On Panic No. 3

Q. What causes an anxiety disorder?

A. Experts believe that anxiety disorders are caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors such as brain chemistry, life events, personality, and genetic predisposition. This makes an anxiety disorder much like other physical disorders, such as heart disease or diabetes.


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5 Responses to “On Panic No. 3”

  1. gbem1 Says:

    Do either of them run in your family?

  2. sflovestory Says:

    Hi gbem1,

    Thanks for your question. Only my father and I have been “officially diagnosed,” but I’d say the answer to your question is: Yes, very much so.

    Anxiety/Panic Disorder and Alcoholism are family heirlooms, and as you may know, feed off one another. I hear the gene for Alcoholism has been identified, but as for Anxiety/Panic, we end up at the old chicken & egg question.

    Was I born with a predisposition (a gene) for Panic Disorder?
    Was it my father’s Alcoholism that caused me to develop the disorder growing up?
    Was it my own Alcoholism (I’ve now been sober for 4+ years) that caused the Panic?

    They’re all rhetorical questions because, the answer doesn’t really matter (unless I was part of some controlled, scientific study, I guess). What matters is that I have this “hand of cards” and I make myself responsible to manage it.

    I’m not big into the whole “victim” thing, quite simply because it’s not helpful to me (and doubtfully anyone else).

    What I’m aiming to do here, albeit in bits and pieces, is (1) open myself up in the hopes of taking away some of the taboo, and (2) attempt to educate others about a disorder that is woefully misunderstood.

  3. Tony Says:

    Bottom line is that it *is* a disorder. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I’m not sure what your source was for the Q:A you posted, but that’s got to be the most concise and direct answer that one could ask for.

    Anxiety disorders can be particularly nasty to deal with simply because of they way they feed upon themselves; if you’re not emotionally equipped or prepared to deal with the physical effects of a panic attack, then you are just amplifying the psychological problems, which in turn may cause or amplify the next wave of attacks. Recursion at its most foul.

    As far as removing the taboo/stigma or educating others, I’d generally say “why?”. Unless you’re trying to target family, friends, employers, or other people that you want/need to have that level of knowledge about you, then it’s not worth it in my opinion. That’s not to say that there aren’t things worth crusading for, but there are always going to be a large number of people who don’t understand why you’re tall, or have short hair, or smoke cigarettes, or dress in a certain way – can you educate them on their misunderstandings? I hope you see what I’m getting at.

  4. Jack H. Says:

    I can’t speak for Holden, but I’ve been doing something similar with depression for the past 8 years that I’ve been taking meds for it. I’ve tried to be be open and unashamed, and discuss it whenever it comes up in my life. I think the point is that there are others who suffer quietly, and don’t realize that it can be treated, or that there are so many others in the same boat.

    Goodness knows, when I started suffering panic attacks, too, recently, a simple, supportive tweet from Holden was the first real comfort I found. Not like others in my life hadn’t tried, but it was different coming from someone I didn’t know.

    When I talk about depression or even anxiety now, part of my hope is that I make a difference for someone else along the way. And chances are, I’d never know who that might be, unless I’m creating the opportunity all the time.

    FWIW, my mother (adopted) was alcoholic, too. My father passed away when I was two, so she was all I had growing up. Wasn’t until 14 that I figured out that she was drunk half the time, and up till then I hadn’t been able to figure out why she was mean sometimes and gushing others. I still have to have people remind me sometimes that I am *not* still as helpless as the child that I was.

    I’ve got a lot of “cognitive” and “psychological” tools in my toolbelt now. I started having intense panic attacks at the beginning of the month. I’ve been slowly dealing with the thought processes, and in the past 24 hours, have finally begun having the experience as just something physical, and not letting my thoughts run away with themselves and make it even worse. But it’s still a physical condition to be dealt with.

    The best analogy I’ve ever heard with depression is diabetes. Some people, as long as they take their insulin and watch what they eat, they are okay. Me, as long as I take my antidepressant, and too some extent “watch” what I think, I do okay. Hoping I’ll be able to say the same about anxiety soon.

  5. Maija Haavisto Says:

    My mother was an alcoholic and has an anxiety disorder (and bipolar disorder). I started getting panic attacks after I very suddenly got sick with CFS/ME. I guess I could have been genetically vulnerable and this neurological illness made them kick in. It was a nightmare with sometimes half a dozen attacks a day, but luckily I’ve been free of them for over five years. What helped in the end was a psychological trick I read in a magazine, of all things!

    I still have PTSD from the way my mom treated me. I don’t drink alcohol, probably wouldn’t be a good idea. I’m somewhat afraid of becoming bipolar myself, because it is inheritable (and at the moment incurable) and I really don’t need another horrendous illness on top of my current health problems.

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