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Please help: Feeling very "panicky" about panic attacks!

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I would greatly appreciate any advice from those who have experienced panic attacks.

I had my first attack on Sunday, and it sent me to the ER. I was shaking all over uncontrollably; I could not breathe well; I was having heart palpitations; and my blood pressure was sky-rocketing. Today, I just had another one. No where near as bad, but they honestly frighten me. I always thought panic attacks involved a lot of obvious emoting and crying and hysteria. But these are not like this at all -- it's much more physiological. I feel like I have to be very gentle with myself right now.

Some background:
I have just recently come off of blood pressure medication. Although my doc thinks I no longer need it (BP has been in the 120s/80s -- not high enough to warrant medication), I feel as if I've lost faith in my body's ability to regulate itself. I was on the medication for nine years, and now I feel as if I'm a bike with my training wheels taken off -- if that makes any sense. I guess I had become emotionally dependent -- and possibly physically dependent -- on the BP medication. Now I am so frightened without it. Despite having two EKGs done in the past week and a bunch of blood tests (all came back fine), I am scared to death that something is wrong with my heart.

I know I need to calm down; I know that it's possible to get this under control. I just never imagined how scary panic attacks could be.

If you have any experience you can share, it will feel good to know that I am not alone. I am going to see a therapist next week, but I'd also like to know more about other therapies people have used -- alternative or medical.

My DH and I want to TTC #1 in about six months -- If I have to take medication, is there one that is safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

Thanks so much for any help you can offer!!!
post #2 of 12
Years ago I had issues with anxiety attacks and depression. I was on meds and had therapy. I did the therapy far longer then the meds and found it extremely helpful. However, my anxiety was tied in with depression, which may make treatment options different than just anxiety. I can't help you out with meds to take while breastfeeding, I was years away from motherhood when I had my issues. Good Luck, mama. It is not easy but it is possible to regain emotional health and to keep it!!

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Lisa. I appreciate your feedback. I am hoping the therapy will help out.

post #4 of 12
I've never had what I would consider ot be true panic attacks, but I have a fear of flying and lived across country from all my family, so I forced myself to fly at least twice a year to visit them. I would get very panicked on the plane and then I found myself getting panicked in the weeks before ABOUT the panic I knew I would feel on the plane. Honestly I solved that with drugs (because it was just a few hours a year, I just took xanax or equiv on the flight, then my anxiety about being anxious was solved)

However, one of the last times I flew I was pregnant and I won't take the drugs while pregnant. I was getting panicked about the flight for months before since I knew I wouldn't have my drugs. What I did was buy some of those hypnosis tapes. What they really are (at least the ones I listened to) were just a focus for breathing and visualization and I did find it very useful beforehand and on the plane at controlling my panic attack since much of the horrible feelings of a panic attack were caused by breathing shallow and rapidly, etc. I still prefer the drugs, but the flight went reasonably well. So you might try something like that.
post #5 of 12
I'm the panic attack queen, with 15 years of history.

There are strong medicines you can take occasinally (benzos) for severe attacks. At one point it was thought these might cause neurological disorders if taken in the first trimester (esp cleft palate), but that has been disproven.

There are SSRIs that can help (the only one I know that has been studied in pregnant and breastfeeding moms is Zoloft). It helps some too.

I recently weaned off SSRIs. I did it slowly (I had been on Paxil for 6 months after a few years of Zoloft and it really needs slow changes). Here's what helped me. 100 mg B6 three times a day, 1000 mcg of B12 twice a day, an amino acid called TMG at bedtime, with 400 mg magnesium and 100 mg potassium. Eat high amounts of tryptophan containing foods, as tryptophan is turned into serotonin by your body.

Progressive relaxation helps a lot; learn how to do it when you're NOT in the middle of an attack and it can help when you are having a true attack.

Cut down stimulants (caffeine, nicotine).

Exercise regularly.

Remember panic is your body's fight or flight system gone awry. You can retrain it. A panic attack cannot last forever; your body will run out of adrenaline and it will have to end.

The best book I ever found was entitles "The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook"
by Edmund J. Bourne.

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks for you great feedback, MightyMoo and Traci! I really appreciate you suggestions!

I had a few "aftershocks" this week after having that major first attack on Sunday. But I think I've worked through them fairly well. I'm definitely going to look into all these suggestions and will discuss them all with my specialist next week.

I can't tell you how good it is to know I'm not alone, though.

Thanks again!
post #7 of 12
You are definitely not alone!

I too have suffered from panic attacks all my life, usually surrounding certain scenarios (traveling far from home, for instance)

One of the best things I ever did was get Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is the process of "re-training" your responses to stress and situations that would normally cause panic. I had done conventional talk therapy, but CBT really helped me gain control over my emotions.

Good luck!
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thank you, B! How wonderful everyone is to share their experiences. I have an appointment tomorrow night with a cognitive-behavioral therapist, so I am hopeful it will help. My problems seem to be related to concerns about my health more than anything, although I did have some issues with situational panic this past week. Since I'm hoping pregnancy will be on the horizon for me soon (, it's really imperative for me to trust that my body is healthy. I think this will be a primary focus for me when I work with the therapist.

I'm also going to be meeting with a friend who just became a holistic health practicioner to see if she has any ideas.

Again, thanks so much.

I wish you all much health and happiness!
post #9 of 12

Panic attacks...Long..

I am so sorry about your trip to the ER! I have totally been there too. Your story sounds so much like my own. I was at class and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I felt like I was having a full blown heart attack. I was sure that I was dying right then and there. I made it to the ER to have the full round of tests done just to learn that I have panic disorder. This has been going on for three years now. I have refused SSRI's since I have had to take them in the past for a serious bout of depression after my mom died when i was 21 and they all made me feel like crap. I got more depressed from those meds. My dr has been kind enough to give me a dozen Xanax a month and I only take them if I really have to. This has worked well for me. I also hadn't been drinking caffeine or any stimulant as I would have a full blown attack. It seemed to happen alot while driving and one time I even passed out while at work and broke my chin open! ANOTHER trip to the ER. (SOOO embarassing!) Recently though, I found that i couldn't sleep due to my heart pounding out of my chest, no anxious feelings, just pounding so hard I couldn't sleep. And the Xanax didn't help at all. I tried everything, extra magnesium, chamomile tea, prayer..you name it. I finally went to the dr and he prescribed me Toprol XL, a beta blocker for the palpitations and Seroquel for the anxiety and to help me sleep. I am happy to say this cocktail has worked amazingly for my panic attacks. He told me that beta blockers really help with panic attacks...someting about blocking the adrenaline. I thought I'd feel tired since I am a low energy person to begin with, but I am happy to report that now I have more energy than before. I am always reluctant when my GP pulls out his ol' prescription pad, but this really has helped me tremendously.

My only concern is that i'd like to conceive and don't think thats possible while on the Seroquel. If any of you gals have heard differently, please let me know.

I hope that you are able to gain some control over your attacks. That's been the hardest part for me since they seem to always happen at the absolute worst times. Good luck to you..you are not alone

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Maria. I really appreciate it!

Yes, I know what you mean about your pounding heart keeping you up at night!! I've been having the same problem. I've been trying to distract myself by laying on my DH's chest while I fall asleep (listening to his heart isn't bothering me at all -- lol!). Or I try to move my fingers on my pillow as I fall asleep, and that noise distacts me from listening to my heart.

Toprol and Seroquel both appear to be in pregnancy category C, which means that they've either not done human studies with them or that there might be some risk, but if the risk is outweighed by the benefit, you can chose to stay on them. If you do a Google search on them, you'll find many pages with this information.

There is another beta-blocker -- labetalol -- that has a long history of safe pregnancy use. Although it's also a category C drug (based on non-human laboratory studies), my OB/Gyn said it's considered to be one of the safest options. That's my contingecy plan if I need to be on a BP drug during pregnancy (I'm hoping I don't have to take anything, though).

I've been doing well. I'm really trying to talk myself through this, and my breathing issues have gotten progressively better each day. I met with the cognitive-behavioral therapist this week, and she seemed hopeful that I can work through this. I just keep telling my body how healthy it is every day. Seems to be helping!

Thanks so much, again, everyone, for sharing your stories!
post #11 of 12
I saw the comment about getting to sleep at night, I often have trouble with anxiety keeping me awake - what I have found works for me is to listen to books on CD. I get them out of the library and just start each night where I remember leaving off the night before. I find I don't get very far though...
post #12 of 12
I just want to tell you your not alone, I have been with panic attacks for 2.5 yrs now. I have learned to control them now (along with taking zoloft, I have tried going off of it but it just doesnt work for me. My very first panic attack I thought I was having a heart attack! My pulse was 156, and my blood pressure was 140/93. Just wanted to send you
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