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Panic Attacks...find the Source !

Look at medications as a step in treatment, not a cure in themselves. Therapy is needed to control anxiety/panic attacks.

So you find yourself in the ER or sitting in front of your Primary Care Physician {PCP} because you are experiencing some intense physicalsymptoms such as tingling in your arms, tightness in your chest, light-headedness, heart palpitations and an overall feeling of weakness. You may have felt this before and it passed, but here it is again.You felt that alarm go off in your head, a sense of dread, fear that it could be a heart attack. 

Well, first, you are smart for taking action. But then your doctor checks you out, and says that all your vitals are good. He thinks it is anxiety, but wants you to have more testing. He makes the referral and you go to the hospital for further tests, just to make sure.

After all tests are done, again you are told it is anxiety, and that you are having panic attacks. You are at first relieved it is not something critical to your health, but then think, these panic attacks are horrible and you ask the doctor for medications.

The most knowledgeable physicians will instruct you to treat these anxiety symptoms with both medications and counseling. On the other hand, you may just be given meds and be sent home with a reminder to see your PCP for a follow-up appointment.

This is where it gets tricky !

If you were offered medications, such as an anti-anxiety med  [ Xanax,or Ativan , etc. ] and /or an SSRI med like Zoloft or Paxil, you might feel some relief of your symptoms, at least for a while. Part of that relief might be psychological [placebo effect], but certainly some is a physical reaction to the drugs you have ingested. However, the meds are not a cure. You may go for weeks without any symptoms and you so earnestly try to convince yourself that it was just a fluke. Then the symptoms return, maybe even more intense. You call your PCP and he suggests that you increase your medications. You readily do so, but maybe some voice in your head  says I need to know WHY this is happening, maybe not.

Hopefully, now your PCP suggests you see a therapist who specializes in treating Anxiety Disorders such as panic attacks, phobias, obsessive worry and compulsive behaviors.

Now, if you find the right therapist  who seems knowledgable and experienced, you are finally on the right track. However, now you have more serious decisions to make. Are you going to be truly open with your therapist,  let down your guard, and really explore issues and conflicts that may be triggers for your anxiety ? Are you going to be willing to take steps that are laid out between you and the therapist that so often can be uncomfortable at first ? Are you ready to make the needed changes in your life ? 

Therapy works, especially when dealing with Anxiety Disorders, if you are ready to face what needs to be done to help you feel more in control of your life, because that is a KEY issue. There are most likely, and most often conflicts going on that you have repressed that are causing you to feel inner turmoil. When you avoid those issues, as you most likely have in the past, they just fester and come to the surface in the form of anxiety symptoms, a temper tantrum, or an anger outburst that just makes you feel more out of control. It is a vicious cycle that must be broken.

A reminder ! The medications may be helping, but in most cases as I have said previously, they do not actually cure the anxiety. The temptation to just take more and more meds is a real problem. You need to look at meds as a step in treatment, offering you enough temporary relief that you are in a better state of mind to identify and DEAL with issues and make changes.

This is just my experience with clients, but I have seen all too many on higher and higher doses of meds, often with the blessings of their physician or psychiatrist. My greatest concern is that at these higher dosages I also see clients experiencing side effects that actually create more anxiety, cause one to not be able to focus or concentrate, and possibly not be able to feel much of anything. These side effects can exacerbate the feelings of being out of control. Make sure to work with your therapist and PCP [or psychiatrist], and check often that they are communicating over your care.


Just a Thought !
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling
Blog: RuledByFear.com
On-Line Support Group: OneStepataTime.com
www.Facebook.com/groups/RuledByFear

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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