Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Posted by ainsleigh @ainsleigh, Apr 14, 2018

So many of us have suffered for anxiety and panic and I would like to share something that has helped me . In my Recovery group I learned that
nervous symptoms are ” distressing but not dangerous i.e.” NO DANGER.” If I ever feel myself getting anxious I repeat those in my mind-
it is a “secure thought ” and helps me to relax and avoids the escalation of symptoms. It takes a little practice but can make a big difference. I would love to hear if any of you find it helpful too.
Ainsleigh

@gailb

@joanm65

I am a Volunteer Mentor with Mayo Connect. I'm so sorry to read that you're experiencing panic attacks, especially in the night. I have had panic disorder, which is different from anxiety. I know how it feels when you're alone having an attack and it was extremely frightening for me. I have a couple of questions before I give my experience that may help:

1. Are you seeing a physician for your panic disorder/agoraphobia?
2. Do you take any medications to help with the anxiety/panic?
3. If so, what are you taking and how often?

If you aren't seeing a doctor or psychological professional, I highly recommend that you contact someone in your area and get an appointment as soon as possible. The physician or professional can order medication such as Ativan (Lorazepam is the generic) to help you for the short term. It sounds to me as if that would help quickly. However, I'm not a medical professionals and am just stating what worked for me. I could only take airplanes if I first had 2 mg. of Lorazepam, which made my anxiety tolrable. In the past I would get so panicked about having to fly for work that twice I couldn't get on the plane. The second time cost my job as I was fired for not attending an out of state meeting. I just couldn't get on the airplane. I have had panic attacks in stores and worried that I might start screaming and they would call for guys in white coats to take me away. Lorazepam helped with those times when I was activated and panicked. However, Lorazepam is addictive, so it's not good to take over the long term. I only got 10 pills at a time and they lasted me several months.

I also was going to talk therapy for several years, which was extremely helpful. I learned huge amounts about myself, my emotions and the things from my childhood that drove many of my reactions to situations. I also learned that my panic attacks only lasted for about 20 minutes at a time. I learned that since they would end within a short time, I could handle them. I would lay on my bed, close my eyes and become aware of my breathing. I then began to slow my breathing down by breathing in to a count of 4, and out to a count of 5. Then slowly up to breathing in for a count of 5 and out for a count of 6, then in for 6 and out to a count of 7. I would repeat each count 4 times. At the end, I would imagine my "safe place" (which for me is my secret flower garden down a beautiful stairway) and I could stay there as long as I wanted.

Two good things about the actions I took are, I forced myself to concentrate on counting my breaths and slowing down my heart rate (which always raced, sometimes up to 180 bpm and once measured at 220 bpm in the ER), which occupied my mind and kept me from disasterizing about the feelings I was experiencing. This exercise was the most helpful thing for me, and I still use meditation in my life for relaxing. Concentrating on breathing relieved my panic after a few minutes.

But, the very best thing I did was begin taking an antidepressant 6 years ago. I was depressed and spoke with my doctor about the possibility of taking an antidepressant. I had been dead set against medication for depression prior to my asking as I thought I should be able to find a "cure" for my feelings and fears by talking about them and figuring out what to do to overcome or accept the feelings. I had done that for 25 years and still had this problem. I was given a prescription for Citalopram which is generic for Celexa. I had a hard two weeks as I was adjusting to the 1/2 dose of 20 mg. per day. After 6 months, I was prescribed the full 40 mg. dose. I could tell a huge difference at 4 weeks of taking the smaller dose. I started feeling happy, perhaps for the first time in my life. I was 63 years old and had lived my entire life in fear. I was successful in spite of my fear, but it was a struggle for me everyday. I just refused to give in to my fears, except when they became overwhelming and resulted in panic attacks. After 9 months, I realized that I hadn't had any panic attacks or bad headaches since a couple of months after I had started taking the Citalopram. I am now able to fly anywhere. I just returned from a vacation in French Polynesia where the plane ride was 8 hours long–no problem for me. I even zip lined down 7 lines on a mountain in Costa Rica 2 years ago.

I would never have been able to have these wonderful experiences if I hadn't started the antidepressant. Now, not all antidepressants are the same, and many people who take them work hard to get off them and some are unable to do it. The one I take hasn't caused me side effects that I'm a reward of, and I know I will take it for the rest of my life because I need it. I think I have had a physiological chemical imbalance in my brain my whole life. This medication fixed it. I feel good and can live my life openly now. I know each of us is different and what worked for me may not work for you. However, I do believe that the combination of Lorazepam, talk therapy, and finally Citalopram greatly improved my life.

If you decide to check out an antidepressant, please ask your doctor to have you genetically tested to find the one that will work best for you. There is information on the Mayo Clinic site about genetic testing for medications, that I recommend you to read. I hope this helps you in some way to better handle your panic attacks and possibly move beyond them to living life without agoraphobia. Please let me know if I can give you any more information or support. I know what you're going through and I want to support you in a path to freedom.

Warm regards,
Gail,
Volunteer Mentor

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this is the best info ever. thank you and bless you.

@lisalucier

Hi, @mbabkk — sounds like you've been on a journey to find the right medication and dosing that works for your clinical depression. Glad you have been advocating for yourself along the way.

@contentandwell @gman007and @cdcc may have some thoughts to share from personal experience or knowing someone taking Lorazepam (Ativan).

You mentioned feeling much more like you used to be after tapering off the Sertraline (Zoloft). Wondering if you could share more about that and how you are feeling different now?

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@mbabkk Makes perfect sense to me. As I have mentioned, I use Ativan but only on a very limited basis. I try to not use it because I want to make the tiny amount my PCP gives me last, and so far I have been successful at that.
JK

when I had a panic attack Tried to meditate , watch TV but MY BP went up to 300 & blood sugar went up to 290. Thats an emergency one can not ignore. My attack was caused by going off Xanax for just 3 days Damn now I feel I can not go without it My MD never warned me about this !!

My first panic attack was when I was om 3rd grade and I remember most of it. I didnt realize what it was until I was in my 50's.I am in my 70" and have wto say that most of my life has been filled with depression and the Panic attacks. People and my relatives dont have any idea. I am just tired of it, it has cost me loss of some family members.

@mattie

My first panic attack was when I was om 3rd grade and I remember most of it. I didnt realize what it was until I was in my 50's.I am in my 70" and have wto say that most of my life has been filled with depression and the Panic attacks. People and my relatives dont have any idea. I am just tired of it, it has cost me loss of some family members.

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Yes it is amazing how your anxiety ataacks can make you loose contact with family and best friends. I lost contact with my daughter who did not believe it was genuine – now she is a councelling psychologist and personally suffered from ME – so that was tough for me to understand but I see it with former friends – they run away

@lisalucier

Hi, @mbabkk — sounds like you've been on a journey to find the right medication and dosing that works for your clinical depression. Glad you have been advocating for yourself along the way.

@contentandwell @gman007and @cdcc may have some thoughts to share from personal experience or knowing someone taking Lorazepam (Ativan).

You mentioned feeling much more like you used to be after tapering off the Sertraline (Zoloft). Wondering if you could share more about that and how you are feeling different now?

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My doctor is a Mayo Clinic trained neurologist and considered as one of the best in Thailand where I live. He is of course fully aware of the addiction challenge but he is very calm about it as he controls the prescription linked to our consultations – I am 67 years old and his view is simple “ Ativan will be my emergency medication the rest of my life “ only to be taken “as needed”. Not every day but maybe sometimes several days in a row and then many days off – not every doctor would endorse this I know but I also know he is extremely well educated – and know what is right for each patient – he has helped a friend with Alzheimer’s get a much better life in stage 7 with medication that is both traditional (patches) and unusual – she is 90 years old and in one year of treatment has recovered a flicker of memory – really amazing. The problem with Ativan is the stigma of opioid addiction but a clever doctor who knows his patients will not shy away from improving their life as my doctor did – taking me off Zoloft in a daily basis and giving me the trust in using Ativan “ as needed” changed my life for the better / I am in charge

@lisalucier

Hi, @mbabkk — sounds like you've been on a journey to find the right medication and dosing that works for your clinical depression. Glad you have been advocating for yourself along the way.

@contentandwell @gman007and @cdcc may have some thoughts to share from personal experience or knowing someone taking Lorazepam (Ativan).

You mentioned feeling much more like you used to be after tapering off the Sertraline (Zoloft). Wondering if you could share more about that and how you are feeling different now?

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But but but yes this is not something I advocate for others – I was just so lucky to meet a highly trained neurologist who listened to me and responded with treatment

My husband used to run away from me, and I couldn't understand how someone who claimed to love me so much couldn't understand. We both understand better now and it certainly helps.

@lisalucier

Hi, @mbabkk — sounds like you've been on a journey to find the right medication and dosing that works for your clinical depression. Glad you have been advocating for yourself along the way.

@contentandwell @gman007and @cdcc may have some thoughts to share from personal experience or knowing someone taking Lorazepam (Ativan).

You mentioned feeling much more like you used to be after tapering off the Sertraline (Zoloft). Wondering if you could share more about that and how you are feeling different now?

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Lisa always drags me into these discussions; just kidding, I enjoy sharing and if it helps, that is great. I have taken zoloft for probably 20 years, but my new Psych has suggested it is likely just a security blanket now as people generally develop a tolerance beyond it's benefit within 2-3 years. She may be right but is taking a one med at a time approach. I take opiates for severe pancreatic pain and they have made my anxiety and depression much worse over the last dozen years and as a result, I need a cocktail of different meds to make my brain comfortable inside my head. I am on a new med (Nuvigil) that is used off label for depression, low mood, and a lack of motivation and energy. I had a cheek swab done by the Psych last week and when she gets results for my DNA, she will have a guide for meds that may be of more benefit to me and those that are unlikely to help. That will be when we replace zoloft with another med. She transitioned me from klonopin (clonazepam) to ativan and I have been tapering down on the ativan – much easier to withdraw from than klonopin because the half-life is much shorter. I will eventually get to where some of you are with ativan and only take when needed. I will return in about five weeks when I have met with the doc and reviewed the DNA, markers, and potential helpful meds and report on what I have learned. I am pretty excited about turning it into a science based decision as opposed to trial and error.
Sorry for my verbosity, Gary (Gman007).

@lisalucier

Hi, @mbabkk — sounds like you've been on a journey to find the right medication and dosing that works for your clinical depression. Glad you have been advocating for yourself along the way.

@contentandwell @gman007and @cdcc may have some thoughts to share from personal experience or knowing someone taking Lorazepam (Ativan).

You mentioned feeling much more like you used to be after tapering off the Sertraline (Zoloft). Wondering if you could share more about that and how you are feeling different now?

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It sounds to me that you have a journey and a target – please keep going – at least that's what helped me. Best wishes from michael in bangkok

I read this in the NORML Newsletter today and thought some here may benefit from the information. Gail, Volunteer Mentor

Patients Replace Opioids With Cannabis
Thursday, 07 June 2018

Chronic Pain Patients Replace Opioids With Cannabis
Cleveland, OH: More than two-thirds of chronic pain patients registered to legally access medical cannabis products substitute marijuana for prescription opioids, according to data published in The Journal of Headache and Pain.

Investigators from the United States and Canada assessed the use of medical cannabis and prescription drugs in a cohort of over 2,000 Canadian patients licensed to access marijuana products. Among those patients with a primary diagnosis of chronic pain, 73 percent reported substituting cannabis in place of opioids. Among those patients diagnosed specifically with headache/migraine, cannabis was frequently reported as a substitute for other medications – including opiates (43 percent), anti-depressants (39 percent), NSAIDS (21 percent), triptans (8 percent), and anti-convulsants (8 percent).

"Most patients in the pain groups reported replacing prescription medications with medicinal cannabis, the most common of which were opiates/opioids across all patient groups," authors concluded. "This is notable given the well-described 'opioid-sparing effect' of cannabinoids and growing abundance of literature suggesting that cannabis may help in weaning from these medications and perhaps providing a means of combating the opioid epidemic."

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, "Patterns of medicinal cannabis use, strain analysis, and substitution effect among patients with migraine, headache, arthritis, and chronic pain in a medicinal cannabis cohort," appears in The Journal of Headache and Pain. NORML's fact-sheet highlighting the relevant, peer-reviewed research specific to the relationship between cannabis and opioids is available online.

@lisalucier

Hi, @mbabkk — sounds like you've been on a journey to find the right medication and dosing that works for your clinical depression. Glad you have been advocating for yourself along the way.

@contentandwell @gman007and @cdcc may have some thoughts to share from personal experience or knowing someone taking Lorazepam (Ativan).

You mentioned feeling much more like you used to be after tapering off the Sertraline (Zoloft). Wondering if you could share more about that and how you are feeling different now?

Jump to this post

@mbabkk Your doctor sounds excellent and I believe he is doing what the best thing possible for you.

Is Ativan an opioid? I have an appointment with my PCP at the end of the month and if it is an opioid I doubt he will give me my "yearly" prescription for 20 5mg pills.
JK

What a great concept. I never heard it phrased that way before. I too was taught how to manage panic attacks. It’s interesting to me that there are so many effective ways to do this. I use a visual story that I am sitting in front of a fireplace and use it to warm my hands and feet. I can cut off a panic attack quickly this way. But as you say, it helps tremendously to know that a panic attack is not dangerous.

@lisalucier

Hi, @mbabkk — sounds like you've been on a journey to find the right medication and dosing that works for your clinical depression. Glad you have been advocating for yourself along the way.

@contentandwell @gman007and @cdcc may have some thoughts to share from personal experience or knowing someone taking Lorazepam (Ativan).

You mentioned feeling much more like you used to be after tapering off the Sertraline (Zoloft). Wondering if you could share more about that and how you are feeling different now?

Jump to this post

@contentandwell, Ativan is a class 4 controlled substance in a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Not an opiate, but still a very addictive medication, but I don't think you have a problem at 20 per year.
Peace, Gary

@gailb

I read this in the NORML Newsletter today and thought some here may benefit from the information. Gail, Volunteer Mentor

Patients Replace Opioids With Cannabis
Thursday, 07 June 2018

Chronic Pain Patients Replace Opioids With Cannabis
Cleveland, OH: More than two-thirds of chronic pain patients registered to legally access medical cannabis products substitute marijuana for prescription opioids, according to data published in The Journal of Headache and Pain.

Investigators from the United States and Canada assessed the use of medical cannabis and prescription drugs in a cohort of over 2,000 Canadian patients licensed to access marijuana products. Among those patients with a primary diagnosis of chronic pain, 73 percent reported substituting cannabis in place of opioids. Among those patients diagnosed specifically with headache/migraine, cannabis was frequently reported as a substitute for other medications – including opiates (43 percent), anti-depressants (39 percent), NSAIDS (21 percent), triptans (8 percent), and anti-convulsants (8 percent).

"Most patients in the pain groups reported replacing prescription medications with medicinal cannabis, the most common of which were opiates/opioids across all patient groups," authors concluded. "This is notable given the well-described 'opioid-sparing effect' of cannabinoids and growing abundance of literature suggesting that cannabis may help in weaning from these medications and perhaps providing a means of combating the opioid epidemic."

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, "Patterns of medicinal cannabis use, strain analysis, and substitution effect among patients with migraine, headache, arthritis, and chronic pain in a medicinal cannabis cohort," appears in The Journal of Headache and Pain. NORML's fact-sheet highlighting the relevant, peer-reviewed research specific to the relationship between cannabis and opioids is available online.

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@gailb, Thanks for posting this. Since I was prescribed Marinol(sp?), a synthetic form of cannabis, for appetite enhancement after a major surgery due to not eating enough to promote healing, I knew this to be a fact. My appetite certainly did improve, but the period of time when I could get refills and had the marinol, were the only completely pain free weeks I have had since 2006.
Gary

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