Panic Attacks Destroying My Life

Q. HELP! I am only 23-years old and have had panic attacks for about 3 years and it is destroying my self-esteem, my confidence level---well, practically it is taking over my life.

I am an extrovert, by nature, and have always been a leader, very outgoing, outspoken, etc. I had no problem getting in front of people and giving speeches, talks, etc. I used to love to be the center of attention and give feedback to anyone on any subject. But now, because of my anxiety disorder, I can not do any of those things anymore.

I am married and have children and I am in school pursuing a degree. I did see a psychiatrist and he put me on Paxil (Aropax), but the Dr. left the hospital I was seeing him at (for free, I am on a very low budget) and I never got to follow up with him about my problem. I stayed on the Paxil for about 2-months, but got off of it because of the side affects and I had to take medication. I am now on Xanax, but I only take it as needed-sometimes once every two weeks, sometimes once a week; but lately I have been taking one a day .5mg everyday-when I get a panic attack.

My panic attacks are destroying my self-esteem, my confidence.My panic attacks are brought upon by being the focus or center of attention in a room, talking (in length) with someone face-to-face, being in a situation I feel I can't get out of- like sitting in the Barber's chair, sitting the middle of the classroom with the doors shut, etc, etc. The moment I get in any of those situations, I start thinking "what if" I have a panic attack right here and pass out and off my body goes and I have to immediately get out of whatever situation I am in.

The first symptoms I get are sweaty palms, then I get shaky ("weak in the knees"), then I feel myself turning real pale, then I get a rapid heart beat and/or I go straight to feeling like I am going to pass out. Either I literally run out from the situation or I feel like I am fixing to hit the floor. I know that there is nothing to fear and that what I am having anxiety over is totally irrational, BUT I can't control the panic attacks, no matter how hard I try. I am so frustrated- I JUST WANT TO BE THE SAME PERSON I USED TO BE!!!!!!!!!

What is really bothering me is that lately I will be sitting in class, taking notes, and I think to myself: what if I was to have an attack right here, right now. WHAM! I start to have an attack and I either have to pop a Xanax in my mouth or leave the room. I can't do anything in public without the fear of having an attack and I am at my wit's end and I NEED HELP, PLEASE.

I have tried to contact professionals to get therapy, but they are all too expensive. Although, it would be worth a million dollars to cure my ailment, I just don't have any money to spare. I did get one place to offer me sessions at $7 a session, but it was and hour drive from my house and my vehicle is not in the best condition and I didn't have the money for gas back and forth. I would really appreciate some advice on my problem and is my problem 100% curable and is there qualified help for someone who can't afford the private sector.

A. The secret of recovery is in your email! The harder we fight it, the worse we become, and the more we 'what if,' the worse we get. In both cases, we turn on the fight-and-flight response and it is the fight-and-flight response which creates many of our symptoms. The fight-and-flight response is a natural response which is activated in times of danger to prepare the us either to stay and fight the dangerous situation or to run away from it.

It is the way we think which causes 99% of the problem. The way we think ..'what if'... signals the body that we are in danger and the fight-and-flight response is activated. But the only danger we are in is being created by the way we think. Recovery means we need to learn to manage our thoughts. Not positive thinking, this usually doesn't work in the early stages of recovery as we don't believe what we are saying to ourselves. We need to see the damage our thoughts are creating and we need to learn to neutralize our thoughts. We also need to learn to let the panic attack and the anxiety happen. And it doesn't matter where you are or what you are doing or for that matter what other people think. Once we can let go of our thoughts and let it happen we turn off the fight and flight response. Easier said than done, at first, but many of us do learn to do it. And once we do, we have our life back.

Re: the Xnanx. Here in Australia the guidelines for the prescribing of any of the tranquillizers is for 2 - 4 weeks only. The tranquillizers, including Xanax can be addictive and some people may become addicted within four weeks. Xanax is one of the short-acting tranquillizers. With the short-acting ones, if people do become addicted, they may have withdrawal symptoms every 4-to-6 hours. Withdrawal includes anxiety and panic.

Our federal government recommends people on the short-acting tranquillizers transfer over to the equivalent dose of valium and once stabilized slowly withdraw the valium. Valium in a longer-acting drug and prevents the 4 - 6 hour withdrawal. You MUST NOT simply stop taking these drugs. This can be very dangerous. You need to speak with your doctor and slowly withdraw the drug under medical supervision. This also applies to any transfer and withdrawal from valium.

We are not sure where you live, but have you spoken to your local university. Many universities around the world do run Cognitive Behavioral Therapy clinics through their Dept. of Psychology either at no or minimal charge. If you live in Australia, we can refer you onto a therapist in your area.

You can recover once you have learned the appropriate skills.

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APA Reference
Gluck, S. (2008, October 3). Panic Attacks Destroying My Life, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Last Updated: July 1, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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