Resources for Panic Disorder Sufferers
I suffered with panic disorder for many years and know how much it can take over your life. Whether you have suffered for a long or a short time, you probably feel out of your depth and do not know where or how you can find the right help.
General physicians often send you away with anti-anxiety medications as they don't feel able to do anything else to help you. If you are lucky you may get referred for counselling or therapy, but some people may have to pay and that's not always ideal.
I hope this article will go some way towards pointing you in the right direction. Understanding what's actually out there may set you on the right path.
What does a panic attack feel like?
General Online Information
Perhaps you don't understand your panic attacks and what is happening to you. You may wonder about your symptoms and if they are anxiety related. Some people don't always believe that panic disorder can feel the way it does and imagine they have something worse. They have a hard time explaining their symptoms to family and friends, even doctors. It helps if you have all the facts and of course we have the dear old internet to find out.
For general symptoms of panic panic disorder I suggest going to the NHS Choices website. Another great source of information is Helpguide.org These are clickable links and will take you straight to that information.
Usually, a doctor will have ruled out instances of serious illness before he officially diagnoses panic disorder as the cause of your symptoms. If in doubt, get a second opinion, but if two doctors agree it is panic disorder then you must accept this and address the problem.
Finding a Counsellor or Therapists
Sometimes it's a matter of cost when it comes to choosing a therapist or counsellor and that's understandable. It does pay to shop around though, and make sure the person helping you has legitimate credentials.
Looking for a reputable therapist who deals with CBT, the primary therapy used for panic disorder, can be found at the Academy of Cognitive Therapy online. There is a worldwide search available. Another good resource for the USA is the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. You can also check the counselling directory in the UK. If you just put 'counselling directory UK' in a Google search, you should find it with no problem.
Therapy on Skype
There are therapists who offer their services online. In the growing age of global communication, Skype has become very popular for delivering one to one and often face to face therapy. I think it does have some value in helping people with panic disorder but be warned that often a therapist will want paying up front. You don't always have to be on show on a video camera , but of course this takes it to telephone consultation level.
Have you found online forums and chat helpful for panic disorder?
Online Forums and Chat Rooms
Sometimes it can help to simply share your experiences, and I gleamed many tips from joining online discussion forums, talking to people who suffered in the same way as I did. This is not on the level of proper therapy by any means, but for those who have no money to spend on therapy, at least you won't feel so alone with your problem. Joining groups of fellow sufferers can provide excellent peer support.
MDJunction has reasonable group support, but the best specific panic related forum and chat website I found was Panicend. The help and support by fellow sufferers, some of whom have recovered, is excellent and is all free.
Sometimes you can literally make 'panic buddies' and you may even find yourselves helping each other out by phone. There is nothing better than being understood, and in such places as these you will find a great deal of empathy and practical support, from people who know how it feels and affects your life.
Talking Through your Panic Attack
Telephone Advice and Support
There are free services around for help and support for those suffering from panic disorder. Telephone helplines got me through many a sticky patch, or just simply got me through a panic attack. Of course, often the phone calls are not free, but it is a small amount of money at the end of the day when you are feeling at your wits end.
You do not have to become a member to telephone a free helpline with No Panic which is based in the UK. It is a voluntary based charity.
You may find some other very useful contact information at Supportline
Of course in the UK there is the NHS advice 111 service but it is easy to abuse, though you might be able to get some sound advice from a nurse or even a doctor if you feel your need is urgent.
As a last resort there are always the Samaritans who offer a friendly ear, but at the end of the day I found that sympathy just wasn't enough. I didn't want sympathy. I wanted informed support and good advice. Samaritans may suggest some options though.
I found a free hotline hard to find in America, so if anyone can let me know if such a thing exists I will update this article.
Having a panic disorder can place a great strain on family life and even friendships. Often it is because the sufferer and the disorder is misunderstood. People who have regular panic attacks do not need any added pressure from family members or friends, so it is good for 'carers' to understand as much as possible about the disorder.
The general information pages I have suggested in this article could be printed out and given to those close to them. They could also see if there is a carer support group in their local area. A good resource comes from the Rethink network of carer groups.
Mind, the mental health charity is also a great place to get advice and information when supporting someone with panic disorder.
Self-Help for Panic Disorder
Of course, self-help is always an option, and in the end this moved me further on to recovery than anything else. There are a wealth of good books out there that are CBT based. There are also inspirational and instructional books written by recovered panic disorder sufferers themselves.
Beware of buying into claims of 'cures' from people or bodies online. There has been quite a rising number of websites that will take too much money for a PDF file you have to download and print out. Often it amounts to nothing more than you can buy in a book for a fraction of the price.
You can buy workbooks, relaxation CDs, DVDs to calm you, and there are even some free programs online for self help, though they tend to end up in buying into something eventually.
Breathing Technique for Panic Sufferers
- Chat rooms
- Paid therapy on and offline
- Skype therapy
- Telephone support
- Peer Support
- Family support
To Sum Up
You do not need to suffer alone. You do have choices about what kind of help you want, you just have to find that help. If you are feeling brave then self-help is a great way forward too and because you invest so much more time in self-help, you may reap rewards more quickly. You may still need good a support system in place though.
Online resources - there are many more than I have been able to mention here.