I’ve grappled with anxiety ever since my first panic attack six years ago, during an otherwise inconsequential day in June. Driving from my house to the grocery store, I felt my tongue dry up, then my mouth. It happened slowly, as if I were swallowing sand. My throat dried out too. A guttural sense of fear boiled up from my stomach and the two feelings collided in my chest, sending adrenaline coursing through my body. Gasping for air I slammed on the brakes, hands scrabbling for the door, and flung myself out.
Research shows that exercise is one of the best remedies for anxiety. It’s actually been found to be nearly as effective as Prozac at calming sensory nervous systems, producing feel-good hormones, lowering resting heart rate, increasing confidence, and decreasing sensitivity to anxiety symptoms. But cruelly, working out can also be a major trigger. Shallow breathing, a racing pulse, chest pressure, sweating, even slight nausea—these are all natural consequences of exertion; and they’re also symptoms of panic attacks. For me and the 3.3 million Americans with panic disorder, the sensations of exercise can morph seamlessly into full-fledged terror.
Before diving into my story of living with a mental illness, I first want to say something to you. If you are reading this, you are likely also living with the ebb and flow of mental illness. You may have a front row seat to the hard days, hopeless nights and the unique challenges that lie between. And, if you’re like me, you may feel some guilt for always struggling, fighting, or working to improve their mental health.
The following is for you. I am sharing my story because I’ve been there and I want to help. My hope is that what I’ve learned from where my mental health has taken me—and the work I did to get through it—may help you.
Panic/Anxiety attacks are helpful when actually needed.
I spent nine years coaching collegiate soccer and throughout that time I saw how an athlete’s panic and anxiety could deteriorate their performance on the field. In regular life, anxiety Continue reading “Panic/Anxiety attacks are helpful when actually needed.”
As a psychologist who trains therapists around the country in new ways to combat anxiety, I have become interested in the relationship between anxiety and high blood pressure.
Which causes which? And can treatments for one help with the other? Here’s the latest that I’ve found in my search for answers.
Agoraphobia narrows your world, literally and figuratively. People with agoraphobia avoid certain situations or places that may cause them to panic or feel trapped. This may include standing in line, driving on a bridge, being in open or enclosed spaces (like the movie theater), using public transportation or being outside the house alone.
There are gradients of agoraphobia. For some people the fear of being outside their home is so severe they become completely housebound. Others do venture outside but only to certain places they have to go, such as work. This still becomes a miserable experience, producing sweaty palms, racing heart rates, shallow breathing, chest pains and other symptoms of panic.
Physical and mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety, often afflict migraineurs, with current research indicating that panic disorder (PD) is the anxiety disorder most often associated with migraine.
In a review article in the January issue of the journal Headache, Todd Smitherman, PhD, FAHS, from the University of Mississippi, and colleagues explored PD, migraine and the connection between the two to better understand assessment and treatment of affected patients.
Pop star Robbie Williams has come forward to discuss the acute social anxiety he suffered after developing agoraphobia.
The former Take That icon told The Sun that, despite years of performing to huge audiences in arenas around the world, his condition left him unable to leave the sofa: “It was my body and mind telling me I shouldn’t go anywhere, that I couldn’t do anything.”
Last spring, I noticed for the first time that as the temperature climbed, so did my anxiety. On one of the first hot days in May, as I was standing and waiting for the subway, I began to lose control of my body — my mind was full of intrusive thoughts, I was drenched in sweat, and I felt like I couldn’t stand up anymore. Hunched over, my body entered a seizure-like state. I landed in the hospital for the afternoon and learned that what I had experienced was called a vasovagal attack: a combination of low blood pressure, a sudden drop in heart rate, dehydration, and anxiety that caused me to faint. The heat and humidity affected me in a way I had never experienced before.
Imagine you were completely unable to experience fear – not from a near drowning or mugging, not even significant air turbulence during flight. If you suffer from panic, you Continue reading “How do you scare someone who has never felt fear??”