My daughter is having panic attacks

Out of the clear blue about a month ago, my 22 YO daughter started having severe panic attacks. As I thought it would be a short term thing, I addressed it by talking to her, trying to calm her down. These attacks come on suddenly. She says her heart starts racing and she sweats and shakes, and has an overwhelming feeling that death is looming around the next corner. After 4 of these attacks, I got her an appointment with a phycotherapist. She really connected well with her, and the Doc gave her some mental “tools” to help her when she feels these coming on. The night of her appointment she had a real bad episode. I do give her a 0.25 mg Xanax which seems to calm her down. Yesterday she had to come home from work because of a severe episode. I called the phycotherapist and she helped talk her through this. We will see her again on Monday.

I feel so helpless due to the fact nothing I say in terms of reassurance helps. She’s getting terribly frustrated, and so am I.

Has anyone here had similar experiences, and what have you done to control or stop this from happening? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Psychotherapists are little better than chiropractors IMHO. While they may be able to solve a small set of problems, they lack the tools and knowledge to deal with anything serious. Your daughter needs a doctor, specifically a psychiatrist, to help treat this condition. And giving your daughter prescription medication is never a good idea, but you knew that. :cool:

I cannot disagree more strongly with what you’ve said. The American Psychiatric Association states that cognitive/behavioral therapy and medications are equally effective in treating panic disorder and/or generalized anxiety disorder.

Medications are certainly an option for your daughter, wenonahbone, and it is important that she be evaluated by a psychiatrist and not a GP if that’s the path she wishes to take.

The work she’s doing with her psychotherapist is extremely important, as well, and will do much in teaching her how to deal with these episodes as they happen, especially as they will serve her as a long-term solution to these attacks.

Those of us who suffer from mood disorders Love Our Meds. That being said, I agree with finding a psychiatrist who connects with your daughter. It’s my understanding that panic attacks are very real, traumatic events and require medical attention. Some people choose meds and some don’t.

Funny, I started having these at 22 (I’m not at the age of 26). In addition to the panic attacks, for a couple of years (21-23ish) I was convinced that I had every disease on the face of the earth. It was all pretty traumatic-I think more so for my parents with the fainting, panicking and need to be repeatedly treated for cancer and AIDS.

Anyway, I went to therapy. A lot of what was causing this was that my life was very up in the air at that time. I was under intense pressure from my parents to apply for doctoral programs-there were a lot of disagreements on that point b/c I had graduated undergrad a year early and I was very exhausted and wanted to take a couple of years off. They felt I was wasting my life. I also absolutely hated my job. That started off the OCD disease hallucinations at about the age of 21. Then I got laid off and got a really generous severance package so I took about 4 months to take the LSAT and apply to schools. I got in but then my mother insisted I talk to all these attorneys who made lawschool sound completely impossible and told me that it was highly likely that I would get straight Cs once I went (nice, my lowest grade ever in the first year was a B+) and my life would be hell and everyone else would be smarter than me blahblahblah typical lawyerspeak.

Anyway, this all kind of makes me sound crazy but basically I was under really intense pressure, I was really unsure about what I wanted to do with my life and then after that I was really really scared about the steps I was taking. I funnelled a lot of that excess anxiety into hypochondria and anxiety attacks. Therapy really really helped me mainly b/c my shrink also taught me a bunch of relaxation techniques and also packed me off to yoga etc… That really taught me how to channel my worries out in a positive way and keep calm by about 23ish all that stuff started to fade away. I have spoken to quite a few people who have had similar difficulties at the same age.

Anyway, best of luck.

I was under the impression she gave her daughter a Xanax prescribed for someone else. Hence the “you did that, and it’s okay because she really needed it, but it’s still illegal” ‘cool’ smiley by in friedo’s post. Not as a rally against the dangers of drugs.

I started having panic attacks at age 23. I hated my job, my apartment, not having money, a letter from my doc saying “oh, we got a bad batch of your birth control and it might fail, come on in for a pregnancy test”…etc. I had to change a lot of things in my life to get over them completely. I quit that job, started looking for a new place to live, got my shit together, in other words.

I went to my doc and he prescribed Xanax. I’ve never taken one. The mere idea that there was something so wrong with my brain that I couldn’t control it on my own and I had to take drugs to fix it help me to get control of myself. It was a “you fix this on your own, geek, or you’ll have to take drugs to fix it…and you’re stronger than that” message from my brain that helped me to realize consciously how irrational panic attacks are and prevent me from getting a full-blown one.

There is something that works for everyone, is what I’m trying to say. She just needs to keep at it and realize that it won’t be instantaneous, and she will have to suffer through a few more, but they aren’t the end of the world and there are drugs and mental exercises to help her on her way.

I used to suffer from panic attacks. Therapy and medication worked for me. I found xanax ineffective, Paxil worked for me. She needs to get a physician on board with her psychologist to make a combined plan of attack. Therapy by itself sounds like it isn’t enough. The good news is this is treatable.

Oh, no, no. I was disagreeing with the “psychotherapists are as useful as chiropractors” comment.

Great idea if your daughter doesn’t mind taking anti-anxiety meds the rest of her life.

If she would prefer to have these attacks go away and not have to take meds the rest of her life, however, she should continue with the psychotherapy. It might make sense for her to have a prescription to use in the short term, but psychotherapy is what is going to help her in the long runt.

Sorry, freido, but there is lots of evidence that psychotherapy is very effective, especially if the client is open-minded and has some insight. As for lacking the tools and knowledge to deal with anything serious, what do you think we are doing for 6 years of graduate school and supervised experience? :dubious:

See, that’s what I was trying to say. I, however, fucked the wording completely up, so please refer to Brynda’s post.

I had panick attacks beginning at 19. My advices :

-She should see a behavioral therapist. Not a psychoanalyst or something like that.

-This therapist should also be a psychiatrist.

-As far as medication is concerned, things like Xanax might help at the moment of the crisis or might not, depending on the person, the molecule… But stronger drugs like some categories of antidepressant are generally recommended (not that your daughter is necessarily depressed, but some antidepressants have a very positive effect on panick attacks) to complement the therapy. She should discuss that with the above mentionned psychiatrist.

-She should do whatever it takes to deal with the issue ASAP. The longer she waits, the more difficult it will be to get rid of the panick attacks because they would …how to say it…become deeply embedded in her mind.

-The issue must not be taken lightly. She eventually could end up not being able to live a normal life. And by “normal life” I mean really basic things like being able to work or to go out to buy groceries.

-Last but not least, she should review what she thinks is wrong or unsatisfaying with her life. And get rid of whatever is disturbing her. It could be her own habbits and behavior, splitting up with a boyfriend she isn’t happy with, a career or school change…heck…it might be as well the relationship she has with her parents…

A psychiatrist who is also a therapist would be great, but very hard to find. Most of them in the US just prescribe. That’s why I suggested meds for backup or to help her in the short run, but a psychologist for therapy.

And the same idea had been a very bad one in my case. It led me to delay taking any effective action for a long time and didn’t help me in any way. I wouldn’t advise to reject medications, not even to avoid taking anything strionger that a mere Xanax, that, at best, will calm you down at the moment of the crisis (and in my case, not even that, but I knew people for whom it was enough).

Ok…I don’t know how it works in the USA, so maybe it’s different there (a significant number of psychoanalist are also psychiatrists, here) . But here, though indeed there aren’t many of them, I could find several (mainly using the internet. I found first an association of people suffering of panick attacks that in turn pointed me at an association of behavioral therapists. I then picked the ones who were psychiatrists). I wouldn’t know if it’s possible in the USA (especially if the OP lives in a small town or something) but she might at least try to find one.

If it’s not possible, then, yes, she probably should see both a behavioral therapist and a psychiatrist. But it doesn’t seem the best solution if there’s an alternative. Being followed by two specialists who might have a very different or even conflicting view on the issue doesn’t seem ideal.

I started having panic attacks when I was seven. I am now twenty-six, and I still have them, but nothing like I did as a small child. I used to run out of restaurants screaming.

That being said, the best way to deal with them is through behavioral therapy, and not medication. Because of xanax, I developed a rather nasty pill-popping habit by age thirteen. I would strongly recommend her learning and using breathing techniques and relaxation to get on top of her attacks. Trust me, learning to deal with the attacks is a lot more valuable of a tool than taking tranquilizers.

My husband had them back in his 20’s too. They terrified him to the point that he actually called an ambulance because he thought he was having a heart attack. He had them at the oddest times, too. He had one at a movie theatre right as the movie started.

The 20’s are a very stressful time. You’re making some of the most important decisions of your life and everyone’s watching you to see if you’ll fall flat on your face. And, of course, society today is so materialistic. To be a “success” you have to drive a new car, own a home, have a self funded IRA…well, you know the routine. Even though he wasn’t fully conscious of the fact that he was stressed, his body felt it and reacted to it negatively.

Mr. Pundit eventually learned how to deal with his stress without pharmaceuticals or psychiatry. What helped him initially was getting a complete physical, including stress test, which reassured him that physically he was fine. That gave him the green light to get back on an exercise routine. He had always been an athlete, but exercise had taken a back seat to his career and new family. Panic attacks were the wake-up call that his mind/body/spirit balance was out of whack.

Ultimately they were a positive thing because it kicked him in the ass to make some changes. He started getting up at 6am to run on the treadmill instead of chugging 48 oz of coffee. He started lifted again, which helped burn up the frustration he was feeling on the job. He began to listen to his body and become aware when a panic attack was coming on so that he could circumvent it by calming down. All these things helped him overcome the attacks.

In addition to psychotherapy, I’d advise a high intense workout (e.g. spinning) several times a week to give all that adrenaline a positive outlet, alternating with a relaxation class, such as yoga. If she doesn’t take care of her body, then her body will turn on itself.

Just in case folks are confused:

Psychiatrist: MD. Went through med school just like your family MD, then completed a two year residency in psychiatry, where the emphasis was on prescribing meds.

Psychologist: Ph.D. Went through 4 to 5 years of graduate school studying human behavior, pathology, and psychotherapy, both in the classroom and seeing patients, then completed a one year internship and likely a 1 to 2 year post doc doing therapy.

Psychoanalyst: Either a psychiatrist (traditionally) or psychologist who has studied psychoanalysis, which is a particular brand of therapy. Tends to do long-term therapy (think Woody Allen).

Therapist: not a official term, loosely used to cover anyone who does therapy, regardless of training, so could include master’s level psychologists, social workers, or anyone else who performs therapy.

Back to the OP:

Here is a nice resource for finding a therapist, which also explains a bit about U.S. psychiatrists not doing therapy often:

A study about the efficacy of therapy and meds:

A good resource for you and your daughter, wenonahbone:

Sorry about hijacking this for a discussion of the efficacy of therapy. I just saw red. I am so sorry you and your daughter are going through this. Panic is very hard on people, and hard for others to see. I hope your daughter is panic-free soon.

By the way, that should be TESTED for cancer and AIDS. I have neither.


Some recommended books:

Self-Coaching: How to Heal Anxiety and Depression – Dr. Joseph J. Luciani, Ph.D.
The Power of Self-Coaching – Dr. Joseph J. Luciani, Ph.D.
From Panic to Power - Lucinda Bassett
The Feeling Good Handbook – Dr. David D. Burns, M.D.
Anxiety and Phobia Workbook – Edmund J. Bourne
Coping with Anxiety: Ten Simple Ways to Relieve Anxiety, Fear, and Worry -
Edmund J. Bourne, Lorna Garano
Power over Panic - Bronwyn Fox
Hope and Help for Your Nerves - Dr. Claire Weeks
Worry – Edward M. Hallowell

Most of these authors also have websites that you can visit: - Lucinda’s site - Lucinda also has a set of self-help tapes (cd’s, too) available to help learn coping skills for people who experience anxiety and panic. - Bronwyn’s site - Dr. Luciani’s site
Dr. Luciani’s site also has a message board where you can ask Dr. Joe Luciani himself any question you can think of relating to anxiety and depression.

A search on for anxiety disorders will return many sites where you can learn about anxiety, causes, treatments and books, and discuss your condition and concerns with other people with anxiety on public message boards. - This site has a new motivator each day (except Sunday) – they are very brief articles on how to move forward, stay positive, and look after yourself.

I had anxiety for 13 years. I only recently discovered that there are better ways to treat it than just taking SSRI’s. Your daughter can feel better, but it won’t happen overnight, and it will be hard - but it’s worth it. You don’t learn to control or stop panic or anxiety - you learn coping skills so you don’t get so scared of your own thoughts and feelings, and that in turn reduces the anxiety.

Oh, I strongly recommend her finding a self-help group nearby. I have been going to a Freedom From Fear group in Calgary for over a year now, and they have been a tremendous resource.

Thanks for all the help and advice. BTW the Xanax were prescribed for her about 6 months ago for a similar situation. She does not like to take them, and they were in the medicine chest. She will be going back to the therapist today. I am going with her, and I am actively seeking a phyciaritrist to make an appointment with. She did well all day yesterday, until right before a big family dinner (Father’s day). She used some of the breathing exercises given to her from the therapist, and it seemed to help her get through it. Stay tuned