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07 Oct 2009

A MUST READ: Panic Attack or Something More Serious?
As I said to my partner –  You’ re traveling to work in the morning with two kids in the car, next thing you think to yourself where the hell am I? Your heart starts to race even faster than it has been because you’ re there, but you’ re not there –  you are totally “ spaced out” , and it’ s extremely scary. Would you panic? You’ re driving in your car  next thing you think to yourself it feels like I’ m not getting enough air in, you cannot breathe properly, your heart starts to pound even harder, I mean very hard. You think you’ re having a heart attack. Would you panic?
I experienced my first panic attack in June last year 2 months after contracting a virus. My problem turned out to be an overactive thyroid. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism (and hypothyroidism) mimics a panic attack –  rapid heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, feeling “ spaced out” , tremors, shakes, cold shivers, living in absolute fear –  fear that you’ re going to die, not being able to focus at all, not even on one thought at a time. The list is endless. Unfortunately I had to see about 6 doctors, including a psychiatrist who wanted to put me on life addictive medication which I probably would have been on for life, without asking me if I had been tested for anything prior to seeing him. Not one doctor could diagnose me. After my 10 minute consultation with the psychiatrist who went on to charge me R812 for the consultation and then an additional R812 for a consultation I had cancelled, I decided to do my own research on panic attacks. Every single article asked if you had had your thyroid checked. By December of last year both mentally and physically I was finished –  BUT remember, it was just panic attacks I was experiencing! How could all the doctors be wrong? When we went to Ballito in December and I had to get out of the sea I was merely sitting in with the waves rippling over my shoulders because I was short of breath –  I thought I was just very unfit. When I no longer had enough energy to see me through a day –  I had nothing to worry about, I was just tired? When I walked 5 metres from my car into the shop and I couldn’ t catch my breath and I started to panic, I knew I was just having another “ panic attack” . There were days I’ d be on my way to work and I’ d have a trillion thoughts racing through my mind at the same time, I wanted to turn around and just go back home, I thought this was just stress –  even though I used to be able to focus on many things at the same time. Now I could not focus on anything. Hyperthyroidism left untreated is fatal. It can kill you. Especially the elderly with fragile hearts!
I remember the doctor who suggested I go see the psychiatrist - telling me that it’ s pointless doing any tests as “ that would take too long” . Whilst there is a certain amount of “ panic”  involved (trust me, you would panic too if you could not breathe, it felt like you were having a heart attack, it felt like you were spaced out), in my opinion there is no such thing as a panic attack. Something is out of sync in your body –  be it your thyroid, your iron levels, anemia, your hormones etc. –  you have to remember that a lack of all these has serious consequences on your mental and physical wellbeing. And why most doctors don’ t know this is beyond me. At the end of December last year I finally had my thyroid levels tested (which is a simple blood test). I had the test done to pass time whilst my daughter was waiting for the dentist. I was so brainwashed by all the doctors telling me I was suffering from panic attacks only (and felt extremely neurotic), that I was quite surprised when my tests came back showing that I was in fact quite hyperthyroid. I had another test to reconfirm, and then a series of blood tests whilst on the medication to lower my levels. I was both elated and scared at the same time that I had finally been diagnosed –  I then found myself a really good endocrinologist, who immediately put me on a beta-blocker to slow down my heart rate. I have since been treated for my hyperthyroidism (due to the nature of my thyroid disease, I had antibodies attacking my immune system, I had to have a total thyroidectomy, removal of my whole thyroid via surgery, although there is another method of killing it off with radioactive iodine –  but as I was not responding to the medication, that was not an option for me). It has been an extremely long and hard battle. I’ m still not 100% as I’ m now hypothyroid –  but once my levels are where they should be, I will be 100% healed. And my heart beat is regular! The anxiousness –  that’ s 99.9% gone, but as I said, once I euthyroid, I will be 100%! When you’ re feeling quite out of it, like you’ re not there, having a heart attack, whatever is making you panic, there’ s only one way to get rid of that feeling. It is not through medication –  it is by not fearing the next panic attack. Just think to yourself bring it on! Whilst I was hyperthyroid I had a one-liner sentence that I typed up and kept on me at all times –  to not experience another panic attack is not to fear another panic attacked. A very interesting thing to also remember is, now remember that whilst I was hyperthyroid before I contracted the virus that exacerbated my condition, I was always extremely thin. I could eat what I wanted to, but would not put on any weight. I was extremely under weight. In fact, I always naively believed that this was the only symptom of having an overactive thyroid. Now that my thyroid has been removed, I’ m slowly putting on weight, and it’ s the most wonderful feeling in the world. I’ m no longer fitting into my size 24 pants! The hollows in my cheeks are filling out. I’ m not skeletal anymore!
Answer 2,352 views
Anxiety disorders guest experts
Anxiety disorders guest experts

01 Jan 0001

Dear Lisa

Thank you for your posting. There may certainly be physiological reasons for anxiety including a general medical condition (such as hyperthyroidism) or they may be substance or medication-related. Best to consult with your medical practitioner and ask any questions that you may have

Best regards

David Blackbeard
Clinical Psychologist
Riverview Manor Specialist Clinic, Underberg
The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical examination, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.
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