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This is a question Losing it

Bluehamster tells us: "This morning I found myself filling my mug not a teabag, but with Shreddies." Tell us of the times when you've convinced yourself that you're losing your marbles.

(, Thu 21 Jul 2011, 12:59)
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Panic attacks
I suffered for around 3-4 years with panic attacks. It's not how you might imagine - I always thought it meant literally panicking - for example hyperventilating, becoming hysterical and probably flailing your arms around like Jim Carrey. Probably having to breathe into a brown paper bag like you see in the movies.

It comes in different forms, but I felt like I was having a heart attack sometimes, or about to have one. Chest pains would come and go, even though I had many tests and was found to be physically healthy. This of course leads your level of anxiety to increase. To the outside I seemed totally normal, just sat there, possibly perspiring a little.

Sometimes, I would be just sat at home, and a sense of almighty dread would descend upon me - of "impending doom". Nothing specific, but intense. I felt trapped - I'd have to stand up. If the room wasn't too bright, I'd go and switch all the lights on to somehow make things more "real", to bring myself back to reality. It doesn't work. I then just felt like I was standing in a brighly lit cage, with nothing outside, just a surreal sense of being trapped.

Panic/anxiety disorders can also make you feel trapped in your own body. You know that you're behaving and thinking irrationally, but surprisingly this doesn't seem to help your frame of mind during one of these episodes. Some people experience a sense of being smothered.

It can pass - it's most common to those in their early to mid twenties. See your doctor, but don't necessarily let them put you on antidepressants (SSRIs) as I question their efficacy.

Sorry for the lack of entertainment value, but it has a happy ending in that I feel so much better now, just a couple of years later. Don't give up.

I feel it worth mentioning to people, as it is one of those afflictions that people believe you can just be "snapped out of".
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 13:32, 41 replies)
*panic attack high fives*
And SSRI's work for me.
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 13:35, closed)
Glad they work for you - everyone's different certainly... they tried to give me beta-blockers at one point, I'm not sure what that would have acheived. Besides, what would I read at work then?
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 14:03, closed)
I sometimes use Beta blockers but only in extreme circumstances.
Breathing techniques and using pressure on pulse points is also helpful.
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 14:09, closed)
I suffer from them too...
I find contolled breathing techniques & self reassurance, ("It's a panic attack, it's not a heart attack,it will go away eventually", or sometimes even "Just fuck off"!) work best for me. At one time, I watched Roy Chubby Brown or Jethro stand-up videos to try & take my mind off them! They are horrendous though, but I think once you know what they are, they become much easier to deal with
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 15:33, closed)
Yes they are
I can't stand either of them.
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 20:45, closed)
Also have them
Worse in bed as i'm trying to nod off, then almost like I have forgot how to breathe and suddenly heart races, the sweats and just have to get up and do something or else 'something' will happen. Sadly drinking keeps them away which I guess is to do with the booze removing anxiety and stuff? So am drinking a lot more, so replacing a bad feeling at night with a bad feeling the next morning. I can deal with a hangover though.
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 15:44, closed)
Any good cures or help
much appreciated, like what pulse points? what breathing exercises etc. Grateful for any hints.

(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 15:46, closed)
CBT is by far and away the best therapy, especially for panic attacks. I was lucky enough to get it through occupational health, but there are (very limited) places via the NHS. Really did wonders for my panic attacks, but you have to put the effort in.

Other than that, diaphragmatic breathing is awesome (basically, breathe into your diaphragm, not the top of your lungs, four seconds in, four seconds out - takes practice).

For when you're actually in the throes of a panic attack, Dr. Fishfinger's advice is just about the best you can give: breathing exercises, self reassurance, telling your panic to fuck off. Again, with practice and a little self belief, you really can improve your experience of anxiety.
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 16:06, closed)
Shall give that breathing thing a whirl tonight, and am atm telling myself to 'fuck off' and 'get a fucking grip' when I feel it starting although sometimes I get thrown off the night bus....

(not true)
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 16:24, closed)
Don't be so hard on yourself - your judgement of yourself for being anxious is part of the problem
Look at this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_distortion

I was shown this list in CBT - it's a list of common cognitive distortions that most people have, distortions that make you judge yourself too harshly. Have a look and see if you identify with any of them (spoiler: you totally will).
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 16:35, closed)
It's the panic attack you tell to fuck off, not yourself

(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 19:28, closed)
the best thing about CBT is that psychoanalysts hate it
so it must be a useful treatment then.
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 16:25, closed)
And it has a stronger evidence base than any other talking therapy. And it's not full of bullshit.
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 16:36, closed)
shame that the tories just cut the funding
and are opening up the whole talking therapies area to private providers. 'Cos its all about 'choice', ain't it? You have the choice to choose a much less effective form of therapy, provided by a company driven only by profit. Nice one tories.
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 16:40, closed)
Exactly the reason homeopathy shouldn't be offered on the NHS

(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 20:08, closed)
homeopathy is way more than "much less effective"
or should that be way less?

either way, it's a load of fucking bollocks
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 21:24, closed)
placebos are effective
as long as you're thick enough to believe in them.

This makes me wonder - you know how occasionally doctors are caught sexually molesting patients and convincing them that it's part of the treatment?

Well surely that's equally as effective as homeopathy.

Probably shouldn't have said that. Somebody might jump on this idea and open a clinic.
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 8:18, closed)
I think the real problems start
when people start choosing homeopathic treatments for cancer instead of chemotherapy, becuase they believe it's somehow more effective (because hopeopaths tell them so).

Using placebo for a malignant tumor is like farting against a hurricane to see if you can stop your house being blown down.

The point is that they are con artists and massive twats.
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 8:58, closed)
you're totally right of course
I work for the NHS, and I'm totally sickened by the amount of GPs who provide expensive homeopathic treatments out-of-hours in their surgeries. (As if they need any more money.)

I'm not one of those who thinks that this sort of thing is just "a self administered tax on the scientifically illiterate" (Ben Goldacre's line). It's not surprising that people are confused about homeopathy when GPs themselves are using NHS surgeries as fronts for this kind of exploitation.

A lot of these GPs really do believe in it, but really that's even less defensible than just being exploitative bastards. Ignorantia juris non excusat, after all.
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 9:19, closed)

There is a time and a place for homeopathy.

Hear me out, before you say anything..

Yes, it is a placebo effect. That is how it works. The idea is to trick your body into healing itself; the "medications" used are not medications, they are sugar water and whatever other placebos. That is the point. It will most often not work because in your mind you know it is a placebo. However, I do have a homeopathy success story:

When I was a child I was plagued by frequent, painful mouth ulcers and cold sores. As you might know, this is not curable. It can be treated on a regular basis with aciclovir, but it only brings the symptoms down, it does not prevent any future outbreaks. Enter sugar pills, that I was told to leave under my tongue, and after that I could not have licorice or mint for the next 6 months (what this had to do with anything I do not know, probably just BS to make it sound authentic). And it worked. The cold sores stopped developing.
It worked partly because I thought it would, and partly therefore, as a result of me thinking it would go away, bringing my stress levels down, which reduces the chance of outbreaks.

It is stuff like this that homeopathy is made for. No sane human being would (I would hope) suggest it for serious things that would otherwise require surgery or other such procedures.

Just my two cents/pence
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 12:40, closed)
I agree that the placebo effect should be put to use in medicine
But wouldn't it be better if we harnessed the power of the placebo without:
a) telling people that conventional medicine is 'toxic' and 'dangerous'
b) intentionally confusing people about science and muddying the waters of evidence
c) making people doubt the idea of evidence based science altogether
d) having this bizarre Christian/ritualistic belief underlying the whole thing

Surely something like this: www.boingboing.net/2008/05/29/placebo-pills-made-f.html is a lot better than any anti-enlightenment snake oil claptrap.
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 12:53, closed)

Agreed on all points.

I think this depends on the person you are seeing.
I was too young to really remember the guy at all, but my parents are highly rational people who take the word of science over anything unsubstantiated, so I doubt he tried to push any of this nonsense on them.
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 13:14, closed)
In Ben Goldacre's book...
He talks about a time (before 1910, if I remember correctly) when doctors could legally use placebos on patients, and were under no obligation to inform them of the truth. I think this was a better system. The whole idea of patient choice is bullshit anyway - doctors are experts, and as anyone here who has been discussing anxiety attacks can tell you, your own opinion on your own health is practically worthless because it is so easily distorted. The more choices you have, the more likely it is that you'll make the wrong choice.

I'm sure every GP has wished he could just give a sugar pill or a saltwater injection to every hypochondriac, stress-head etc. (even people with ulcers, sores, and many of the other illnesses which amazingly benefit from the placebo effect).

It's easier with kids though, because parents can give consent. And most parents are quite used to lying to kids to make them feel better anyway.

The experience you describe actually sounds great (I love the flourishes - no mint or licorice - awesome). I just wish this was on the NHS, and part of evidence based practice rather than hokey homeopathy.
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 14:01, closed)
Some great valid points in the posts above
I have read Ben Goldacre's book, it's a great book.

RE tyrellsOwl's story - Aside from placebo, there is also a tendancy that people have which is to take a treatment whilst ill, and once the symptoms disappear to assume that the pill you have taken or the tiger penis you have strapped to your head has cured whatever it was.

The truth is often that illness just clears up by itself. From the way you describe it, it sounds like this may have happened. The placebo may have helped. However, if you know it's a sugar pill it will do nothing, unless you truly believe in the healing power of Snickers™.

The power of placebo is moderate against certain illnesses and conditions, but unfortunately homeopathy in general is a hard sell bullshit organisation which causes people to deprive themselves of effective treatment. It should be *banned*.

I like the point about doctors being able to prescribe placebo, however. This may be appropriate for some patients, but there are ethical concerns.
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 16:25, closed)
I hear Dr. Goldacre is writing a new book
about epdemiology. I'm really looking forward to it, and it's the best and most acceptable reason why he hasn't updated his website much lately.

I'd like to see homeopathy banned, or at least forced to carry a disclaimer, but whenever I express views like this I can't help but feel I've fallen in the trap of the right wing pundits who accuse the left of state interventionism, curtailing freedoms and nannying the public. Which is all true, I guess, but not necessarily a bad thing!
(, Wed 27 Jul 2011, 12:27, closed)

Well, it did clear up by itself, because sugar pills sure didnt do it!

However, it was made better by the experience. Like I said, it was reocurring for years, very severely, until the homeopathy treatment, after which I would not even break out at all for months.
(, Wed 27 Jul 2011, 13:06, closed)
CBT is very effective with this
unfortunately I wasn't fortunate enough to get it.

One thing I would say is that you must try to avoid medicating with alcohol. I did the same thing - it does work (it increases GABA neurortransmitter activity), but it makes things much worse in the long run.

Drink a moderate amount if you want, not every night. If you're absolutely desperate, ask the doctor for some diazepam.

Really do see about CBT though.
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 16:25, closed)
The adrenaline needs an outlet. I deal with my anxiety attacks by cycling, running or, on the occasions I'm too scared to go outside, jumping around.
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 19:23, closed)
^ This

(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 9:56, closed)
I got'em bad after 2 years overworking.
Once I got over the initial...I'M DYING...phase I was still left with a 10-20 times a day 'habit'

After a couple of weeks I just 'pulled my socks up' and refused to have them any more. It sounds glib but that was what I did, told the fuckers to fuck off.

The ones that snuck up on me while I was dropping off where the hardest to shift. I got into the habit of listening to a little radio when I went to bed and they stopped as well.
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 16:02, closed)
Thanks for this post
This year I turned 28 and finally got round to getting my panic attacks / anxiety problems sorted. I'd begun to suffer after university, but was so embarrassed about it that I just refused to discuss it with anyone.

One day (not even that long ago, but really it feels like a lifetime) I ended up walking out of work and into my doctor's surgery, and basically flipped out. I was demanding every test under the sun, convinced that my chest pains were cancer and that I was about to die. Luckily, the doctor was pretty smart, clocked on to what was happening and dealt with me really well. Also my boss and my girlfriend gave me a lot of support during the next few weeks. I ended up in CBT, and everything has changed since then.

It's still hard work of course, but because I'm not trying to keep it secret anymore, and now that I've realised how stupid it was to hide it from everybody who knew me, I'm a million times better than I was just a few months ago.

A few weeks back I sent my boss, the doctor and my now ex-counsellor a bunch of flowers each to say thanks (flowers direct, I'm not a mentalist). Each of them was a little taken aback by this gesture - they didn't feel like they'd done anything out of the ordinary I guess. But to me, they were total life savers. "Thank Goodness", as Daniel Dennett might say.
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 16:30, closed)
I was the same
I started having them at 15 and refused to seek help for them, my mum didn't realise what they were and a helpful doctor misdiagnosed it as stress due to my GCSEs. Eventually my bf at the time persuaded me to go to counselling when I was 20 and it really did work miracles. It turned out I had the classic relationship issues with my mother and instead of feeling upset or angry my body was choosing denial via anxiety. Once I confronted how I was feeling really we started working on our relationship and it wasn't easy but I've been panic attack free for 2 years now. Got to love a cliched reason though, right?!

There is no shame in asking for help. I felt like people were defining me as crazy but then my friend told me "everybody has a little bit of trouble dealing with stuff now and again, and it's ok to admit that and ask for help" and I realised she was right. Good luck :)
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 19:42, closed)
your friend was right, and I'm glad you're doing well.

Philip Larkin was right about parents. I'm surprised anyone makes it through intact.
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 9:37, closed)

Classic account of the situation one ends up in Leviticus.

How people treat you becomes so crucial, it was really nice of you to let them know they'd done something important for you.
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 20:12, closed)
my girlfriend's brother did exactly the same thing a few weeks back. (Storm into a doctor's surgery and flip out, that is.)

Except he was in the arse end of the north of England and they called the cops on him. Poor guy - he's doing OK now though.
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 9:22, closed)
If you don't know what's going on...
...they're terrifying, and basically invisible to anyone else.

After many years of (thankfully infrequent) attacks, mostly in social settings like eating out, I finally found out what they were.

As far as management is concerned, I found positive visualization was effective for me. Before and during going out I would visualize previous successful visits to the same place. This seems to defuse the initial downward spiral of anxiety, for me at least.
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 22:00, closed)
I am a b3tan, so i can only read CBT as cock and ball torture
this makes the replies very amusing
(, Mon 25 Jul 2011, 22:23, closed)
Haaaaaaa ga!

(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 1:20, closed)
that is what it stands for
why? what were you thinking?
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 9:20, closed)
Oh you dear sausage...
I suffer from similar, except I get full on tonic clonic seizures without warning. Scares the hell out of my poor colleagues when it happens in the office. Had a particularly nasty one on thursday :(
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 1:18, closed)

I'm not sure that severe epilepsy has much in common with a panic attack, but thank you anyway.

I feel for you though, it must be terrible.
(, Tue 26 Jul 2011, 8:48, closed)

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