Local News

Panic Attacks Can Be Life-Altering Experience For Some

Posted May 17, 2006

— For some people, the anxiousness they feel can trigger a panic attack, which could lead to isolation and depression. The WRAL Health Team met some people who are learning the way to beat fear is to face it.

Jackson Miller and Stephanie Hill have a lot in common.

"I'd had panic attacks since I was in 5th grade," Miller said.

"It got to the point where I didn't even want to leave the house," Hill said.

Both would rather stay home alone rather than have a panic attack.

"Most of us know what a panic attack is like. About 50 percent of us as adults have actually had a panic attack," said clinical psychologist Dr. Reid Wilson.

"I start fearing I'm going to pass out, or I'm going to throw up and be sick," Miller said.

Panic attacks can begin with something small. Hill said she could not sign her name while others watched.

"My hand was shaking so bad, I couldn't believe it," she said. "So then, that made me not even want to go to stores."

Jackson's problem is crowds and being the center of attention.

"It's just the constant action in movement around me," he said. "I'll make a spectacle of myself."

"The average person with panic disorder sees 12 physicians in 10 years without even getting the proper diagnosis, much less any treatment," Wilson said.

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Reid Wilson uses cognitive behavioral therapy. Patients talk about their fears and develop strategies for working through them, which means they will have to face their fears.

Medication helps many patients with anxiety disorders, but often for cognitive behavioral therapy to work, it's better for patients to use their new coping skills without medication.

Many women who become pregnant go off medication and seek therapy so their baby won't be exposed to prescription drugs.

On Thursday, find out what happens when Wilson takes Miller and Hill out in the public. One trip to a local restaurant could trigger a panic attack or give them success to build on.

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