Posted by: vanhoff | April 30, 2008

Panic Attacks: The Disorder No One Talks About

Panic Attacks: The Disorder No One Talks About


It is a beautiful and sunny Saturday in November and Jon is getting ready for his big trip to Knoxville to see his family. He takes his shower, gets ready, he packs his clothes and then his car. Just one more thing and hopefully he will be ready. He opens the little orange bottle containing his sanity and pops the little blue Xanax into his mouth.

Jon Richardson, like 2.4 million other young adults suffers from panic attacks; these debilitating attacks come from any kind of traveling or even any extremely stressful situation.

Jon’s attacks started when he was 23, and although there had been some depression in his past, there had never been anything like this. His first attack happened after being put in charge of a large event at his job at a nightclub. When the main act cancelled at the last minute, it all went down hill.

“I will never forget what happened, I suddenly couldn’t breath, my heart was racing,” he remembers. “I thought I was going to die.”

According to the anxiety resource center, panic attacks are surges of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. These highly stressful attacks bring about symptoms of a raging heartbeat, difficulty breathing, almost paralyzing fear, shaking, dizziness, chest pains and even thoughts that they are going to die.

“People have no idea how common this very real disorder is,” says Jon’s doctor, Renee Crecelius. “About one out of 75 people worldwide will have one in there lifetime, people are just too afraid to talk about it.”

Although these attacks are highly common, people are very nervous and reserved about seeking treatment.

“I have to say, I never wanted to get help, I thought people would judge me because I have this thing that literally will make me stress out so much I think I am going to die,” Jon says. “I mean really, who has to go to a therapist because they can’t handle driving out of town?”

Jon is not alone in this; about 21 percent of people who have this disorder will not seek help. People who do not seek help generally do not believe the problem is serious enough to get therapy or take medicine, or they are embarrassed by the situation.  Without treatment, this extremely serious disorder can cause a sufferer’s life to become very restricted. They will start to avoid situations they fear will cause these attacks, even normal activities such as going to the grocery store or driving, in very extreme cases it can lead to Agoraphobia, the fear of even leaving the house.

“I am lucky, I figured out pretty quickly that I needed help,” says Jon. “After a second attack happened pretty closely to the first I knew something was wrong.”

Although Jon recognized his problem quickly, actually fixing it has been an uphill battle. His previous doctor had prescribed a couple of different medicines in order to control his panic attacks.  He had started on him on two different prescriptions, including his Xanax. Prescriptions such as Xanax, are usually prescribed to calm the person down it can be taken as needed or in Jon’s case daily. However, the average person with a panic disorder is very reluctant to take any kind of medicine, even something as mild as Advil. Although the people generally understand they have to take something to help fix the issue, it can take months even years of trying to convince them so that they will voluntarily take something daily. Jon is now 29 and it took almost 4 years of battles to get to the point where he can take the medicine.

“To an average person, it sounds like no big deal, just pop the pill and it will all go away,” says Crecelius. “But to someone with a panic attack disorder it is very unnerving, they think it will hurt them somehow, even the most normal people will get upset.”

There is hope however, with proper treatment, panic attacks can be reduced or even completely prevented in over 70 percent of people. This of course relies heavily on the patient trusting there doctor and following their orders. Once people follow the prescribed treatment, they can find relief in as soon as a couple of weeks.

“For a long time I couldn’t find a doctor who I felt understood, and so I never really followed their treatment, but in the last 2 years I feel like I have found one,” says Jon. “I can’t even describe the change, I can actually take a road trip and not feel like I am going to die, and that’s a big step for me.”

As with all things, treatments take time and patience. In cases of panic disorders, it can take months or years depending on the patient. For Jon, now there is no better feeling than getting in that car and driving to see his family, even if his Xanax is in tow.



  1. As sufferer myself I can relate to all that you have said your article. I’m sure it will be of benefit to others too. I suffered from been a child so I can understand the problem of panic attacks more than most. Thank you for listening to me.

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