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What Is Panic Disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

“Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes
of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations,
shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.”

There are two parts to a panic attack:

The Two Parts of a Panic AttackPart One (physical feelings): You feel a sudden intense surge of bodily sensations “out of the blue.” Heart pounding, dizziness, shortness of breath, rubbery legs, weakness, jelly legs, numbness in the hands, feet and face, tingling throughout your body, hot/cold flashes, heaviness in arms and legs, heavy head, heaviness in the chest, like an elephant is sitting on your chest, off balance feeling, blurred vision, tunnel vision, butterflies in the stomach or even bats in the stomach, nausea and queasiness, inner trembling, there/not there, disorientation, unreality, out of body experience, to name a few.

Part Two (worry thoughts): Then, instantaneously, comes the second part. When physical feelings strike for no apparent reason, without warning, you ask “Why am I feeling this way? What is happening to me?”  Your mind races to the worst. Heart attack, death, suffocation, stroke, paralysis, brain tumor, seizure, faint, serious undetected illness, collapse, fall down, lose my mind, nervous breakdown, go insane, go berserk, lose control, snap, go crazy, fall apart, never come out of this, I won’t know who I am or where I am, locked up in a mental ward.

In fused panic, the physical feeling (Part One) and the worry thought (Part Two) seem like one terrifying experience. You feel like your legs won’t hold you up and you walk around waiting to drop, holding on for dear life. But you never fall down! Your body tricks you. When you say you feel like you are going down, you make the idea that you are “going down” believable and set off the vicious cycle of emergency room panic. The more you think you are about to drop, the more you set off the alarm in the brain that releases adrenaline. Adrenaline fuels the “jelly legs” and other physical symptoms. The more your legs feel like jelly, the more you believe you are closer to falling down. The more you believe you are about to fall, the more rubbery your legs feel. You can go through this cycle 50 times in 50 seconds. Each time you are sending a stronger signal of alarm to the brain, producing more adrenaline and feeding the rubbery leg feeling you fear most.

The cardinal feature of panic disorder is the fear of bodily sensations. When you fear a dog, your fearful reaction to the dog does not cause the dog to turn into 10 dogs with more massive, sharper teeth, getting closer and closer to your throat. When you fear rubbery legs, the fear response causes the rubbery legs feeling to intensify. The vicious cycle of panic is the mother of all fears. The level of adrenaline and fear produced is comparable to you showing alarm to one tiger, and the one tiger multiplying into ten tigers. You signal a stronger alarm to ten tigers, which multiply into 100 tigers. You signal an even stronger alarm to 100 tigers, which turn into a thousand tigers with sharper and sharper teeth, getting closer and closer to your throat …all in the span of 50 seconds. And you are never harmed.

In the heat of emergency room panic, you want to escape to a perceived place of safety. You take the escape hatch, and the condition worsens immediately. In a state of panic, you can feel reassured when you know you can reach a hospital or a doctor, get to a familiar environment or call your spouse on the cell phone. When panic strikes, if you rely on having an open runway to a safe place to obtain relief, then you can begin to avoid any situation where you are trapped. You start to sit in the back aisle seat in church. You drive in the right hand lane and avoid heavy traffic on the highway. You avoid long lines and crowded malls. You begin to live your life around panic and panic takes over your life.

A secondary complication of panic disorder is phobic anxiety and avoidance of trapped situations.  See item 3, avoidance areas, on The Panic Checklist for a list of common areas of avoidance.

Panic disorder sufferers often turn to the healthcare system to find the answer to “Why am I feeling this way?”  In one study, 70% of panic disorder patients had consulted more than 10 physicians before receiving the correct diagnosis. Panic patients often undergo extensive and repetitive medical tests, and recycle with new doctors until they find and accept the correct diagnosis. In another study, 80% of internal medicine patients with dizziness, chest pressure, and headaches had no identifiable medical condition.

Even when patients receive the correct diagnosis, they often are only offered medication or general psychotherapy. Often, they end up turning to other panic sufferers in support forums for help.

In Dr. Blumberg’s practice, he has led patients to the discovery of the Missing Link – even some who had been suffering with panic attacks for 70 plus years. Can you imagine the financial costs of seeing medical doctors and psychotherapists, of taking prescribed medication and reading self-help books for decades? What about the emotional costs of personal suffering, restriction in travel, negative impact on occupational opportunities, distress in family and marital relationships, limitation on social engagement and the constant fear and dread of going out alone? The final outcome of unsolved panic disorder is despondency, despair and hopelessness – thinking “I will never get better!”

Imagine what a difference early diagnosis and effective drug-free treatment could make in the life of these panic sufferers. That is Dr. Blumberg’s personal goal. Having seen the difference the discovery of the Missing Link made in the lives of thousands of panic sufferers in his office, he brings the unique Missing Link approach to a broader population with panicLINK.

It is critical to invest in yourself and stop the suffering now. Take the completed Panic Checklist to your doctor today to confirm a diagnosis and discuss effective treatment options, and start on the path toward a panic-free life.