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Dr. Steve
Dr. Steve, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  19 years conducting therapy; book author; newspaper columnist; former co-host of radio show
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What should I do about these symptoms A week ago, I had a

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What should I do about these symptoms? A week ago, I had a scary panic attack, felt trapped / claustrophobic in an open room in my house. Feels like I can't escape. Also: feelings like life is flying by too quickly. Panic and fear of death for the first time in my life. Same thing again twice today.

Family history of depression.



Great question. From the sound of your description of symptoms, I would say that you are beginning to experience significant generalized anxiety. The panic attacks were probably triggered because you have been bottling up your mounting anxiety. It's sort of like shaking a Coke bottle - the emotional pressure builds until you reach critical mass, and then it explodes. The panic attack was akin to the explosion.


It did not sound like you were beginning to fear the panic, which would qualify you for "Panic Disorder." For now, your panic attacks may be an acute condition that will abate once the generalized anxiety is treated.


With a family history of depression, you may be genetically prone toward issues regulating the balance of neurochemicals in your brain, and particularly serotonin. Neurochemically, depression and anxiety look very similar - that is why the medication to treat either tends to be rather interchangeable (i.e., the anti-depressants are used to treat generalized anxiety). I would recommend that you visit your general practitioner (if you have one - men are notorious for avoiding their physicians!) and let him/her know about your symptoms. S/he may refer you to a psychiatrist, but often times a GP will prescribe one of the SSRIs (a family of anti-depressants) to begin treatment. If, after the regimen has time to gain traction, the condition does NOT abate, then you may be referred to a psychiatrist.


Too, talk therapy can do you a world of good as an adjunct to medication. That way, you can learn to regulate the thoughts that lead to the anxiety - this will mitigate current symptoms AND help stave off bouts of anxiety in the future. Perhaps with your history you will never be totally clear of some ambient anxiety, but talk therapy plus medication can make the bouts lighter and further between.

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Thank you-

Dr. Steve

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