A collection of positive accounts from people going through a panic disorder
A panic disorder can be defined as a condition where a person’s life is severely afflicted by the symptoms of anxiety – namely panic attacks. The diagnosis of a panic disorder is usually given when panic attacks and worrying about overall panic becomes the sole point of attention during day-to-day life. Further to this, the symptoms of anxiety often occur in tandem with a panic disorder. People often find themselves scared to go outside, they obsess over physical symptoms and spend a large amount of time trying to ‘work out’ what is wrong with them and why they feel so different.
This article consists of a compilation of short success stories that have been kindly written by current and past clients of The Panic Room. They briefly detail their stories with panic disorder and how they have overcome – or are still battling – the life afflicting condition. A big thank you goes out to the clients who have wished to share their stories. For confidentiality purposes the names have been changed.
Alan, 56, Castleford, Yorkshire
I had given up a long time ago on trying to feel better. Around twenty years ago I went through a divorce and a bereavement not so long after. I also worked in a stressful job and the accumulation of all of this stress forced me into what is known as a nervous breakdown. When I say a breakdown, I mean a serious meltdown in my body’s coping mechanisms to deal with life.
I’d spend most of my days in the house making excuses not to go outside. I used to be a sociable person not lacking in confidence. I enjoyed walks and even travelling across Europe. My employers were understanding and allowed me to work from home for a while. I kept making excuses not to go outside – all of a sudden I was terrified at the prospect of it.
The fear didn’t disappear when I was inside the home either. I often spent a lot of my days thinking about why I felt the way I did. I was trying to work it out. I wanted the ‘old me’ back. I just kept panicking, then panicking over why I was panicking. Over time, when I kept subjecting my mind and body to this worry, I started to develop more symptoms like heart palpitations, highly anxious episodes and this horrendous feeling where I lacked lucidity and focus. Not to forget all the headaches and chest pains I used to get. I always thought something catastrophic would happen to me, yet health professionals always stated there was nothing physically wrong.
Even after 20 years of nothing serious happening to me, I still fell victim to believing the negative doom-like thoughts that overcame me. I only ever left the house with my brother or my best friend who came to visit now and then. I used to get my shopping via home delivery and everything else seemed manageable via the internet.
I stumbled across Joshua’s book called Anxiety: Panicking about Panic whilst I was on Amazon looking for furniture. The name of the book immediately perplexed me as it summarised how I was feeling on a daily basis. I used to panic about my overall panic all of the time. So, out of interest I bought it and gave it a read a few days later.
Firstly, I just need to say that this book alone gave me the foundations to change my life for the better. Never have I read a book that understood me and the condition I was facing. Anxiety: Panicking about Panic is a special because it was written from empathy and personal experience. It addressed what I was feeling a little bit at a time and helped me to absorb the information. I learned that, even after suffering for 20 years, I was able to quickly flip my life around. As you can imagine this was positively overwhelming.
This book lead me to Joshua’s counselling practice called The Panic Room in Manchester. I lived in Castleford at the time so travelling – particularly with how I felt – was not an option for me. I emailed him and asked if there was I way I could access his services and he replied suggesting telephone counselling.
Put it this way, with the help of the book and a few counselling sessions I was able to pluck up the courage to catch the train and visit him. The mere fact that I was able to leave the house alone and sit on public transport was proof enough to me that I was changing. I saw this as exciting and very positive for me, despite the negative perception that I had perhaps ‘wasted’ 20 years of my life. This never dawns on me as I feel stronger and more than ever.
I have learnt to understand my body and how it works in tandem with the mind. I challenge irrational thoughts and retrain my brain so they fade over time. I am able to go to social events, travel to see family and, perhaps most importantly, relax at home!
Many thanks to Joshua for his advice and guidance. I only wish I had found you sooner.
Nadine, 25, Chorlton, Manchester
Right well the symptoms I presented with for about three years were: panic attacks, losing my breath, feeling just strange, heart palpitations and generally just freaking out for a lot of the time! It all started after I gave birth to my son. I was driving back from my parents one day when I suddenly needed to pull over because I thought I was going to die. I literally felt like my life was about to end! The stress and pressure had mounted and a fuse had blown within me.
I ended up in the emergency room only to be told I was experiencing a bad episode of anxiety. This was quite embarrassing as you can imagine. From the general attitude of the busy hospital staff I gathered that they must see panic attacks quite a lot. I could see how their lack of empathy for my drama could not be blamed. I went home and that’s when all of this nonsense started. My mum had to move back in with me and help look after my little boy whilst I toiled with this horrible condition. If you’ve read the symptoms section at the start of Joshua’s book, you could pretty much say I suffered with a lot of the symptoms of panic disorder.
I did a lot of internet research on how I felt and my physical symptoms. I was scared to go to the doctor because I didn’t want to hear what he had to say. I diagnosed myself with panic disorder through reading about it on various forums.
Trawling the internet was mostly a stupid idea because I just kept feeding bad reasons as to why I was feeling this way. I had persuaded myself that I had a brain tumour or some form of blood cancer by the time I had finished reading. I seemed to battle with generalized anxiety and health anxiety at the same time. Some good came out of it though, because I discovered The Panic Room whilst browsing through google. The website described me pretty much to a tee so I booked in with Joshua without any hesitation.
Joshua explained what was happening to me in such a calm and friendly manner. We also worked together to find out where my panic disorder had come from. We studied my thought patterns and behaviour habits. From the first session I felt so much relief from actually being understood. On the odd occasion he actually finished my sentences!
Basically, my panic came from a combination of post-trauma thought habits and a misunderstanding of what was going on in my mind and body. When this was broken down for me (because I couldn’t think straight with high levels of anxiety) it became manageable and beatable.
Now I have resumed being more of a mother to my little boy and have enjoyed group running again. I’m still not fully there yet and it’ll take time before I can get back into my car and drive again. I just wanted to say a big thank you to The Panic Room and for my mum for sticking by me through the crazy times.
Sally, 40, Birkenhead, Merseyside
To cut a long story short, I had some serious trouble with Health Anxiety and hypochondria. When I contacted Joshua at The Panic Room I was in a bit of a mess. Basically, I had severe and irrational health anxiety which derived from losing two friends and a parent to horrendous diseases. This happened in a relatively short space of time.
I realised a lot of my thoughts were irrational, though it didn’t stop me from obsessing and somewhat believing in them at the time. I’d used to waste a load of time winding myself up into a frenzy when I couldn’t let go of a scary thought about my health. I used to always check my body for signs that something was wrong with me. I used to feel for lumps, check my toileting, always get my blood pressure read and constantly doing a mental ‘scan’ of my body.
All the tension seemed to manifest itself in my chest and head area, so I used to get sharp, stabbing pains across my chest and a tightness and ache across my scalp. My muscles hurt all the time and my sleep was massively affected. When these pains didn’t go away sooner than I’d have liked, I automatically assumed that these symptoms were part of some fatal disease. I used to worry that I had developed cancer, which made me feel selfish because I had lost people to cancer and they had actually been through it.
I learned from the help of Joshua’s book and around four sessions at The Panic Room, that my thoughts always seemed to default to worry. My brain’s neuropathways always seemed to side with what I usually think and this triggered a succession of biological changes within my body. I found the sessions with Joshua very interesting and it all made complete sense to me. He educated me as to why my brain and body did what they did and why the body reacted so negatively to the thoughts.
As my mind was so hard-wired in habit, I still get the thoughts from time-to-time but the anxious ‘response’ to them isn’t anywhere near the levels that they were. I can allow the thoughts to come in and pass without them dictating my day. I can also see them for what they are now and not whirl myself into a frenzy because I think I’ve got an incurable disease! What was important was that I managed to learn how to RELAX. This is such a hard skill.
Many thanks. I recommended my cousin to The Panic Room and also to your book.
Charu, 19, Brixton, London
I am a student studying a pretty intense course I struggled a lot with stress and anxiety. I had to defer a lot of my exams because the panic attacks got too much. I also suffered from what I now know to be feelings of ‘derealisation’. I found The Panic Room but was disappointed to find that it was in Manchester. However, I found out that I could Skype call Joshua and have the sessions that way.
I just wanted to say that I can manage the anxious side of my stress now. I am in my third year of studying and managed to complete the exams pretty much scar-free. The sessions really helped lot and I only had about three in total!
I learned how to distinguish what was manageable stress and unnatural anxiety. I could approach both problems separately whilst still being productive. I was also educated on what anxiety does to the mind and body – something I have taken away that has really helped. I’ve not had a panic attack since.
I’ve put one of The Panic Room’s posters up in my student union and recommend it to anyone I meet who I feel may benefit from it. A big thanks to Joshua and the work he’s doing.
For more information
If you suffer from anxiety and panic disorder and feel that you need help then why not get in touch?
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Prices vary between £20 – £35 a session depending on income.