Fear is the controlling emotion in a panic disorder. It comes on quickly and powerfully. Sometimes the panic is a reaction to environmental “cues.” In some people, though, the panic comes for no identifiable reason.
Impending Doom for Millions
An estimated 6.5 million persons in the United States experience panic attacks. It is common to have both classic depression and panic attacks, and many who experience panic disorder also suffer from other mental illnesses. Attacks can cause almost unbelievable distress. This is not the “panicky” feeling one gets when a real threat is perceived. Panic is a normal stress reaction when there is threat of danger. Panic attacks relate to no discernible threat, but the person feels paralyzing terror. The person feels a sense of impending danger or dread, sometimes called “angst.” The heart pounds and races, as the body goes into its “fight-or-flight” physical response. The person may feel chest pain, light-headness , and have difficulty breathing.
The Hurricane Tornado Analogy
Episodes can come in clusters of perhaps two or three a day. A set of attacks can continue day after day, or they can stop for months and suddenly reappear at any time of day or night.
A panic attack that occurs in the middle of a depressive episode is a particularly serious event. It might be compared to one type of storm. Living in Florida, Robyn and I endured the ninety-mile-an-hour winds of Hurricane David (1979). David was a “category 5” monster storm in the Caribbean, but it was losing its punch by the time it reached Florida. Still, like depression, the wind was constant, severe, and seemed to go on and on.
Then there was Hurricane Andrew (1992), the most destructive U.S. storm on record. What made Andrew so devastating was that embedded within its massive cell was a meteorological phenomenon that caused winds to swirl into tornadoes. In addition to the straight winds, tornadoes unexpectedly swept through south Florida, destroying entire communities. A tornado hidden inside a hurricane describes a panic attack that comes along in the midst of an episode of depression. Panic attacks come and go, while the episode of depression remains to debilitate the person.
My Personal Panic Attack.
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Below is the book from which this excerpt was taken. heartfeltmin.org/resources.html
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