Could it be panic disorder?

I have always said that the physical symptoms of my anxiety are much worse than the mental symptoms. Yes, obsessing over worries and constantly thinking about impending doom is rough. But it is much more challenging to calm yourself down when your heart is beating so fast it feels like it will pop out of your chest. When I was unmedicated, these symptoms would last for hours sometimes. I would stare at the wall and just let time pass. I would try coping skills like keeping my hands busy or cleaning my house but it wasn’t always effective and NOTHING touched the physical symptoms.

For years, I thought that what I felt was normal. I thought that everyone had this type of anxiety and that everyone thought about the same things I did. I guess that is kind of selfish and simple minded.

After I finally found a doctor that would listen to me (shout out to Cary Psychiatry) she assured me that my feelings and physical symptoms were not normal. Feeling like a brick is sitting on your chest and not being able to breathe isn’t what everyone feels. This was actually validating to me. It was like oh..okay, so this can be fixed then?? The answer was absolutely. She diagnosed me with panic disorder and PTSD. I refer to anxiety and panic disorder interchangeably, but they are a bit different.

“What are you worried about? What is causing this anxiety?”

I think this is a frustrating question to be posed on such a frequent basis. There isn’t always a cause of my panic. Sometimes I just have days where I feel like I can’t breathe and I relapse into researching diseases I don’t have or obsessing over some small detail of something. Sure, sometimes my panic is stemmed from an argument I had with a significant other, a friend or a family member. But other times it just happens randomly. This should be both hard to understand and validating in a way that mental illnesses are similar to physical illnesses. Have you known someone to have a chronic physical illness and sometimes they just have bad days? You wouldn’t be asking them “Well why are you feeling shitty today? Something must have happened for you to feel this way”

What causes panic disorder?

The causes of panic disorder are not clearly understood. Research has shown that panic disorder may be genetically linked. Panic disorder is also associated with significant transitions that occur in life. Leaving for college, getting married, or having your first child are all major life transitions that may create stress and lead to the development of panic disorder. – Healthline

Do You have risk factors?

There are several risk factors that can trigger panic attacks among these are:

  • Experiencing trauma
  • Experiencing a stressful event
  • Ongoing stress
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Anxiety
  • Another mental health disorder, like depression
  • Genetics
  • Being a woman
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol

Treating Panic Disorder

Initially, I was not open to being on a daily anti depressant. I was only interested in getting an as needed benzodiazopine. Well, this didn’t work out for me. I thought that I would take it as needed but as needed turned into taking it every day. I talked with my doctor and that is when we had an important discussion about Pristiq. Pristiq is an SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), it works on a different chemical in the brain as opposed to most SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor)

After about a week, I could already feel a different. Pristiq truly changed my outlook on life. I had more energy, I was happy and I did not suffer from daily panic attacks. Do I have bad days? Yes, that is what Xanax is for.

Benefits of an SNRI

Panic Disorder Quiz

Click here to take the short quiz

Printout for information & coping skills

What helps?

  • Relaxing, de-stressing, sticking to a schedule of self care.
  • Thinking logically. Check out my Resources page for the free print out on Cognitive Distortions.
  • Showering. I have found that stimulating my body in a different way can be very soothing.
  • Deep breathing. Check out HeadSpace.


Anxiety at work

Are you ignoring your anxiety symptoms?

Parenting with PTSD

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