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The Agony of Anxiety and Panic: What people need to know

Updated on February 27, 2011

According to the Anxiety Disorder Association of America, over 40 million people suffer from Anxiety disorders. Having suffered from this myself for many, many years, I have read hundreds of posts from fellow sufferers. For a large number of us, this disorder is mostly a deep dark secret we try to hide from others, because we feel ashamed, lost and that people will think we are just crazy. If you've never suffered from anxiety or panic disorders, you don't understand the true agony of these disorders. It's not your fault, because it's hard to understand anything you've never experienced, but learning about it can be an enormous help to your loved ones who do suffer from this.

Having anxiety/panic disorders makes you feel helpless, hopeless,depressed, different from others, frustrated, out of control, and mostly, just terribly fearful. It can ruin your self-esteem, make any decision a torture and eventually sometimes lead to fear of leaving your own home (agoraphobia). The physical symptoms are awful and include dizziness, shortness of breath, trembling hands, confusion, and chest pain, just to name a few. And all of this happens because your body is reacting to a danger...only there is no real danger there. And we don't know why we are reacting this way and can't control it. Many people just think they are going crazy, which only adds to the problem, as you can well imagine!

There are various methods to learn to control these disorders and medications, but I'm not going into that here. There are many wonderful sites out there to visit and get that information. I'm writing this mainly to try to get the loved ones of sufferers to try to understand these disorders better. One of the main things a person with an anxiety/panic disorder needs is a support system. Unfortunately, I've found many don't have one. Their family and friends just don't get it and often make it worse by saying things like, "just calm down" or "toughen up". I understand how frustrating this problem is for those close to us. They just don't know what's wrong with you and why you are so anxious, or having panic attacks, over seemingly nothing.

Imagine going to the grocery store, and the entire time you're there you are dizzy, having shortness of breath, afraid you're going to faint, having a hard time keeping your hands from trembling, and just feeling terribly frightened. You wake up in the morning and immediately start feeling anxious. You struggle all day long to try to keep yourself together and do what you have to do. You don't really want to be around anyone because you're so afraid they'll think you are acting strangely. Your mind can't focus on anything but the anxiety you are feeling and is just waiting for a panic attack to come. It is truly agonizing to live this way. It is also extremely exhausting.

What I want non-sufferers to know is that the person who is suffering this can't help it. Most everyone has experienced anxiety and panic in their life. You have to make a speech and may feel anxious. Your baby trips and falls, and you panic that they have seriously hurt themselves. But once you've made the speech the anxiety usually goes away. Once you realize your baby is fine, the panic subsides. For people with anxiety/panic disorders it never goes away or subsides. Maybe for awhile, if they are lucky, but not permanently. And, as I've already mentioned, they are having these feelings for "no reason", which makes it doubly frightening and uncontrollable. 

The main thing you can do to help them is just let them know you are truly there for them. They can feel so alone and isolated, and knowing that someone "has their back" is worth it's weight in gold. Go with them if they are afraid to go alone. Let them know that if they need to leave wherever you are at, it's ok. Honestly, there isn't any magic thing you can do to get them out of the anxiety or a panic attack, but just having someone with them that they trust is a huge relief for them. Let them know you love them and that you don't think they are crazy or being ridiculous. This type of support will help them tremendously.

It is important for someone with these disorders to get help. They should start by going to their doctor. Medication, therapy, self help books, anxiety sites and forums are all options. Joining a forum or a local anxiety disorder group can help because it lets them know they are not alone.  For some reason, we tend to think "it's just us", that we are some freak of nature and everyone else is "normal". Just finding out how many people suffer from this helps so much. I have to add that sometimes it takes a long time for them to get over this, so patience is also vital.Try to remember that this is a real disorder and that even if you can't relate, you can still help. So encourage them to get help and just BE THERE for them.


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    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 3 years ago from the South

      garnetbird, thank you so much.

    • profile image

      garnetbird 3 years ago

      Awesome hub and written with vivid honesty.

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 5 years ago from the South

      Thanks justateacher! A support system is so important...I'm glad you have a good one!

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 5 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      I am still getting my anxiety and panic attacks under control....I am very lucky and have a wonderful support system! This is wonderful information!

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 5 years ago from the South

      bearachute, anxiety problems are becoming more common and more people, like us, are writing about it, which I hope helps. You're right about if people don't understand, they probably never will, because they don't really care to, I think. The highest compliment I can get is when someone comments that they think about it differently now, since reading one of my articles, and it's helped them help someone who has it.

      Good luck with your progress in dealing with it...hang in there, I know you'll get better and better at it. As you said, "one step at a time" and no step is too small...they are all victories. Now I'm off to read your hub! Thanks for commenting.

    • bearachute profile image

      bearachute 5 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      I just wrote an article about this, good timing huh? It's really difficult for people who don't understand it, or haven't dealt with it to. Most of my own family has called me lazy for years because I cannot leave the house sometimes, and looking for a job is harder. Having a base of friends and family who are willing to understand and help you deal with day to day things is a great place to start. Never deny yourself of how you feel no matter who says what. It's not their place and frankly as you said, you can't help it. After 5 years of dealing with it, I've become quite frank with people about it, and I can tell you that for the most part if they don't understand they never will. But really there's nothing you can do but deal with it day to day and have a great support group behind you. You Can make it through it. One step at a time, big or small.

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 5 years ago from the South

      You are lucky to have a boyfriend who understands and supports you. You are right, it is very important to feel that someone is always there for matter what. I read your hub on the subject and it was excellent. I'm so glad you got help and are starting to get better. It is hard and some days aren't as good, but don't let the setbacks get you down. They will get fewer and fewer...good luck, I'm rooting for you.

    • regaleagle profile image

      RegalEagle 5 years ago from Good Ol' Bim

      I love this--I really am getting over my panic disorder-stage by stage however and it is not always easy to keep positive. Sometimes the feelings can be very controlling-very and you can easily slip into the old habits and fears that cause the disorder in the first place--my boyfriend is a gem we talk about my feelings and rationalise my fears having someone there to say I am here for you always is so needed for us panic sufferers.

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 5 years ago from the South

      Thanks meloncauli! And yes, you are right on the mark about the most important thing to say. Thanks so much for reading and voting up.

    • meloncauli profile image

      meloncauli 5 years ago from UK

      Wonderful hub! I think the most important thing anyone can say to a person who is panicking is:

      'I am here, I will not let anything happen to you'

      Voted up.

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 6 years ago from the South

      Hi Cashmere! That's what I try to do in most of my writing about it...just get people to understand it! So many people have this problem. I wish you the best with it. Thanks for the comment and votes!

    • profile image

      Olde Cashmere 6 years ago

      Thank you for bringing attention to this subject. Anxiety is something I've been learning to deal with for many years and this hub can help people understand the weight of it. Voted up, useful, and interesting (:

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 7 years ago from the South

      epigramman, thanks so much for your encouraging words...they are much needed right now! Good sayings and yes, you're right, we all have times in our lives when we go through this. Life is a rollercoaster afterall, isn't it? Thanks again.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 7 years ago

      ....well I have an old saying - when in doubt - panic!!

      ..... or perhaps you could reverse it and say - when in panic, doubt!!!!!

      I think we must all go through this from time to time in our lives and we wouldn't be human - thank you again for your passionate writing style, your emotional depth and your intellectual edge ........ you are an inspiring writer indeed!

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 7 years ago from the South

      Thanks so much Minnetonka Twin! I'm glad people might find some help here.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 7 years ago from Minnesota

      Great job talking about anxiety and panic disorder. I'm glad you wrote about people that don't understand it and how they can help those that suffer. Great personal hub that will help many. Those with the disorder and those without that can be educated on this.

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 7 years ago from the South

      Thanks Denise. I hope this helps people better understand.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      This truly is such a debilitating disorder. You are absolutely correct in stating that others, like many disorders, do not understand. Often people think one should just 'get over it'.

      Great job explaining this and offering encouragement.

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 7 years ago from the South

      I am past the "ashamed of it" stage (well, most of the time anyway) and it does help to talk about it. I just hope more people understand it and make it easier for people who suffer from it. Thanks for reading it and saying it takes courage to speak out. That makes me feel really good!

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 7 years ago from the South

      Lesa, I'm glad this will help. Thanks for reading it.

    • Karanda profile image

      Karen Wilton 7 years ago from Australia

      Thank you for sharing your experiences so that family and friends may work toward understanding the difficulties faced by people with anxiety disorders. It takes great courage to speak out. I hope writing about this has helped you in some ways too.

    • profile image

      Lesa 7 years ago

      A very helpful synopsis of a problem many suffer from. I have a member of my family who suffers from anxiety problems, and this will help me help them.


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