Anxiety without warning by Jack Kettler
I believe things in life happen for a purpose. Because of my encounter with anxiety and in the interest of being a positive influence, I wanted to share my experience in order to provide hope and encouragement to those who are suffering with anxiety or depression. It was certainly a comfort to me to learn that I was not alone in dealing with this problem.
The first anxiety attack I had was at work during a lunch break. It started when I began to have the sensation of choking along with shortness of breath. Along with this I noticed my heart seemed to be pounding and racing leading me to think I may be having the warning signs of an impending heart attack. For the next couple of hours I struggled with wondering what was happening. I became convinced there was a possible heart attack looming. Consequently, this first attack resulted in my boss driving me to the hospital.
In subsequent attacks I had more of the classic indicators like fear of the worst happening, losing control or going crazy and dying. To those who have had these experiences know how completely paralyzing they can be. Those who have had similar attacks will be able to understand that it is not a very fun experience to have an episode like this, let alone having to leave work due to the panic attack.
I have always wondered why anxiety attacks happened to me. My wife was diagnosed with cancer a number of years ago and this is when I began having the anxiety attacks. The stress of this diagnosis and fear was probably a contributing factor. My doctor believes anxiety is brought on by low brain serotonin levels caused by stress, lack of rest and proper exercise. Unfortunately, sometimes there are no clear answers to what brings on this condition.
In my case, Lorazepam, an anxiety medication helped me get through some very tough times. Lorazepam also known by its brand name Ativan is a benzodiazepine drug which is a type of medication known as a tranquilizer with a relatively short to medium time in which it is effectual. It has a sedative or muscle relaxant and nerve calming effect.
Among benzodiazepines, lorazepam has a relatively high addictive potential. For those having repeated panic attacks, this seems like a minor consideration. Unfortunately, in my situation the anxiety medication quickly started to lose its effectiveness. Because of the duties at my day job it was not feasible to keep upping the dosage of lorazepam which would have had a much too strong sedative effect.
The repeated attacks necessitated that I was prescribed anti depression meds, Lexapro to be specific. Lexapro is an antidepressant in a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or (SSRIs). The SSRIs appear to relieve symptoms of depression by blocking the re-absorption or reuptake of serotonin by certain nerve cells in the brain. This leaves more serotonin available in other areas of the brain resulting in enhanced neurotransmission which improves the depressed person’s mood. And, for reasons not entirely understood, SSRIs are called selective because they seem to affect only serotonin. Lexapro is one of a number of drugs used to treat anxiety and depression. Other drugs in this class of serotonin inhibitors are Celexa, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.
The depression meds definitely stopped the anxiety attacks. For this, I am thankful. Upon more research I am convinced that long term use of these types’ of meds can be extremely dangerous, especially for young people. These meds should only be used under constant supervision of medical professionals.
These meds helped me to function at my day job without experiencing the panic attacks. Over time however the depression meds started affecting my logical thought process and subsequently I found myself to be using an increasing twisted logical pattern of arriving at conclusions devoid of my normal emotions. In my case, these changes were very subtle and are why I believe these types of meds can be very dangerous especially for young people. Being older and having some analytical skills helped me to some extent realize changes were happening in my emotions and thought processes.
Because of the subtle scary changes in my thinking process I began trying to stop using the depression meds. I tried weaning my self of the meds very slowly with my doctor’s supervision. Unfortunately, within a week of discontinuing the meds, the anxiety returned and I had to resume using Lexapro. I felt trapped in what can be described as a vicious circle. Others with panic disorders along with me have described the depression meds like an alien being inside your brain.
General Observations regarding Anxiety and Depression:
A panic attack usually comes without warning. The first time a person experiences a panic attack it can feel like their world is falling apart. Many have found themselves in the hospital's emergency room because of thinking that you were having a heart attack (as in my case) only to learn later that it was anxiety?
Although the first panic attack may take place in a distinct situation, further episodes are unpredictable as to time or place. This was especially true in my case.
Usually, one or more unpleasant physical symptoms will be present in an intense or acute form during an actual panic attack, such as increased heart rate, dizziness, shortness of breath, inability to concentrate, along with varying levels of confusion.
After a number of panic attacks, the individual can become afraid of being a helpless victim of panic. It is common to be afraid of leaving your home, or to be in public places. Even when not experiencing an anxiety attack, the individual with panic attacks will become increasingly tense and apprehensive. It is common to remain psychologically on edge in preparation for the next attack.
Episodes of acute fear or anxiety are the hallmark of panic disorder and include at least several symptoms. Individuals who have suffered with panic attacks can readily relate to the following bullet points which are known to be classic symptoms:
- Feeling of choking or suffocating
- Racing, or pounding heart
- Trembling and shaking
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pressure, or pain, making the person think they may be having a heart attack
- Fear of the worst happening, losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
- Nausea or an upset stomach
- Dizziness, unsteadiness, lightheadedness or faintness
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Chills or hot flashes
- Feelings of being detached from oneself or feelings of unreality
Thankfully, I ran across research out of Europe that utilized an amino acid S-adenosylmethionine commonly referred to as SAMe to treat depression and anxiety. I am very happy to be completely free of the depression meds. My thought processes have returned to normal as well as my emotions reawakening to a natural state.
As frightening and paralyzing as panic attacks can be there is always hope. I am convinced there are natural solutions to anxiety. While not necessarily helping during an attack, it is good to know that the actual attack does not do any real damage or physical harm to the individual.
If anxiety is brought on through gradual chemical changes in the brain due to aging, stress or other factors such as poor absorption of nutrition into the brain it seems to me that finding ways to reverse the chemical changes naturally will be most effective.
I would place prayer, counseling and talking with concerned friends along with life style changes as important factors in overcoming anxiety. I personally believe that it was beneficial to be open about what was happening with me. It is a mistake to try and hide a problem with anxiety and depression.
Contrary to initial instincts to pretend there is nothing wrong out of fear of embarrassment, there are many individuals who can be of great encouragement. If your friend or family member is having these problems, don’t act as those they have the plague. Your encouragement and support is vital to assist in situations like this. I personally had people talk me through or at least lighten a panic attack.
As already mentioned, S-adenosylmethionine or SAMe has remarkable promise helping individuals to get off depression meds chiefly because it has proven helpful for many people and also because it is one of the most carefully researched natural products. This research began in Europe approximately fifteen years ago. SAMe works by releasing a substance that is essential to the production of neurotransmitters that antidepressant medications look for such as serotonin. Although the SSRI pharmaceutical drugs block the reuptake of these brain chemicals, SAMe on the other hand encourages the normal production of them. This makes sense if the anxiety is due to low serotonin levels in the brain.
In addition, there are substances such as tryptophan and 5-HTP that are precursors to serotonin that increase neurotransmitter production. In chemistry a precursor is compound that participates in the chemical reaction that produces another compound. It should also be noted that St. John's Wort is a popular herb for treating depression. In addition, the herba supplement Passion Flower is helpful.
Some people have eliminated their anxiety symptoms simply by changing the way they breathe. The recommended breathing method is shown .below. While breathing techniques vary from expert to expert, these are common to most of them:
1.breathe deep into your diaphragm, not shallow "chest" breathing
2.inhale through the nose,
3.exhale through the mouth,
4.take longer to exhale than to inhale,
5.slow down! (reduce your breaths-per-minute)
6.practice until it becomes your natural breathing pattern.
Essentials oils have also shown promise in helping with depression and anxiety. Evidence has shown that
essential oilsparticularly lavender oil can increase the release of serotonin and as a result produce a calming effect on the individual. Essential oils are concentrated hydrophobic liquid that contains aroma compounds from plants. The most significant thing essential oils do is to get the pineal gland (a small endocrine gland in the brain) working more efficiently and as a result helps in cleansing toxins from the body. Research shows that essential oils are high in sesquiterpenes which are hydrocarbons with 15 carbon atoms and are especially helpful in this cleaning process. That is because sesquiterpenes have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, to oxygenate the brain and clear out plaques and toxins that inhibit the release of serotonin.
In addition, there are foods and supplements that can help improve an individual’s mood. A number of vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, magnesium, chromium and selenium may be deficient when you're depressed or anxious. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to improve mood in depressed people.
A nutritional program should include standardized high quality supplements made in compliance with good manufacturing practices along with good whole foods and filtered water to help improve the structure and function of new cells your body is making. During the aging process, there is an increase need for certain vitamins and minerals due to less efficient utilization of them for a variety of factors brought on by the aging process. Proper rest and exercise are also important factors in overall health.
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)
“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com