in my head is so far worse than when it’s actually happening but at the same time i am deathly afraid. i hope ativan will help!

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JC, MD

Dr. JC is a medical doctor who has a passion for health promotion and education.
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