Archives for Treatment


New To Meditation? Try These Tiny Stepping Stones From Headspace

While I've played around with meditation before, I never really held myself to its committed practice. I'd get excited about it for a few days, cozying up with Meditation Oasis podcasts after dinner, but then I'd drop the habit out of boredom or inattention. Or both.

But for the past ten days, I've been using a meditation app called Headspace to get me meditating more habitually....
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A Panic Attack On Live TV? ABC News Anchor Dan Harris Reflects

[Warning: this video might (obviously) be triggering for those of you with panic disorder. It definitely put me a bit on edge. It does end on a happy note, if that's of any consolation.]

Have you ever had a panic attack in front of a large audience?

I've had my (unfairly large) share of panic attacks -- but most of them were only in front of small audiences, like the gaggle of shoppers who were behind me in line at CVS when I doubled over in dizziness at checkout.

(The moments between that first scanned item and that final step of swiping my payment card is akin to being stuck on an elevator between floors. After the first "beep" of the UPC scanner, I am trapped. I no longer have an easy excuse to run out of the store, if needed. I have to have to have to keep it cool and stay non-panicky, dammit, until that receipt is in my hand, right? I mean, otherwise...I'd look like a complete ass running out of there.)

And, oh, the marketing meeting at my former job in a stuffy, sardine-can-of-a conference room! I'll never forget that panic attack.
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Letter To A Panicker Whose World Is Quickly Shrinking

"Just...just do it," she said, looking me straight in the eye.

She wasn't a Nike spokesperson: She was my therapist, circa 2004, warning me against the dangers of agoraphobia.

"Even if you feel panicky," she said, "Just go. Go out with that friend or this one. Go to the store. No matter how your body feels, just keep going. Don't cancel plans. It'll get worse in the long run if you do."

Wise words. Did I always heed them?

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Zoloft and Klonopin Sing A Frustrating Lullaby

It's no big secret or anything. Anxiety meds can make you sleepy. Like, really sleepy.

From my bottle of Zoloft, an SSRI used to treat my panic disorder: "May cause drowsiness."

From my bottle of Klonopin, a benzodiazapine my doc has me using to counter the anxiety that sometimes occurs while titrating an SSRI upward: "May cause drowsiness."

Drowsiness achieved, people. Complete and utter drowsiness.

So, how can I cope?
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Breathe Easy This Weekend With A Simple Web App

Have you ever noticed your respiration rate increase during periods of heightened anxiety? It's okay if you have -- it's completely normal and part of the body's fight-or-flight reaction.

But what if you're anxious about something that you can't fight or flee from? Then, your quicker-than-usual rate of breathing becomes an annoyance at the least -- and a panic trigger at worst.

Perhaps you've read about abdominal breathing in Edmund J. Bourne's classic text, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. Breathing retraining can help with panic and anxiety symptoms, he notes -- and I agree. It can.

But perhaps, like me, you absolutely hated his 5/5/5 "Calming Breath Exercise" because, let's face it, fellow panickers: holding your breath for 5 seconds between inhale & exhale is...uncomfortable, to say the least. Right? My body hates it!

For me, it raises my heart rate, and I still can't quite understand why it's so often recommended.

So, what else can we do?
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Lift The Burden By Changing “Should” To “Want”

There's a lot of guilt involved in having an anxiety disorder. (If you, reader, have an anxiety disorder, you know exactly what I mean, right?)

For the rest of you, I'll spell it out clearly: we feel guilty for not being able to keep up with household chores, everyday errands, or taking care of the kids. We feel guilty for giving our spouses or significant others more "blah" time than happy fun time.

More shaking, less adventure. More nausea, fewer vacations. More fear, less novelty.

And that guilt? It sucks.

We feel guilty for so many things: for not being able to grab a couple things at the big bright grocery store. For not being able to work a "normal" job with a "normal" schedule. For RSVPing for a friend's wedding and then chickening out at the last minute because it's a 3 hour drive and you feel too lightheaded to even drive down the street (and I'm still sorry about that, Melissa).

We feel guilty for not being able to do all the things we believe we "should" be able to do.
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Withdrawing From Celexa: Yeah, Um, That Didn’t Really Work

Years ago, before panic attacks became one of my defining characteristics, I decided I wanted to be one of those crunchy mothers-to-be who avoids all medication at all cost. I'd be growing a tiny human inside of me, after all. I vowed, early in my twenties, that even Tylenol wouldn't even be allowed.

Oh, the naivete of my youth.

It's been a long time since I've posted a med update, and that's sort of been an intentional choice. Months ago, I started a short series about withdrawing from Celexa, an SSRI drug used to treat depression -- but I'd been taking it off-label for panic disorder for about 2 years. I'm no stranger to SSRI withdrawal, so I was careful to perform a very slow taper.


Things were looking sort of bright  on about half my original dosage until I tried to go and pick up a crate a vegetables a mere 2 miles away from my home:
It was Tuesday, and I was driving my car to pick up my CSA share — a box full of veggies from a local farmer — just across the bridge from where I live.

Easy. Close. A simple task.

Agoraphobically, I’ve never really had a problem with bridges before. (And, architecturally, I’m fascinated by them!)

But on that day, in the middle of this unremarkable concrete bridge, I felt a small twinge of fear brewing in the basement of my stomach. Something felt wrong — indescribably and uncomfortably wrong."
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Anxiety As A Big Fat Jerk: Letting Go Of The Rope

We live our lives through metaphor after metaphor.

Now, don't let the word "metaphor" scare you. It might sound familiar -- perhaps from your high school English class -- or maybe you've never heard it at all.

I like the definition from
A metaphor is a situation (generally a literary situation) in which the unfamiliar is expressed in terms of the familiar.
A situation in which the unfamiliar is expressed in terms of the familiar -- say, a foggy brain or a heart of gold. Fog and gold are simple and familiar concepts. They're easy to picture. And so, we use them to describe slightly more unfamiliar concepts -- in these examples, the unclear thinking that might come after a hard day's work (brain fog), or a person who is incredibly good-natured and giving (heart of gold).

Metaphors can also be expressed (and defined) more simply. They're a comparison without the word "like" or "as". Here are a few examples off the top of my head:

War is hell.
Banana cream pie is orgasmic.
Love is a garden.
His brain is a machine.
Time is money.

We know love isn't really a garden -- it's an abstract concept. But, in order to make it more concrete, we compare it to something that's easily to understand. You can plant the seeds of love. If you water your garden (nurture your love), it will grow.


But I'm not here to drone on and on about metaphor. (Hmm -- was there a metaphor in that sentence? Did I just make a metametaphor?)

I'm here, as usual, to talk about anxiety.

Let's see what kind of metaphor you use to describe anxiety. Fill in the blank: anxiety is ______________.
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Help! My Cold Meds Make Me Anxious. What ELSE Can I Do?

Feeling sick? You're probably not alone. It's that sneez-y, cough-y, mucus-y time of year.

So, if you're anything like me, you have an anxiety disorder and you hate being sick. In fact, maybe being sick in and of itself elevates your anxiety level.

Throw some cold meds into the equation and you might really end up feeling bonkers. Medicines for cold and flu can be very powerful, and the side effects of their active ingredients can sometimes include disconcerting side effects, like dizziness or wooziness. (Think Sudafed, for example.)

And that sucks. Because getting relief for a cold is awesome...unless the price for that "relief" is more than a tablespoon of anxiety.

In yesterday's post, I wrote about how I often take smaller doses of OTC cold medication than the bottle recommends. The meds still end up working (to a degree), and save me from some of the side effect-related anxiety.

But what if you're too scared to take any cold meds? Are you doomed to suffer?
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Help! My Cold Meds Make Me Anxious. What Can I Do?

'Tis the season, I suppose, for phlegm-y illnesses. Today, one of my most-read blog posts is this: "Cold Meds Got You Anxious? Know Your Ingredients!"

It's a must-read for those of you who:

have an anxiety disorder
plan on getting at least a head cold before winter's end
tend to react with heightened sensitivity to medicines

I'm a huge advocate of understanding what you're putting into your body -- whether it be food, meds, or whatever else. I ask my doctors a billion questions every time they prescribe me a new drug, and I'm one to "test" new meds in a safe place (i.e., my home) to gauge my body's reaction before I begin taking them as directed.


And why? As I'd mentioned in the above-linked post, understanding your body's reaction to a medicine gives you a sense of calming control:
...[G]etting to know the ingredients in your cold medicine gives you a greater sense of control over your illness.

Knowing the effect that a specific medicine has on your body can be comforting — instead of attributing a mild sense of wooziness to an impending panic attack, wouldn’t it be nice to sit back and say with confidence that you KNOW diphenhydramine (an antihistamine) makes you feel this way? You know it’s the medicine, and it might be uncomfortable — but it doesn’t signify anything. Isn’t that a comforting thought?

If you get to know how each of these ingredients personally affects your body, you can more easily come to terms with how they make you feel.
I won't rehash the entire article for you here, but my intention today is sort of similar -- instead of talking about which cold med ingredients have certain physiological effects, I'm going to talk about ways you can reduce anxiety when you're feeling sick.
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