There are about 25-30 symptoms for panic attacks….trust me, I’ve looked them all up. The good news is, when you’re suffering from several of these symptoms at once, chances are, it’s most likely a panic attack. The bad news is, so many symptoms coincide with more serious conditions, such as a heart attack.
I have had my share of ER visits, thinking I was on the verge of dying of a massive heart attack. After many tests, I left the hospital with a clean bill of health and a prescription of Xanax, feeling embarrassed and defeated. Don’t get me wrong, I was relieved to learn that I was healthy. I wanted to know it wasn’t all in my head…wanted so desperately for them to find something they could fix, rather than something I had to fix on my own. It’s ironic how anxiety makes us feel so out of control, yet we are the only ones who can control it.
Over time when I went to the ER, I didn’t always admit to having an anxiety disorder at first. My logic was that I wanted the doctors to take my symptoms seriously, rather than chalk it up to anxiety each time. I was convinced that it could not be anxiety every time…there had to be something wrong with me! I underwent several tests, which included EKG, blood test, chest xrays, and catscans…all came back normal.
Friends and family would try to deter me from going to the hospital, that it was just anxiety and that it would pass. The more they made light of it, the more my symptoms intensified. Of course, I didn’t listen to them! At the time, I needed reassurance that I was ok, that it was truly the anxiety making me feel this way. Ultimately, I developed hypochondria, health anxiety, and an intense fear of dying…but that’s a whole other story.
After numerous visits and normal tests results, I knew I was healthy and it comforted me that I didn’t have cancer, heart disease, or some other illness that I had convinced myself that I had. I limited myself to 1-2 visits to the ER a year. Eventually, I learned about my body and my anxiety. I knew my symptoms and what to expect, so much so, that I didn’t need a doctor to tell me what I already knew. Anxiety/panic attacks can not kill you! They are extremely uncomfortable but I could learn to manage it and stop letting it control me. Here are some things that helped me…
- Know the facts! Find out which diseases run in your family. If heart disease is not one of them, you’re more likely to be experiencing a panic attack.
- Get regular checkups with your doctor. Checkups normally warn you of potential heart disease or other changes in your health. Have annual bloodwork tests to ensure your levels are where they should be. Buy a blood pressure monitor and check your blood pressure at home. Anxiety can spike your blood pressure, so don’t freak out if it rises during stressful times.
- If you really feel the need to go to the hospital – GO! Don’t be ashamed of needing a second opinion about your health. That’s what doctors are there for! Once you get the results, you can accept that you are fine and move on.
- Anxiety is not always our enemy. Our bodies were meant to protect us. When cortisol levels get high or serotonin/dopamine levels are unbalanced, our bodies react as if we are danger. That creates a domino effect, which causes all kinds of uncomfortable symptoms. People with anxiety/panic disorder have highly sensitive systems. Our bodies protect us a little too well, to the point where it tries to protect us even when there is no threat. So learn to be patient with your anxiety, and try not to hate it so much. It is only trying to keep you safe. e Educate yourself on what happens to the body during a panic attack. Once I learned this, it made me feel so much better that I understood what was happening to me and why. I will try and post a video from YouTube, Dr. Harry Barry: Overcoming Panic Attacks, that really helped me.