The Corpus Callosum

The LA Times has a story about the author’s own
struggle with panic
disorder and agoraphobia

a Paxil-free life, she’ll take the long route

It takes some time, but this student learns there’s no quick
fix for panic attacks.

By Summer Beretsky, Special to The Times
March 3, 2008

Some people can’t stand the word “irregardless.” A close friend of mine
cannot stand hearing the word “panty” used in the singular.

My pet peeve is the misuse of the words “panic attack.”

My cohort of grad school classmates frequently drop the phrase when
they’ve had a mildly difficult night putting the finishing touches on a
research paper: “Oh my God, I had a panic attack when I couldn’t find
that 2007 Caplan article I needed to cite!” I’ve heard others throw it
around in other trivial ways: “Oh, I’m going to have a panic attack! I
can’t decide which purse to wear!”

These are not panic attacks. Call them shocks, scares or dilemmas. But
not panic attacks… 

The author goes on to describe her problem, the problems she had trying
to fix the problem, and how she finally solved the problem.  

She had a difficult time with the medication she took, finally went off
it, and eventually got better:

After my motivation and emotions returned, I started
doing what I should have done when my panic attacks began: I became an
information-seeking machine. I read books. I sought out alternative
therapies. I took an anxiety-management class, tried acupuncture and
learned about mindfulness meditation.

What she learned is that the cornerstone of treatment for panic
disorder is education.  Ideally, that would come first.
 It does not work for everyone, but when it does, it can
provide the ideal outcome.  

It’s a nicely-written story.  A bit uplifting, too, to read
about a good outcome.  
In actual practice, it is difficult for many people to learn what they
need to learn, and understand what they need to understand, in order
for them to manage panic without medication.  And for some
people, it does not seem to matter how well they master the material.

And for others — this is the ironic part — learning about their
condition not only fails to help, it makes them more anxious.

The point is that there is no one treatment that works for everyone.
 The strategy is to try different things, cautiously but
persistently, until the problem is solved.


  1. #1 ChuckO
    March 7, 2008

    I have had off-and-on problems with panic attacks since my teens and a moderate case of claustrophobia. I avoided enclosed spaces that I couldn’t leave when I wanted to, like elevators and public transit. I tried taking an anti-depressant for a while several years back, but it didn’t help. Interestingly enough though, when I started taking a beta blocker as one of my medications to treat high blood pressure a few years back, the claustrophobia pretty much went away. I no longer avoid those situations, like elevator rides, that I used to. I’ve had a few panic attacks since then where my mind started racing and filled with panicky thoughts but I didn’t experience the associated physical sensations and they quickly passed.

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