by Arthur Anderson, December 2006
Most personal accounts of panic disorder are success stories. The reason there are so many success stories is that more often than not people do recover. Also, recovered persons have few obstacles to sharing their personal accounts and success stories tend to be very popular. Consequently, personal accounts of "chronic panic disorder" are less common and less recognized. Such lack of recognition has been problematic for many severely afflicted patients. This web site attempts to improve awareness of the difficulties faced by people with chronic and severe forms of panic disorder.
Much of this web site documents my own experience and perspectives of chronic panic disorder. A few essays also address my childhood shyness long before panic disorder and my encounter with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) eight years into panic disorder. Furthermore, there are essays of a general nature based on extensive dialog with fellow patients, dialog with doctors, literary research and analytical pilot studies. Some of these essays have been published in journals or presented at conferences.
The need for improved understanding of anxiety disorders is more important than most people realize. Generalized descriptions of anxiety disorders as "highly treatable" and "frightening, but not dangerous" are appropriate for the majority of cases, but they also obscure the significant minority of cases that are chronic and severe. Such generalizations downplay the importance of further research, more precise diagnostics, better treatment strategies, better access to treatment, the need for improved disability assistance and better regulation of predatory marketing practices.
The severity of panic attacks has long been underappreciated. Once commonly thought to last 30-minutes at most, panic attacks can often last several hours each in severe cases, even days in rare cases. During severe panic attacks (sometimes known as "subepileptic seizures") varying degrees of mental and physical paralysis can temporarily occur as a person approaches a true state of absolute horror. Repeated exposure to such attacks over a prolonged period of time places huge and exhausting demands on the individual.
Improved understanding of severe cases promises benefits beyond the treatment of anxiety disorders. A deeper understanding of anxiety will greatly improve quality of life for everyone. Applications include greater tolerance of job stress, reduction of stress-related illness, and solutions to social or cultural tensions. The need for such improvements was apparent even before the terrorism of 9-11 and subsequent conflicts.
"I feel that anxiety (or fear) is such an important aspect of humanity that it deserves better understanding in both public and professional forums. The universal need for civil services (military, law enforcement, emergency services, etc.) places anxiogenic demands on society that the public should consider with more wisdom. Furthermore, society's ability to embrace new and future challenges will, to some degree, be influenced by anxiety and our ability to understand and manage anxiety. Anxiety disorders are not simply clinical conditions to be treated, but the study of these disorders offers further knowledge of healthy anxiety and its role in human affairs."
People with chronic anxiety disorders have much to offer. Their perspectives should not be automatically dismissed as negative thinking, lack of motivation, attention seeking or rationalized malingering. Their experiences reflect important gaps in our knowledge of anxiety within psychology and medicine. Such gaps are great opportunities for advancing understanding and improving treatment. The lessons to be learned from people who have not recovered are just as important as the lessons learned from people who have recovered.
|PLEASE NOTE: The views expressed in this web site are intended for educational purposes. I strongly advise fellow patients to maintain an open dialog with appropriate and accredited health professionals and to not alter treatment without consulting a doctor.|