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Anxiety and Stress Disorders (Children)

Anxiety Disorder and Indentifying Panic Attacks

06/23/2005

Question:

Dear Expert, I have been having recent panic attaks or what I believe to be panic attacks. I remember having occurences when iI was a child. The first occurence being possibly around 6 years of age. At that time I belive it was when my parents were fighting/yelling or in general if there was any fighting or yelling in the house that it would trigger it. I believe my heart would begin pounding and i would have distortions of hearing. Every little sound would be intensified greatly. A banging of a pencil would end in a loud bang, also the noise would not get louder but intensly rapid as well. I would feel as if I was going crazy. Even my own voice seemed as if i was yelling when i would be talking normally. Everytime it would last a few minutes unitl I calmed myself down. These panic attacks? were not frequent. The problem is now is that I still have them when taking tests sometimes or it will just occur randomly. It would occur maybe twice every yr or so but now they have been occuring more frequently. I am now 18 yrs of age and continue to have theese problems and in the past half year it has occured 2-3 times. I become very frightened when it occurs and when I'm around people and it occurs its as is they are acting very aggresively when they are not (due to the distortions of my hearing) during the attack, also I do believe my rate of breathing does change and when it does occur I do believe myself to be calm at the time. In general I believe myself to be a worry wart, I always question myself, esp in school and at work. I recently looked up symptoms of a panic attack and I dont have many of those symptoms. However, what I do feel is as if my heart is racing, and my distortions of hearing, as if im going crazy, and at times when it does occur I do feel as if im really calm but my symptoms say otherwise. This worries me that they are going to contine to occur more frequently and more randomly for no apparent reason and affect me at college esp for my college exams. Are these panic attacks? Do I have a type of anxiety disorder? Sincerely, Distortions of Hearing/Reality

Answer:

It sounds like you had lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and although you were never in a natural disaster or experienced a war zone, your chronic trauma was apparently the disruption and marital discord of your family.  Now many years later, you have renewed difficulties with anxiety symptoms that you experienced as a child but didn't have the vocabulary to express.  Anxiety disorder is often a disconnect between what the body is telling you (racing heart beat and panicky feelings) and what you know in your mind is a distortion of reality.  Therapists use that grounding in reality to help individuals control these attacks when they occur, and it sounds like you have been helping yourself by using some of these strategies but could use some help from an expert.  Yes these attacks now sound like panic, the good news is that they are readily treatable

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Response by:

Floyd R Sallee, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati