"It comes out of nowhere, I feel like I'm losing control... Am I having a heart attack? I can't breathe properly! I am shaking, I feel like I'm going to die...."
These intense experiences of overwhelming fear and discomfort are characteristic features of a Panic Attack. Other symptoms include heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, feeling like one is choking, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, feeling detached from oneself or the environment, fear of losing control, fear of dying, numbness, and experiencing hot flushes. Zane Wilson founder of SADAG said “from not driving or going to hairdressers or shops, banks or restaurants, my world became smaller and smaller. However after four weeks treatment I was in control again, and I travel constantly and am back to living a totally normal life”
Panic Disorder involves recurrent unexpected Panic Attacks followed by fear of experiencing future Panic Attacks, often people avoid the last places they had them in, i.e. on a highway or in a restaurant, in an empty house, and worry about the consequences of the Panic Attacks. Peter Mathlaela from Siyabuswa said, they first started in Taxis, and I couldn’t even step in a taxi, then in Church, and many places like a shopping mall. I spoke to Zane at SADAG, and a few months later after treatment and medication, I even started a support group in my area.
This year, The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) which was opened 21 year ago will be launching a new NEW Anxiety and Depression helpline sponsored by Adcock Ingram 0800 70 80 90 as a starting point for people seeking assistance and telephone guidance for where to get the necessary help and treatment. This includes referrals to Psychologists, Psychiatrists, General Practitioners, government clinics and hospitals, and Support Groups. Through creating understanding, SADAG aims to help prevent, treat and manage Panic and Anxiety, as well as other Anxiety Disorders such as Social Anxiety Disorder/Social Phobia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The Facebook Friday chat for Panic Awareness Day will be hosted on the 10th July from 1-2pm with Clinical Psychologist Tyrone Edgar, then again from 7-8pm with Clinical Psychologist David Rosenstein. This social media platform allows people from various walks of life to ask mental health professionals regarding their mental health concerns. This free chat is incredibly helpful for people who may have limited financial resources and is a wonderful opportunity to get answers from professionals.
Helpful psycho-educational videos will be made available on the SADAG website, one by Dr Colinda Linde is already on the front page www.sadag.org CBT therapy is believed to be the best help there is - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. There are trained therapists all over South Africa. They are registered by Medical Aids and can be claimed for. Treatment takes a limited number of sessions of 4 to 8.
SADAG has over 250 Depression and Anxiety Support Groups across the country which provide a safe environment, free from judgement, to discuss personal experiences, share stories, provide support, and learn from each members personal experiences. Support Groups reassure people that they are not alone and that there are others who truly understand the impact of Panic and Anxiety in their lives.
A few self-help tips:
- Deep breaths, inhale through your nose, hold the breath, exhale through the mouth.
- Avoid caffeine! Check over the counter medication or scripts, no Caffeine or Adrenalin. No Malaria medication without checking your dose. Be careful when you go to a dentils, advise your dentist you have panic and ask him to have non-adrenalin in stock for you.
- Some of the weight loss drugs also should be avoided.
- Educate yourself, know your illness so you can manage it effectively. SADAGs website has a lot of helpful advice.
- Don't isolate yourself, join or form a social support network.
- Always have two or three numbers you can call if you are in the middle of a panic attack. Remember your panic attacks do NOT last as long as you think, from the beginning of one to the end of it, time it, you will be surprise how few minutes it is.
- Ask for help. You are not alone! SADAG will offer you referrals, resources and support.
“Panic attacks can be frightening, and they are serious, but they don’t have to control you.” Says Zane “Get help, take control back of your own life.”
Empower yourself with knowledge and information, there are numerous online videos explaining what Panic Attacks are, how to deal with them, and how to prevent them from happening on our website www.sadag.org. There you can also find questionnaires, self-help tips, articles and information if you would like to help a loved one.