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What kind of anxiety would you call this?

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Since I was somewhere around 16, I would have these little episodes hit me out of nowhere and never knew what they were or why I had them.  I've been dx with GAD, but I know this is something else.  What I'm not sure is if it would be classified under some sort of anxiety label.  That's where you guys come in!  :P   I would love opinions on what this could be.  Let me explain....

The first time it happened, it freaked me out.  I was about 16 and was laying in my bed getting ready to fall asleep.  All of a sudden this wave of fear came over me.  I had never felt anything like it before...absolute pure unadulterated fear.  The fear was so intense that I was convinced that there was someone in the corner waiting to murder me the second I fell asleep.  An axe murderer in my room.  ;)   Now the logic in my head told me that no one was in the corner, but the fear was so intense that I couldn't even look to prove the feeling wrong.  I can't remember how long it lasted, but it wasn't very long before I fell asleep from exhaustion.

I didn't think it could get any worse than that episode until a few years ago.  I had been helping this woman with her kids while she was getting a nasty divorce.  She had just gotten this house and a bunch of people were painting the inside of the house.  I decided to pull an all-nighter and paint after everyone left.  This time another wave of intense fear came over me out of nowhere.  This time I couldn't shake the feeling that her ex-husband was going to come to the house and blow it up.  :)   I fought the feeling for about 15 minutes (felt like forever), but the fear got so strong that I had to get into my car, drive across the street, and sit in a parking lot watching the house.  It was about 30-45 minutes before I calmed down enough to go back to the house.  The rest of the night I was extremely on edge and the slightest noise would make me freak out.  I couldn't lie down to sleep until after the sun rose.  Worst fear I have ever felt in my life.

I've had a few other episodes like these and a bunch of minor ones.  I have no clue what to call them.  Since I know I have anxiety issues, I've always wondered if these episodes could be related or if there is something else screwed up with my brain.

Anyone else have stuff like this happen and know what I should call it?

I decided that the next time I see my pdoc I was going to ask him about this, but I really wanted to get an idea of what it is that I'm experiencing.  I won't see him for a few months.  Any ideas?

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it sounds like a panic disorder to me

From the American Psychological Association:

Panic Disorder is a serious condition that around one out of every 75 people might experience. It usually appears during the teens or early adulthood, and while the exact causes are unclear, there does seem to be a connection with major life transitions that are potentially stressful: graduating from college, getting married, having a first child, and so on. There is also some evidence for a genetic predisposition; if a family member has suffered from panic disorder, you have an increased risk of suffering from it yourself, especially during a time in your life that is particularly stressful.

Panic Attacks: The Hallmark of Panic Disorder

A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. It is far more intense than the feeling of being 'stressed out' that most people experience. Symptoms of a panic attack include:

    * racing heartbeat

    * difficulty breathing, feeling as though you 'can't get enough air'

    * terror that is almost paralyzing

    * dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea

    * trembling, sweating, shaking

    * choking, chest pains

    * hot flashes, or sudden chills

    * tingling in fingers or toes ('pins and needles')

    * fear that you're going to go crazy or are about to die

You probably recognize this as the classic 'flight or fight' response that human beings experience when we are in a situation of danger. But during a panic attack, these symptoms seem to rise from out of nowhere. They occur in seemingly harmless situations--they can even happen while you are asleep.

In addition to the above symptoms, a panic attack is marked by the following conditions:

* it occurs suddenly, without any warning and without any way to stop it.

    * the level of fear is way out of proportion to the actual situation; often, in fact, it's completely unrelated.

    * it passes in a few minutes; the body cannot sustain the 'fight or flight' response for longer than that. However, repeated attacks can continue to recur for hours.

A panic attack is not dangerous, but it can be terrifying, largely because it feels 'crazy' and 'out of control.' Panic disorder is frightening because of the panic attacks associated with it, and also because it often leads to other complications such as phobias, depression, substance abuse, medical complications, even suicide. Its effects can range from mild word or social impairment to a total inability to face the outside world.

bolds added by me.

this sounds like what's going on... sudden onset, out of nowhere, SUPER intense.

I hope quoting from the APA is okay for you as a start for looking for what's going on. 

Let me know if you have questions about panic disorders and if this rings true at all.



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hi, kalifornia

sounds a lot like of what I go thru - no warning what so ever - just all of the sudden that everyone is watching you & all these warning bells are going off in your head saying get out!  I have surmised these to be the panic attacks like penny said.  They usually go away after a few minutes and then leave me as you say "totally exhausted". 

Do you currently take anything for anxiety?  That might help you -especially when an attack happens.  I have taken xanax in the past which has helped a lot.  Just wish I could get it again.

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I've always wondered if they were panic attacks or some sort of quick paranoid delusion.  I was kind of thinking they weren't panic attacks because nothing I've read from people who have panic attacks sounds like what I go through. 

From the descriptions I've read, people start to panic and then they panic about the panic and things get out of control.  That is why so many people who have panic attacks end up going to the ER thinking they were having a heart attack.  That is the majority of what I've read from people describing their experiences.  Could I be wrong or too narrow in my understanding of what a panic attack is?  ;)

And yes I do take something for anxiety.  Right now I'm on Wellbutrin XL and just started taking Buspar.  So far they just seem to be taking the edge off of my anxiety.

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Wellbutrin can make anxiety worse so keep an eye out for that.  Buspar is more for generalized anxiety than for panic and doesn't have a great reputation in terms of effectiveness.  Of course, your mileage may vary.  For some reason your pdoc thought these meds would work for you.  If they don't make things worse, go ahead and give them a shot.

Any of the benzodiazapines can be used to stop a panic attack on the spot.  Xanax in particular is often used for this.  You might want to ask about getting something like that to take when you feel a panic attack starting until you find the right med or meds to prevent the attacks from happening in the first place.

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Wellbutrin can make anxiety worse so keep an eye out for that.  Buspar is more for generalized anxiety than for panic and doesn't have a great reputation in terms of effectiveness.  Of course, your mileage may vary.  For some reason your pdoc thought these meds would work for you.  If they don't make things worse, go ahead and give them a shot.

I actually started off on Zoloft, but it screwed with my head too much.  The Wellbutrin actually hit me hard when I first started taking it.  It basically made me depressed.  Complete opposite reaction compared to most people.  Technically, I'm dx with GAD.  I haven't mentioned these episodes because they don't happen all the time.  I was planning to bring them up the next time I see my pdoc, but wanted to see what other people thought they were.

If they are panic attacks, then it would kind of make sense.  While I was growing up my mom had Panic Disorder w/Agoraphobia.  Her panic attacks just didn't look at all like what I've been having.

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