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I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By ballerinatwirler Comments: 2057, member since Sat May 29, 2004
On Wed Feb 08, 2012 01:10 PM

The title says it all. I can't write too much now but will come back and update it. I'm having severe panic attacks almost on a daily basis related to school. I have to force myself to go to class and struggle the entire time because I start panicking. I feel like I'm losing control of my brain.

I just tried to call the dr to come in for an emergency appointment but they are already closed for the day.

Advice?

15 Replies to I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school

re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By Coccinellamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 5880, member since Sat Jan 25, 2003
On Wed Feb 08, 2012 01:22 PM
Just keep going and push through it.

I suffer from anxiety as well and I have left class before because I couldn't stand to be stuck in my seat another second. I've even dropped a class before because something about the particular room/prof/people always made me super anxious. My first couple weeks of each semester are always particularly bad because I'm nervous and I work myself up to the point where I'm very anxious and sick feeling.

For me, I usually think the following things in my head...

"There isn't anything different about today than other days when I wasn't anxious."

"The feeling will pass, panic attacks never last forever."

"Why is sitting on my butt in this chair in class any different than sitting on my butt at home?"

I feel like it's a bit of a vicious cycle. If I miss school once because I'm having an anxious day, all that does is reinforce that I "can't" go to school if I'm anxious and that it's okay for me to miss class because of it.

There are obviously a lot of us on DDN who suffer from anxiety type disorders so perhaps it would help us all to think about the fact that somewhere else in the world, there is probably another DDN'er out there experiencing the same thing at the same time.

:)
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school (karma: 1)  en>fr fr>en
By baladibabe Comments: 42, member since Sat Feb 04, 2012
On Wed Feb 08, 2012 02:14 PM
Oh, sweetie, I SO feel your pain - it's terrifying, I know from first hand experiend.

Please understand that as crazy and horrible as they feel, there are real and manageable bio-chemical reasons for your panic attacks. And the power of a panic attack lies in its seeming endless sheer awfulness, which escalates in your mind and threatens to spiral out of control. You CAN address this successfully.

First and foremost, effective coping techniques for when you are experiencing an attack involve PHYSICAL MOVEMENT and SHIFTING YOUR MENTAL FOCUS, both of which help diffuse the attack and stop the spiral. They include:

. wearing a rubber band on your wrist and snapping it when you are panicking - in addition to the physical movement, the pain helps refocus your attention and bring you back to reality.

. wiggling your toes really, really fast - I know this sounds crazy, but again, it is physical movement combined with mental focus - you really have to focus to wiggle your toes fast, and that distracts from the panic attack.

. jumping up and doing some task, very quickly and as though your life depended on it. Again - physical movement plus distraction. Housecleaning is great for this - after 30 seconds of scrubbing a sink furiously while telling yourself "I must have this cleaned within 2 minutes!" you'll find that the grip of the panic attack has been broken.

. counting backwards from 100, counting the bricks/cracks/windows in a wall, or any other mental task that requires focus and concentration.

Second, a big contributing factor is nutrition: be sure you eat enough protein, and minimize (cut out entirely, if you can) the processed foods, especially breads and sugars. And when an attack starts, if you can quickly eat some protein, not only does it help shift your brain chemistry in a good direction, but the very act of jumping up to grab it, opening it, chewing it, is the needed distraction to diffuse the attack.

Third, breathing. You will find that your breathing changes drastically during an attack - it either becames rapid and shallow, or almost stops altogether. FOCUS ON YOUR BREATHING and force yourself to take deep, slow breaths. It's amazing how well this works.

And finally, go to this site (www.adaa.org) and read all you can about this condition - especially the tab "Finding Help" - go to "Treament" and see "Finding a therapist near you" partway down the page. You shouldn't have to face this alone, and a skilled professional can teach you a lot about the condition and about dealing with it. And they can help determine of drugs would be a good idea in your case.

Hang in there, and the very, very best of luck with this!
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By baladibabe Comments: 42, member since Sat Feb 04, 2012
On Wed Feb 08, 2012 02:17 PM
Edited by baladibabe (246055) on 2012-02-08 14:19:02
Hi, Coachinella - Anxiety is the worst, isn't it? Hope you'll read my comments, above, and also check out the site I recommended. Hope it may be useful to you! BEST OF LUCK!!!
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By baladibabe Comments: 42, member since Sat Feb 04, 2012
On Wed Feb 08, 2012 02:41 PM
Also, some substances and medications cause - or contribute to - panic attacks. Decongestants, for example, are terrible in this regard. So is caffeine. So if you take allergy meds, or drink a lot of caffeinated soda, this could be contributing.
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By Kekoamember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 8863, member since Sat Jul 19, 2003
On Wed Feb 08, 2012 03:27 PM
Do you have a trigger for your panic attacks in terms of school?

I know that mine was skipping class. If I missed a class here or there (for a legitimate reason or not), I'd be a wreck. I told myself that all students missed class sometimes, no big deal, but not knowing what I'd miss would stress me and I'd panic. It was a cycle; miss class because I was sick, panic attack over what I missed so I couldn't go to the next class, panic attack, etc. It got to the point I had to drop out of school for a semester. In my case, the solution was to never skip unless absolutely necessary, and to hold myself accountable by emailing a classmate or the TA.

Please though, do go to the doctor!
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By baladibabe Comments: 42, member since Sat Feb 04, 2012
On Wed Feb 08, 2012 07:32 PM
Later that same day . . .
And when you get a chance, please do let us know if/that you're okay. Hang in there!
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By ballerinatwirler Comments: 2057, member since Sat May 29, 2004
On Wed Feb 08, 2012 11:48 PM
Sorry I didn't write much before I was literally in the middle of a major panic attack. I've always had panic issues related to school but today was the worst experience ever. Most of my severe attacks are at day so it really shocked me during the day.

I'm usually pretty good about dealing with the attacks and I know somedays I cannot handle class and I try to keep up with my school work. I really need to go to disability services after meeting with my doctor.

Coccinella- I've read in your diary before about your anxiety too. You are so strong for pushing through. If I had a bad feeling about the class/room/prof or anything I feel like that too.

Baladibabe- Thanks for all of the suggestions they were really helpful.

Keoka - My trigger is the same as yours. If I miss a class I feel fine about it until the next class and that's when the panic starts. Also if I'm not 100% prepared for class I have the panic attacks as well. Today my trigger was because I have an organic chemistry test next Wednesday that I've been worried about and I had my chem lab tonight and I hate labs.
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By girlwithghilliesmember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 1044, member since Fri Nov 26, 2004
On Thu Feb 09, 2012 01:41 AM
Edited by girlwithghillies (114439) on 2012-02-09 01:43:41
^ From what I've seen chem labs and o chem in general tend to have that effect on people. Since general chemistry I've watched people freak out in lab and have to be taken outside by the professor to calm down. Just this past week somebody in my organic lab basically grabbed the professor by his shirt and spent a solid five minutes telling him somewhat incoherently about how she just couldn't deal with this experiment, and she'd studied it over and over but she couldn't grasp it, it was beyond her and she didn't get why because usually she can study bio and chem and retain information well, on and on. (She was fine, the professor just stood there looking really startled and tried to make some vaguely comforting remarks). In fact, I'm currently avoiding doing some work for lab tomorrow. I'm getting good grades in the class and I know how to do the work, but I'm still managing to worry more about it than I should and therefore am being less productive than I can be.

You're definitely right to meet with your doctor about this, at the very least you should be entitled to accomodations which can make a world of difference. In the meantime, what strategies do you have for dealing with this? I don't think I experience anxiety on the level you're describing, so they may not be very useful, but I do experience a great deal of school stress on a daily basis, and I've noticed/developed a number of ways I can help myself deal.

I'm not sure if this counts as a panic attack or not, but I find that under severe stress I get into what are basically holding patterns - I get so freaked out that I'm rendered incapable of doing anything other than sitting there freaking out, which can continue for a very long time unless I find some way to break out of it. Which is much easier said than done - a lot of the time I simply can't will myself to get up and do something else.

So far, the absolute most helpful and effective technique that combats this is music. I figure out how different songs affect me (energize, calm down, what have you) and I have various playlists reflecting this. If I can manage to put some cheerful music on, most of the time it's like a huge weight lifts off my shoulders. Even if not, the music breaks up the pattern and I can use that to try other strategies. Some of the more effective techniques to break panicky thought patterns seem to involve a kind of meditation. I don't mean sitting still and forcing my mind to be clear, because if I'm trying to calm down I'm probably past the point where that would work. But small, relatively easy, simple physical tasks work wonders for me - washing dishes (especially because the water is soothing), taking a walk (I try to have a destination in mind like the grocery store so I don't stress myself further trying to decide a route), even picking lint off a sweater - all while listening to music. Singing along also helps, and it forces you to breathe more normally. Consider the kind of music you listen to and how it affects you. I've had to more or less ditch beautiful songs that I loved because they're just not good for my state of mind.

For lowering stress in general, yoga and its focus on breathing and patience can produce a startling difference. So can hanging out with friends, going on long walks, taking hot baths, and (so important, yet so impossible!) getting enough sleep. All these things are buffers and can give you some wiggle room for the occasional super stressful week.
Like others mentioned, blood sugar can be a surprisingly big deal. Mine likes to crash to a near-dangerous degree at ridiculous and inconvenient times, so I've started keeping granola bars and candy in my purse and backpack so they're always accessible. I know it's not really recommended to eat sugary candy to bring your blood sugar up fast, but sometimes when I'm weak/cold/shaky it's the only way I can muster up the werewithal to eat healthier food which will help long-term. Juice is another good quick fix. How are you with temperature? I have Raynaud's and general poor circulation so being cold is a big problem and can make my moods go haywire. I've solved this by taking one of those big metal water bottles full of steaming hot tea with me in the mornings, which works as a hot water bottle in my first classes.

How about the people in your classes? Being on casually friendly terms with the other students and the professor helps so much and is a great motivator. It's so important to avoid feeling isolated whenever possible. I'm nerdy and awkward even among other nerds, so I struggle a lot with this. I've had the most luck so far with sitting in the same place in lecture, making sure to smile at or greet people who sit next to me and occasionally start conversations with them. this is also good in lab when you're sitting there bored to death watching solutions reflux. On the days when you're having trouble getting to school, would it be possible for you to meet a friend for coffee on campus before you have to be in class? It helps to have something fun to focus on and look forward to, and it's easier to just show up and avoid having to explain your absence.

Finally, be as nice to yourself as you can. Since you've dealt with this for awhile I'm sure you know to avoid beating yourself up, but it's so easy to lose sight of that in a culture that constantly reinforces the idea that anyone who is struggling is simply not trying hard enough. Good luck, hope things are looking up soon.
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By baladibabe Comments: 42, member since Sat Feb 04, 2012
On Thu Feb 09, 2012 07:53 AM
Twirler, thanks for the update, and again I stress that this IS something you can learn about, work on, and manage, if not get rid of entirely. I applaud your efforts to pursue it, and hope you will have much luck!

Something to keep in mind: every time you 'give in' to the anxiety through avoidance (avoiding places that stress you out, skipping classes that make you anxious), you actually STRENGTHEN the anxiety, because you are basically telling the subconcious brain, "Yes, these places/situations ARE dangerous and must be avoided at all costs."

Every time you CONFRONT the anxiety (forcing through it, making yourself go to places and be in situations that make you anxious), you actually WEAKEN the anxiety, because you are showing the brain, "See? I can do this! There's nothing to fear here!"

It's not easy, but KEEP ON PUSHING THROUGH!!!

Hugs . . .
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By Heartmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 14987, member since Thu Feb 14, 2002
On Thu Feb 09, 2012 04:09 PM
It sounds like you know what you need to do... go see your doctor, and go see Disability Services. Seriously, make that the FIRST thing you do... they are a lifesaver!! As long as you're with them, you'll be okay. I'd have lost a semester's worth of classes if it weren't for Disability Support.

I also wanted to add- don't be afraid to go to the ER if you need to! I get panic spells, but they're not quite as bad as full-fledged attacks. This is a psychiatric thing and if you really feel like you're not in control of yourself, you can definitely go to an ER just to get stabilized.
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By ballerinatwirler Comments: 2057, member since Sat May 29, 2004
On Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:50 AM
I've been trying to make an appointment and instead of them letting me come in for a visit they are switching my anti-depressants without a consultation and they told me to call back in a few weeks to see how they are working. I've tried two anti-depressants in the past that helped me with the anxiety but both gave me migraines that I wanted to die with. I'm bummed because I told the lady I really wanted to come and talk with the DR but nope.

:(

I had another major one today.
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By Heartmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 14987, member since Thu Feb 14, 2002
On Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:57 AM
God, I hate doctors sometimes. That's disgraceful. Changing meds without a consultation?? On what planet is that even ethical?!

Don't take no for an answer. Call them up and tell them no, I am making an appointment with the doctor. I'd toss in "Or I'm taking my business elsewhere, this is outrageous" as well. I would never take a medication without speaking with a doctor face-to-face. If they don't listen, call a different psychiatrist (or GP if this is your GP - but it should be a psychiatrist, I'm hoping it is).

Are you even on any anti-anxiety meds? And these are daily attacks?

Honestly if you can't get an appointment I'd just go to the ER. There you'll get an actual consultation and some meds, at least. It's an emergency situation, it's completely legit to do that. If no one else is listening to you, it's time to take your butt to the ER.

Don't take their crap.

Have you gone to disability services yet?
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By ballerinatwirler Comments: 2057, member since Sat May 29, 2004
On Thu Feb 16, 2012 01:39 PM
^ The reason I couldn't come in is because my doctor is out of town and his partner is in but couldn't squeeze me in even thought I was in a major panic on the phone. The doctor put me on Wellbutrin so I guess we'll see about that. I dropped Organic Chemistry because I just switched my major and it wasn't needed anymore. I printed off the forms needed for disability services but I need the DR to okay them so that will have to wait until next week.

I was on Xanax in the past to control my panic attacks but I started taking Librium for irritable bowel issues because my nerves are killing my stomach and the Dr though the Librium would be a better route than Xanax.

My attacks aren't daily but lately they've been more frequent. I would have a big one maybe once a month or so. I've been having them every couple of days. Usually my panic attacks are at night so it's a little easier to deal with but lately they've been during the day and night.

So does anyone have experience with Wellbutrin?
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By andrea5432 Comments: 19, member since Wed Nov 28, 2007
On Sun Feb 19, 2012 09:24 PM
try taking a magnesium supplement!!!

it is so helpful for keeping us relaxed and calm..
my mom has the same problem and she has seen a big differance
also, my sister uses it because she gets PMS really bad
and you can tell the differance in how she feels.

this is were me and my mom get all our suppliments and find them to be really effective for this kind of stuff..
you might also be low in amino acids
www.purecapspro.com . . .
re: I'm having panic attacks that are causing me to miss school en>fr fr>en
By Heartmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 14987, member since Thu Feb 14, 2002
On Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:35 PM
Well, Wellbutrin's NOT an anti-anxiety drug. It's an SNRI. It might help with anxiety, but that's not its primary use. I was on Wellbutrin for years. It worked at first - it's supposed to be one of those antidepressants that gives you a bit more energy, actually, doesn't cause weight gain or decreased libido - but eventually stopped working for me. Which is perfectly natural, that does happen with antidepressants, and it was only after over four years of taking it. I didn't know I had anxiety at that time but looking back I don't think it helped with that. Everyone's reaction will be different, though. Depression and anxiety go hand in hand most of the time, so if you're treating one you could be treating the other, but it's a crapshoot. I don't think you said you were diagnosed but if you have JUST anxiety, or a panic disorder, as opposed to anxiety comorbid with depression, it's a weird choice.

I wasn't aware I had anxiety at the time but looking back I don't think it helped with it. Everyone's different, though.

Thing is, that's going to take at least 3 weeks to start working, so it's not really a solution to the problem... oh, and when you're switching meds, you should be seeing your psychiatrist once a month. For the first few months, or as long as you're doing the med musical chairs thing.

I'm not a doctor or anything, disclaimer etc., but I know a lot about this crap and bupropion in particular. Were you on SSRIs before? SSRIs and SNRIs are two fundamentally different types of antidepressants, so if one isn't working for you, they'll switch you to the other.

When you're titrating on to a new drug, don't take ANY supplements without asking your doctor or pharmacist. Well, don't do that ever, but especially for something new.

Oh & drink lots of water. Antidepressants dry you out!

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