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Personal stories about people deciding whether to take medications to treat panic disorder

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

Annie, age 32: I was having lunch with some friends and suddenly began to feel strange-like I couldn't breathe and my heart was pounding. I didn't know what was happening; I thought I was having a heart attack. Although the symptoms began to go away after about 10 minutes, I went to the emergency room, where they did some tests and didn't find anything wrong. A week later, the same thing happened in the middle of the night. I went to see my doctor, and she suggested I may have had a panic attack. Since then, the attacks have been occurring at least once a week, and I have been diagnosed with panic disorder. Although each attack is still a horrible experience, I now know what is happening and that I will get through it. I have been going to therapy for several weeks and am learning how to deal with the symptoms of panic attacks. They are less frequent now and less intense. I think I can get through this without taking any medication.

Manuel, age 43: As an executive, I have to travel a lot for my job. A few months ago, I was boarding a plane for a business trip, and I began to feel very apprehensive. I felt trapped and got off the plane because I was shaking and sweating and my heart was pounding. I wasn't sure exactly what was wrong, but I felt like I was dying. I had a drink at the bar and was still shaky but took a later flight. After that I began to feel nervous if I even thought about flying, and I had several more similar attacks. Then I had an attack on the subway. I felt like everyone was watching me and there was no escape. I didn't even want to go to the office after that because I was afraid I could have an attack at any moment. My doctor says I have panic disorder and agoraphobia. I can hardly function, so I am going to take antidepressants and try exposure therapy. My doctor says a benzodiazepine would make the symptoms go away sooner, but I am worried they will make me too drowsy and they may be too hard for me to quit.

Louis, age 28: When I divorced my wife, Celia, I began to feel down and very anxious. As a contractor, I have to deal with people every day, and it seemed very hard to do my job when I felt so stressed out and depressed. I had my first panic attack when my dog got lost at a job. I knew he was probably fine and would soon come back, but with the stress of everything else it just seemed like more than I could handle. I felt awful; I was choking and had bad stomach cramps. Since then, I have had attacks like this nearly every day and a lot of the time I feel down in the dumps. I have been diagnosed with panic disorder and depression. I am going to therapy, and it seems to help a little, but I still have panic attacks and often feel like life is not worth living, and I feel anxious about interacting with people at all. At first I didn't want to take any medication, but after reading about it and talking it over with my doctor, I decided to start taking an antidepressant.

Author Jeannette Curtis
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
Last Updated September 16, 2008

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 16, 2008
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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