ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

Anxiety Or Panic? Which Is Which?

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I have dealt with panic, usually on minor levels, as well as anxiety on major levels, in multiple forms throughout my life. Both in and out of the active addiction times. When my addiction began developing, my mental health issues had already long since taken up residency inside my mind.

Like the many vast majority of people like me, I was a dual diagnosis case. Medically speaking that terminology means just like it sounds.

We are diagnosed with disorders of two major components; addiction, and mental illness. Dual. We’ve either developed mental illness because of an addiction, or we develop an addiction, because we are self medicating a mental illness.

My issues myself, mostly circle around major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and addiction. It’s all broad diagnoses, at least for me. Without a multi facetted solution, it could be a setup for failure.

Throughout my experiences, especially with the treatment I’ve received, I have met and talked with many people with diagnoses of Panic Disorder, usually on top of depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or general anxiety disorder.

It seems like if it isn’t somebody’s top diagnosis, then it’s at least present as secondary, or there’s just panic tendencies, which are branched out from other diseases.

So until recently, I haven’t thought much about anxiety and panic being much different. If you quickly visualize both, the scenes you envision may look a lot the same at first.

They are however different conditions. At times very similar, but nonetheless, they should be specific in treatment to the entire picture.

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Panic disorder represents a condition where the feelings can be very centered, and many of the characteristics are clear. Strong feelings of being scared, in danger, threatened, a seemingly instant hurricane of strong worry. It’s true fear. Though, whatever is feared, it either isn’t really there, or it isn’t really serious. Sometimes, it is almost seconds or less before the oncoming panic attack hits.

Many people believe that panic attacks almost feel like a massive heart attack. We may feel dizzy, hot, sweaty, rising blood pressure, and sometimes it even feels like we are unable to swallow. As if we are choking on our own tongues.

The terrifying thoughts, and the physical symptoms almost arrive in complete unison. We just get so thrown off guard, because warning signs are often slim to none.

A unique factor in much of this, is that like a tornado, it’s a storm, it hits, destroys, then in the blink of an eye, it seems to vanish. The worst parts of this, is when it’s over, it feels like we’re safe from an attack for a long time.

The problem is, severe forms of panic disorder can have attacks that seem to closely follow behind one another, blending between each other. The real problem with this is, we become unable to determine which attack it is; the current one, or the next one right after it.

What I have learned is, when this kind of thing goes untreated, the cycle can develop so much in strength, that the fear we have about attacks causes us to literally have panic attacks about panic attacks.

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It’s truly terrifying. The debilitating factor in much of this comes from the way fear and worry of danger, can get so immense, that we may isolate so much, worrying that it’s just too dangerous to leave the house.

And then we have what’s called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Many look at it as the same, or at least similar to panic disorder. However, they are two different specific disorders.

I believe the reason many assume they are identical is the fact that, they do share significant similarities. They share many of the same type of side effects. Just because side effects are similar between two disorders or diseases is by no means a reason to consider them as the same.

For one thing, I do believe that either one has the capability to have that similar “massive heart attack” feelings at their very worst.

Anxiety itself can be more considered a worrying way of feeling, while panic has more of that truly scared, frightened feeling. That’s the main differences.

Anxiety is also diagnosed, on the basis of time. Diagnosis for Generalized Anxiety Disorder generally requires a strong worrying that’s consistent and constant. It’s something very hard to control, and the timeline is usually around 6 months for diagnosis.

This disorder can interfere with so many of our daily, and important functions. It can add a lot of difficulty to our jobs, and our day to day relationships with our family and friends.

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Health wise, anxiety disorder affects many different areas. It can create muscle tightening, cramping, and pain. It’s also very common to cause terrible insomnia, which in itself adds other problems like fatigue, exhaustion, irritability, and general difficult with what are usually normal tasks. Last, but not least, it also has been known to cause issues with our GI tract, our stomachs, and our digestion. Diarrhea is not uncommon.

Like mentioned earlier, unlike panic disorders, anxiety usually revolves around constant, extreme worrying. That worrying can be about anything from finances, job, home life, spouses, our children, or other family members, about the way we look, our social lives, and other general areas of self care. The more anxious we become about those things, the more difficult they can become. It can seem to go on, and on, and on.

The worst part is, the worrying we are doing about things, may not even have negative issues going on, to the extreme that the anxious person is making it seem. It’s over worrying. It may seem too simple, but below, you’ll read about something called grounding. I can vouch that for myself, it actually has been known to work. I’m no doctor, but I strongly recommend you trying it out if you ever have to.

Anxiety and panic can coexist with one person. Both of these disorders also often show themselves as components of other conditions, like massive depressive disorder, bipolar, phobias, and obsessive compulsive disorders.

There are several programs and techniques that can offer great assistance with learning about these conditions, and also learning how to accept them, and live with them in healthy way. There’s also many different medications that can be used as other components towards treatment. Learn and work hard to not self medicate. That can just create other serious problems.

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Remember at the beginning I said that this topic is people either cause addictions for themselves as ways to self medicate for their disorders, or it was initially addictions, that created side effects that have now become the disorder(s). A one way street. Either lane, tough.

These diseases and conditions can all be brought under control and accepted. There are many techniques that we can learn, that will lead us to be able to address these problems in healthy ways, when a related issues starts to arise.

I believe in the combination of process groups, cognitive therapy, and medication. But since everyone is different, I recommend anyone seeking solutions start by telling their doctor what’s going on.

Be well, to you all, and best wishes that you are well on all your journeys.

By MICHAEL PATANELLA

Author, Publisher, Trenton, New Jersey, USA

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