Question by Beatrice A.: Do I have panic attacks or are they a different kind of “infirmity”?
Hi! My name is Beatrice and I’m 17 years old.
I need some help identifying that I have suffered since I was a small child.
When I was young, meaning 6 years old or around that age, me and my mom where talking about one of my relatives that had passed away when I was 2. I asked her where was she, and she asked rather plainly that she was dead. Yup, just like that. Seeing that it wasn’t the best way to saying, she quickly corrected herself and told me the typical story about how people go to heaven when they pass away. But I am almost sure that her answer of my relative being just “dead”, was what triggered these “seizures”, if I can call them like that.
Since that moment on, everything that meant a reference of my death has provoked me an intense fear. The seizures go like this: I usually am thinking on some specific subject and, as when you think you pass from subject to subject, the idea of the world ending or me dying appears. I start to feel really afraid. I feel a pressure in my chest, my hearts starts to beat faster and I have the sensation of becoming cold. If I don’t control myself and change the direction of my thoughts, the worst part happens: Suddenly, as if turning on the light with an interrupter, I start to scream. I lose control of myself. I can’t do anything but just stare to a fix point and scream things like “No!, No!” or yelling my mom’s name. I do not possess the ability to manage my feeling until it is over. Fortunately, it only lasts for 2 or 3 seconds, but the angst I feel is something that I don’t wish anyone suffers, even for a single second. When I was small, I usually cried when it was over, but my parents couldn’t do anything because, well, we are all going to die someday, and they couldn’t deny it. Now that I am older, I just regain my composture and focus on things that will distract me.
I have found ways of preventing it from appearing. One of them, that works amazingly good, is touching or hearing my mom. She has been my great supporter on this and I guess I have internalized the feeling of protection she gives me, therefore dissipating my fear. But I know that sometime in the future, I will have to leave my parent’s house and deal with this in my own. For that, I need your help to identify what I have and if I need treatment. I have read books and articles about panic attacks, but from what I’ve read, it doesn’t really match with my symptoms.
Would you please be so kind to tell me if you have any idea of what I have and how should I proceed?
Answer by oruboris
Wow, that must be tough…
It certainly sounds like a classic panic attack to me, the only thing that stands out is that you have been somewhat successful treating your own disorder by understanding its source and being able to interrupt the progress of an attack. You have made outstanding progress!
The primary means of treatment is cognitive therapy– basically, strengthening your rational side so that it can fight back against the panic. I think a little time spent with a therapist could do you a lot of good, since you’ve already come so far. But the pros can give you some tips and tools that you may never discover on your own.
Here is a thought that may be useful to you: very often, death comes as a friend. It did for my father, who was old and ill and suffering from cancer. For my grandmother, too: she was over 100, and had lost most of the joy of her life. And for my uncle, who’d had a stroke, and my aunt, who had Alzheimer’s.
I’m not really religious, but I don’t believe that those who are dead are gone forever. I think they go on, though I can’t tell you how. So death isn’t some big horrible cliff you fall off of, it’s more like a door you step through, and the ones we’ve loved and lost are waiting on the other side. It is as beautiful and natural as being born, and just like a fetus can’t imagine what it will be like on the other side, neither can we.
Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!