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March 20, 2006

20 Mar
Thanks for the giant batch of emails sent by scores of you who were kind enough to describe your experiences of panic attacks and acute anxiety.. they’ll help me do the right kind of job on this imagery.
Hello, everyone. I’m sorting through a giant batch of emails sent by scores of you who were kind enough to describe your experiences of panic attacks and acute anxiety. These emails are a wonderful gift, and, more than anything else, they’ll help me do the right kind of job on this imagery. I’m very grateful. (I’m grateful for the internet, too. Within 10 minutes of that query going out on our enews, Cheryl had over 40 responses sitting in her mailbox. This never ceases to amaze me!)

There were many themes that kept coming up again and again, and I’m starting to pull those together, and make sure I leave nothing critical out. It’s clear that the physical sensations are very much the same from person to person, regardless of circumstances, give or take a symptom or two. It’s the same biochemical cascade, just as with PTSD. In fact, it’s clear to me that this is a subset of the same primitive survival response in the brain and body, gone into an imprinted sort of overdrive. It feels random and crazy to people, but it has its own internal adaptive logic - even if the adaptation no longer applies to modern living.

Many described feeling weird, isolated, ashamed and embarrassed by these baffling episodes - and how terror of having an episode takes over, and becomes Terror of the Terror. .. (As one woman wrote, "I think the most ‘scary’ thing about it was that IT WAS SO SCARY.") Keep in mind, we’re talking about highly-functioning people, out in the world, doing impressive things, in spite of this fear of being sandbagged at any random moment by one of these freaky-seeming, all-consuming attacks. Breathing is so impaired and the chest gets so tight that most people think they’re having a heart attack or that they are dying. It’s that intense.

Because of the feelings of isolation and the sense of "I’m the only one", I’m encouraging people - whoever feels like it - to post their comments on our discussion page at http://www.healthjourneys.com/discussion.asp , where they’ll see how commonplace this is. If they wish, they can share experiences with kindred spirits, who totally get what this is like.

OK, keep your eyes out for my review of an amazing, upcoming PBS special: The New Medicine, hosted by the late and truly great Dana Reeve. It’s scheduled to air on March 29th at around 9 P.M. (but check local listings).

Take care and be well,

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award