Panic Attacks Understood

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Anxiety (panic) attack symptoms can feel awful, intense, and frightening.  The good news is that while they can seem serious, anxiety attack symptoms aren’t harmful in and of themselves. That is sonething to remember.

Because there are many medical conditions that can cause ‘anxiety-like’ symptoms, it’s wise to discuss your symptoms with you doctor. If your doctor has attributed your symptoms to stress and anxiety, you can feel confident that your doctor’s diagnosis is correct. Anxiety attack disorder is relatively easy to diagnose and isn’t easily confused with more serious medical conditions.

Anxiety attack symptoms are NOT always indications of a serious medical condition. They are simply dramatic responses to being afraid. Being afraid causes the body to stimulate stress hormones. Since stress hormones are designed to prepare the body for action, the changes stress hormones bring about can cause the body to exhibit “symptoms” of this biochemical change. Anxiety attack symptoms are simply “sensory sensations” of this biological change. Again, they aren’t harmful, but they are letting you know that your body’s stress hormone levels are elevated.

Common anxiety attack symptoms include:

  • A feeling of impending doom, that something horrible is about to happen, that you are in grave danger
  • A strong feeling of fear, foreboding
  • An urge to escape, to get out, to run away from danger
  • Blanching, turning white, looking pale
  • Blushing, skin blotches, turning red
  • Burning skin
  • Choking sensation, tightening throat, it feels like your throat is closing
  • Confusion
  • Depersonalization (feeling detached from reality, separate from one-self, separate from normal emotions)
  • Derealization (feeling unreal, in a dream-like state)
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, unsteadiness
  • Emotional distress
  • Emotional upset
  • Fear of going crazy
  • Fear of losing control, freaking out
  • Fearful thoughts that seem incessant
    Feels like there is a tight band around your head
  • Hot or cold chills
  • Inability to calm yourself down
  • Knot in the stomach, tight stomach
  • Nausea
  • Numbness, tingling sensations in any part of the body
  • Panicky feeling
  • Pins and needles feeling
  • Plugged ear(s), stuffed ear(s)
  • Pounding heart
  • Racing heart
  • Shooting pains in the chest, neck, shoulder, head, or face
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Sweating
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Trembling, shaking (visibly shaking or just trembling on the inside)
  • Upset stomach
  • Urgent desire to go to the bathroom (urinate, defecate)
  • Vomiting

There is a long list of anxiety symptoms. But because each body is somewhat chemically unique, anxiety affects each person differently. Consequently, anxiety symptoms vary from person to person in type or kind, number, intensity, and frequency. If your symptoms don’t exactly match this list, that does not mean you don’t have anxiety. It simply means that you body is responding to anxiety slightly differently.

For example, one person may experience only a few minor symptoms, while another person may experience the majority of symptoms to great intensities. All combinations are possible and common.

Anxiety attack symptoms can range from mild to severe, from only one symptom to all of them, and can be sporadic, frequent, or persistent. Again, all combinations are possible and common. My own attacks are intense, but I know they’ll go away in time.

Sometimes all we can do is accept the issues that anxiety brings.  We must understand that the Holy Spirit knows us fully, and that He will bring us through.  Be confident in His grace and receive His mercy.  The reality is that Jesus will carry you the distance.

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A Woman’s Depression [Honesty]

Depression Fits the Hearts of Women

Women experience twice the rate of depression as men.

Women have twice the chances as men

Everyone experiences disappointment or sadness in life. When the “down” times last a long time or interfere with your ability to function, you may be suffering from a common medical illness called depression.

Major depression affects your mood, mind, body and behavior. Nearly 15 million Americans — one in 10 adults — experience depression each year, and about two-thirds don’t get the help they need.

Women experience twice the rate of depression as men, regardless of race or ethnic background. An estimated one in eight women will contend with a major depression in their lifetimes.

Researchers suspect that, rather than a single cause, many factors unique to women’s lives play a role in developing depression. These factors include: genetic and biological, reproductive, hormonal, abuse and oppression, interpersonal and certain psychological and personality characteristics.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Little interest or pleasure in doing things
  • Feeling down, depressed or hopeless
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much
  • Feeling tired or having little energy
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Feeling bad about yourself, that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down
  • Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television
  • Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed or the opposite in that you are so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual
  • Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way

Women may be more likely to report certain symptoms, such as…

  • anxiety
  • somatization (the physical expression of mental distress)
  • increases in weight and appetite
  • oversleeping
  • outwardly expressed anger and hostility
 
Stay close to your friend

Helping a Woman with Depression

People with depression aren’t the only ones who suffer. Their friends and loved ones may experience worry, fear, uncertainty, guilt, confusion or even be more likely to go through depression themselves.

The situation may be especially trying if your loved one doesn’t realize that she is depressed. You can help by recognizing the symptoms of depression and pointing out that she has changed.

Recognize even atypical signs of depression. Women may be more likely to report certain symptoms, such as anxiety, physical pain, increases in weight and appetite, oversleeping and outwardly expressed anger and hostility. Women are also more likely to have another mental illness-such as eating disorders or anxiety disorders-present with depression, so be alert for depression if you know a woman with a history of mental illness.

To point out these changes without seeming accusatory or judgmental, it helps to use “I” statements, or sentences that start with “I.” Saying “I’ve noticed you seem to be feeling down and sleeping more” sounds less accusatory than “you’ve changed.”

Talking to a Woman with Depression

If a friend or loved one has depression, you may be trying to figure out how you can talk to her in a comforting and helpful way. This may be difficult for many reasons. She is probably feeling isolated, emotionally withdrawn, angry or hostile and sees the world in a negative light.

Although you may feel your efforts are rebuffed or unwelcome, she needs your support. You can simply be someone she can talk to and let her share her feelings.

It’s important to remember that depression is a medical illness. Her symptoms are not a sign of laziness or of feeling sorry for herself. She can’t just “snap out of it” by taking a more positive outlook on life.

Helpful responses include, “I am sorry you’re in so much pain” or “I can’t imagine what it’s like for you. It must be very difficult and lonely.” Instead of simply disagreeing with feelings she conveys, it is more helpful to point out realities and hope.

A woman with depression often expects to be rejected. You can reassure her that you will be there for her and ask if there’s anything you can do to make her life easier.

If your loved one is not diagnosed or not in treatment, the most important thing you can do is encourage her to see a health care professional.

*Never ignore statements about suicide.* Even if you don’t believe your loved one is serious, these thoughts should be reported to your friend’s doctor. If this is an emergency, call 9-1-1.


http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Mental_Illnesses/

Depression/Women_and_Depression/Women_and_Depression_Facts.htm


A Failure to Understand [An Excerpt]

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Excerpt from “A Firm Place to Stand”

BY MARJA BERGEN

I’m disappointed when friends and family who know me well say things that reveal a gross misunderstanding of depression and how it affects those of us who suffer from it. One person close to me thought depression was something we bring on when we feel sorry for ourselves. Perhaps she thought we liked the attention.

Sufferers of depression would do anything to feel happy and vibrant again. When I’m depressed, many friends keep me at arm’s length. I don’t blame them. It’s not pleasant to be around me when I can’t find anything to talk about except my pain. Depression does that to you: It turns your thinking inward; all you can wrap your mind around is the misery you feel. You end up feeling very alone.

Another person complained to me about an acquaintance with depression who couldn’t manage to do anything more than lie on the sofa. “Couldn’t he just try and make himself do something?” she asked. Nothing I said could convince her that this was an illness that, like other illnesses, couldn’t be helped by simple willpower. Those who have never experienced depression find it difficult to understand how profoundly a brain disorder can affect the entire body.

A long time ago, when I was bordering on psychosis, my doctor put me in a seniors’ care facility for a few days to give me relief from the stress I faced at home. I called a close family member to let her know where I was. She advised me, “You’ve got to pull yourself together and be strong. You have to try harder.” That was insensitive. I was at the facility because I was doing my best to recover – I wasn’t living with eighty and ninety-year-olds for fun. She should have known I always try my best. When I’m trapped in this state, extricating myself is extremely hard. I need time and medication to recover. If I sound angry and hurt, yes, I was.

A person I worked with recommended strongly that I get counseling. “You don’t need those pills you’re taking. All you need is to talk to someone at my church.” She knew nothing about mental disorders like mine. She had no idea what I was dealing with. Again, I seethed, remembering how psychotic I was when I was first admitted to hospital. I could become sick like that again if I didn’t take the medication my mental stability depended on. Would this person tell a diabetic to stop taking insulin?

Christian psychiatrist and author, Dwight L. Carlson, writes, “There are legions of God-fearing Christians who – to the best of their ability – are walking according to the Scriptures and yet are suffering from emotional symptoms. Many of them have been judged for their condition and given half-truths and clichés by well-meaning but ill-informed fellow believers. ‘Pray for God’s forgiveness,’ some are told. ‘A person who is right with the Lord can’t have a nervous breakdown.’”

Fortunately, I have not been treated in this way. The church congregations I’ve belonged to were understanding, yet the stigma continues. It hurts me deeply that Christians who should be compassionate are often judgmental. Church communities need to learn the medical basis for mental disorders and how that differs from the spiritual. They are in the best position to help those in crisis. But when they don’t understand, they are in danger of doing a lot of damage. For Christians, there is nothing worse than to be told our emotional problems are our own fault, the result of unconfessed sin. We suffer so much already. Having to shoulder blame multiplies our mental anguish.

 

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1 Dwight L. Carlson, Why do Christians Shoot Their Wounded? Helping (Not Hurting) Those With Emotional Difficulties,(InterVarsity Press, 1994)

Marja Bergen has lived with bipolar disorder for over forty years. Her mission is to dispel the lingering stigma attached to mental health conditions and to encourage people to lovingly welcome the sufferers into congregations by understanding them better and supporting them in practical ways.

She is the author of Riding the Roller Coaster (Northstone, 1999) and A Firm Place to Stand: Finding Meaning in a Life with Bipolar Disorder (Word Alive). Marja is the founder of the growing faith-based support group ministry, Living Room.  Visit her website and her blog.

 

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