Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fear of Disease

I have a fun little problem, called a panic disorder. It means that I tend to panic when I don't feel in control of situations, often leading to a panic attack. Anyone who has ever had a panic attack will tell you they suck. You sweat and shake, feel like you can't breath, your heart pumps like crazy causing pains in your chest (often causing the panicer to get even more paniced), and your back muscles tense (knocking bones out of place and necessitating a visit to the chiropractor). Needless, to say, they are far from pleasant. Luckily, you can't actually die from a panic attack. Though often it feels like you are about to. And people who suffer from panic attacks usually start to become hypersensitive to the signs one is coming on. Thereby, causing themselves to have a panic attack at the sign of any little twinge. It is a nasty circle.

Panic is caused by irrational thoughts, usually accompanied by flashes of images where you see yourself succumbing to whatever you are panicking about. The imaginings are the hardest part to get under control, because they are so fast most people don't even realize they are having them.

Panic attacks can be dealt with by using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which requires no drugs. A big plus. CBT is an incredibly powerful way of reprogramming your brain. Sadly, unlike a computer disk your mind takes longer to reformat. And my mind, as my friend Margarita once said, 'is always trying to out think me!' Last summer, I was convinced that the lump my panic created in my throat would lead to a blockage. I was afraid to eat or be away from Mark for more than 5 seconds in case I needed him to call the ambulance. Happily, I have worked through this fear. Now it has been replaced by the fear of having a heart attack. I am sure aneurysms, hangnails, and dry eyes are soon to follow. If my mind can figure out a way to make it fatal, it can befall me.

If you deal with any of these issues I recommend The Feeling Good Handbook. It also deals extensively with depression. The book teaches you how to use CBT to take back control by identifying and dealing with your irrational thoughts. This can save you from ending up in the emergency room, sure you are dying, only to have your panic attack fizzle out after 15 minutes.

Picture from Flickr

1 comment:

muffy said...

I suffered a few panic attacks about 7 years ago. I haven't had any since practicing CBT. People who have never had one have a hard time understanding how out of control you feel.