For the month of May, Defying Shadows will be joining the Mental Health Awareness Month by sharing a post daily on a different type of Mental Illness or “Shadow” that people commonly struggle with. Join us in creating awareness and working to end the stigma that goes with these topics! Today we have Krystyn sharing on Panic Disorder. ~ Defying Shadows Team.
First I wanted to share the differences between a panic disorder and a panic attack and explain each one.
“Panic disorder is different from the normal fear and anxiety reactions to stressful events. Panic disorder is a serious condition that strikes without reason or warning.”
Some systems that go with panic disorder are: Sudden attacks of fear and nervousness, pounding heart or chest pain, sweating, difficulty breathing, dizziness or feeling faint, nausea, chills or hot flashes, etc. So what causes panic disorder? A lot of the time it will relate to family history, life stressors, and abnormalities in the brain.
“Panic attacks involve sudden feelings of terror that strike without warning. These episodes can occur at any time, even during sleep.” Some systems that go with panic attacks are: racing heart, feeling faint or dizzy, breathing difficulties, feeling sweaty or having chills, feeling a loss of control, etc.
Panic disorder and panic attacks are similar but can sometimes have different effects. I had the opportunity to talk to a close friend of mine who didn’t mind sharing about her experience living with a panic disorder and who has had panic attacks. She will share with us not only what she has been through but some ways she has been able to cope with them.
Here is what she has to say: “My name is Giulia, and I live with a panic disorder and deal with panic attacks. At a very young age I started experiencing panic attacks. I remember getting ready for elementary school was a big trigger for me. I would get dizzy, shortness of breath, everything would be moving too fast or too slow, any kind of sound was extremely loud, and I would feel an overwhelming sense of fear! The only way I found when I was little to make these symptoms go away, would be to hide under the covers of my bed and stay there until I felt like myself again. This feeling would happen very frequently and it only got worse the older I got! It got to the point where I felt like I was having a heart attack. My family and myself lived with unknowing what was wrong with me until I was sent by a doctor to see a physiologist, where at 10 years old I learned I’ve been having panic attacks all this time. At this point it wasn’t out of the ordinary for me to have 3 to 4 panic attacks a week! This is when the doctors and physiologist informed me that I have a panic disorder.
At the age of 10, I was crippled by my panic disorder; I didn’t live a normal life anymore. My physiologist sent me to a treatment group, where they used a type of psychotherapy called cognitive behaviour therapy, which is especially useful for treating a panic disorder. It teaches a person different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations that help him or her feel less anxious and fearful. That treatment group really helped me learn how to deal with my panic disorder and taught me coping skills to use when I do happen to have a panic attack. I feel more in control of my life now!”
My friend has been through a lot but I am encouraged by the fact that she went to seek help with this. There is no shame in that, and I have noticed a difference in her life by her doing so. I would encourage you if you feel like you have any of these symptoms to go talk to your doctor. I want to leave you with this. It’s hard sometimes to think about this but our God is stronger and bigger than any disorder or attacks. Don’t be afraid to reach out to Him, He truly understands us the most.
Krystyn Slauenwhite works within her family business Sojourn Signs in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Some of her passions include writing, working with kids, being with family and friends and traveling. She is continuing to further her interest in the business world.