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Panic & Anxiety in Pregnancy

(16 Posts)
serafina8 Wed 12-Jan-11 20:28:43

I'm 19 weeks pregnant, already have 3 year old, & have been having panic attacks most days for the last month, Have been checked out with Ecg, various blood tests blood pressure etc.... all seem ok, but these episodes are so frightening!!! each time i feel it come out of no where, with Racing heart, breathlessness, i go cold from head to toe, & feel very unwell like im going to collapse, & start to have tremors. Never had anything like it in the past, Life is pretty good so no real reason to pin point it?? Does anyone else have this?? Need some help! Dr does not want to perscribe me anything...

Maitri Wed 12-Jan-11 21:16:36

Oh, you poor thing - panic attacks are horrible but they won't do you any physical harm at all - even though at the time you think they're either going to kill you or send you to a psychiatric unit. They're caused by long-term physical or mental exhaustion and my guess is that with a 3 year old and being pregnant you might be feeling pretty tired. I suffered from them for years and beat them with the help of a great counsellor, some excellent books and some meditation.

I started to get them when my DS was about 3 years old and it was due to a combination of factors which all led to absolute exhaustion and a deep-seated feeling of not being able to cope. I recognise all your symptoms as being exactly the same as my own - I was always terrified that the attacks would just keep going on and on and on. I thought I'd be able to deal with them on my own and consequently I ended up suffering for years. I finally got some help and brought them to a close fairly painlessly!

There's an internet site called "Panic Away" which I found to be really helpful and although it requires a bit of financial outlay, I did pay to download the programme and found it to be excellent. It was the final key for me to recover from panic disorder.

Have a look in the bookshop or on Amazon for some good books about panic attacks - there are some really informative ones out there.

I hope this helps - loads of people have suffered from panic attacks so you're likely to get loads of really comforting help here. x

MrTumnus80 Wed 12-Jan-11 21:25:42

Hi Serafina8,

I'm sorry to hear of your new experience with panic attacks. I have suffered from severe anxiety and have had severe panic attacks in the past. After many years of confusion about what they were and why they were happening to me, I finally found the one person that really understands anxiety and gives you the information to PROPERLY beat it... that person is Dr Claire Weekes.

I urge you to go to Amazon and purchase her books and especially her audio CD. You are actually in a fortunate position because it sounds like this is a very new experience for you, and as such, if you go direct to the PROPER information right from the start, you should be able to free yourself from this panic pretty easily, even though right now it might feel like you will never be free from them. The difference between her material and everything else, is that she tells you how to beat it without using any silly gimmicks, such as distracting your mind mid-panic etc (which as you know is impossible!), or other silly suggestions. This means the results are permanent and they work on the root cause of the problem.

Her CD is called 'Pass Through Panic' and her book is called 'Essential Help For Your Nerves'. Go to Amazon and order them right away, I promise you that you will not regret it. Full permanent recovery is possible.

Good luck, not that you will need any luck by following Dr weekes advice!

lilly13 Wed 12-Jan-11 21:42:51

Hi, I am sorry to hear about what you are going through. I am a terrible worrier myself and it's been hard work to keep things under control (this is my 1st pregnancy).

How about a hypnobirthing course? I heard these could be quite effective... I am looking into taking one myself. This would definitely be more effective than a CD/book plus you'll get to meet many people who are going through the same thing. If you are in London, Katharine Graves is teaching courses at St Thomas Hospital and in Primrose Hill.

On a secondary note, have you tried yoga? It really helps me a lot, although I am not a meditative type. Maybe give it a shot? Breath breath breath. For me personally, inversion postures really help -- just see the world differently afterwards... However, I would not suggest you do these if you have not done yoga pre-pregnancy.

Also, maybe you would feel better if you spend time / speak regularly with women who gave birth already and/or are going through the same thing, and would provide positive encouragement (you'd have to weed out the negative ones, though smile)

Hope you feel better soon!

serafina8 Thu 13-Jan-11 08:36:02

Thankyou all for your replys, they are very comforting!! Had a bad night last night my body was shakeing & i had numbness & tingling in various areas especially head & lips?? I find it so hard to accept that it's just panic & anxiety (although it is terrifying!) Because it feels so physical & i worry that the dr has missed something because im pregnant! Everytime feels a little different with slightly different symptoms, is this what anyone else has experienced?? Thankyou Mr tummnus80 I have ordered the Dr clare weekes material!
Any other experiences or information would be so much appreciated. thanks.

moregranny Thu 13-Jan-11 09:21:37

Hello, Dr Claire Weekes book got me through panic attacks, yes the moving tingling feelings are part of it because when you panic your breathing is all wrong, if you can concentrate on breathing in thro your nose, slowly,hold it for as long as pos then breath out thro your mouth when you feel the panic attack start it should help.Try and remember that a panic attack however horrid will not hurt you, best of luck and take care, x practise the breathing it really does help

MrTumnus80 Thu 13-Jan-11 13:08:57

Even though I'm obviously not a doctor, everything you describe sound perfectly normal for a panic attack. One of the great things about Dr Weekes' material is that she spends ages going through the exact physical sensations you can expect during panic, and then crucially, she explains, from a doctors point of view, exactly why that particular thing occurs. For example, here is a brief section from her book on Shaking and Tingling etc:

"... maybe the skin is sore and tingles with 'pins and needles'? But any tense, frightened person feels like that, and you are certainly frightened, so how could your body behave otherwise? The sweating, trembling, pins and needles and soreness are no more than the physical expression of oversensitisation of your adrenaline releasing nerves through anxiety and fear... These sensations get no worse than this..."

You'll find that most of the very strange symptoms experienced during panic are just variations on this theme - i.e. adrenaline acting on the system in a perfectly NORMAL way. Things such as shakyness, inability to take a breath or breathlesness, trembling, weak legs, racing heart, skipped beats, etc etc - these are all perfectly normal reactions, and Dr Weekes will explain them all, why they happen, what they are, and how to resolve them.

What I found different from her methods is that she teaches how to remove the 'fear' of panic, which is after all the key. If you analyse what happens during panic, you'll notice that it's a fear-adrenaline-fear cycle - i.e. you live in fear of experiencing another attack, then that naturally brings one one, which causes your body to dump adrenaline into your system, which causes fear and confusion, which causes more adrenaline, and so on. It's a cycle, and the beauty of her work is she shows you very simply how to break that cycle. Many other methods I've tried, such as the Linden Method etc, try to create diversion tactics to keep panic away. Dr Weekes explains this is not the way to do things because you are then never quite immune to their return. By learning to break the fear cycle at ITS ROOT, you become immune to any future recurrence.

serafina8 Thu 13-Jan-11 13:43:02

Mr Tumnus80 Thankyou so much for your information, it's very helpful!
Did you find that even when it's worn off you still feel NOT right, I feel like i cant concentrate or even lie down, let alone still don't want to go out alone etc...
But i am going back to dr later today, did you ever have any medication at all?
Thankyou for all your messages.x

MrTumnus80 Thu 13-Jan-11 14:16:10

Oh yes, absolutely, you will naturally not feel 'right' pretty much all the time(!), primarily because you're caught in this fear cycle. If you stop and analyse it, the thing that is causing all the problems is that you FEAR having another episode. Nothing more. This causes your system to become sensitised, which means adrenaline will still be pumping even when you're not in full blown panic mode. This means you might feel a bit weak, shaky etc, almost like you're balanced on a knife-edge and you feel like the slightest thing can bring on another episode. I STRESS AGAIN THIS IS A NORMAL REACTION AND DR WEEKES WILL SHOW YOU HOW TO RESOLVE IT AND BEGIN FEELING NORMAL AGAIN, IF YOU DO THE WORK AND TRUST THE PROCESS.

Remember, the adrenal system was put into us as humans as a survival mechanism when we were cavemen. If a sabre-toothed tiger popped out behind a rock, our bodies INSTANTLY produce adrenaline which does several things:

-It sharpens our hearing and eyesight etc.
-It prepares our bodies for action, making us more able to do things like fight etc.
-It makes the heart pump more blood, prepping our muscles for action etc etc etc.

These are evolutionary survival mechanisms built into us as humans. In other words, it's a system that is designed to protect us, which it does very well when we are about to fight. However, in our lives today, we don't have tigers popping out at us, but instead we have things like stress etc, which causes the exact same adrenal reactions. In an anxiety sufferer, this adrenal system is oversensitised and it fires far too easily, often at the slightest thing. This creates new cell-memories at a nervous-system level, which makes it ever more sensitive. If you have an attack whilst watching eastenders for example, often it can only take a person mentioning the word 'eastenders' several days/weeks later to bring on the same panicky feelings.

Your body is actually trying to help you! It's reacting to what it believes is a 'fight or flight' situation, even though in reality it is nothing of the sort. In other words, your body is perceiving the threat of the panic attack as the same as a tiger or a masked-thug jumping out at you - it dumps adrenaline, which causes all the horrible sensations you are so scared of at this point in time.

Another example of an adrenaline producing situation most can relate to is a job interview. If you think of one when you were very nervous, did you feel like lying down? Did you feel like you could concentrate on anything, maybe a magazine in the car before going in etc? No, you don't feel like you can concentrate on anything! If a family member was in potential danger and you were nervous about it (imagine your child who has not come home on time for example), would you feel like lying down? Would you feel like you could concentrate on anything? NO you certainly wouldn't! This is because your body at those times is nervous - i.e. it has adrenaline and other chemicals racing through your system. THIS IS THE SAME AS WHAT YOU ARE EXPERIENCING NOW, hence why you cant concentrate and don't want to lie down etc, even though you might not be doing anything that makes you feel nervous. Everything you mention is just the natural result of an over-sensitised system.

Anyway, your books should arrive soon and I promise you if you put the work in and follow the advice you WILL go back to the way you were. Dr Weekes teaches how to get out of this fear-adrenaline-fear cycle so that you can feel perfectly normal again. It won't happen overnight, but it WILL happen.

Personally, no, I have never taken any medication. I was fortunate to discover Dr Weekes material, who as I have mentioned, is someone who really truly understands anxiety and panic. She was a world-renowned expert in that field for decades and you'll be amazed at how effective her methods are. Literally every page has an 'ah-ha' moment... you really feel like she understands the condition inside-out.

EldritchCleavage Thu 13-Jan-11 15:35:08

Serafina,

Is there someone who could be your 'panic buddy' to help you through when they happen? I don't get them any more, but when I did I would ring my father. He was the best person because I'm not embarrassed in front of him and he is very good at staying calm. He just used to stay on the phone for as long as I needed and talk to me about anything at all (not the attack) until I calmed down. The effort of talking to him about any old mundane thing (usually football, for us) used to distract me gradually. I also felt very loved and looked after so I would end up just being able to hang up and go to sleep.

It might be worth a try.

MrTumnus80 Thu 13-Jan-11 15:40:26

One of the main problems with someone who has anxiety or is having panic attacks is that they start to scan their body almost every minute 'searching' for something that 'must' be wrong - what's that pain in my shoulder? Why do my legs feel shaky? Why are my hands sweating? What's that tingling in my head - it must be a brain tumour! Why is my heart pounding - surely I'm going to do die! This creates more of the feelings they are trying to avoid - i.e. if you concentrate on your heart it will beat faster! If you concentrate on your shoulder the pain will become even more noticeable, etc etc. This is true for ANY person, whether panicking or not.

One of the first steps Dr Weekes describes is acceptance. If your hands shake, LET THEM SHAKE FOR GOODNESS SAKE! They are still good hands to use! If you are talking to someone and they notice your hands shaking - WHAT MATTER! If you feel your heart racing, LET IT RACE! If you were in the gym it would be pounding just as fast, or even faster! If you feel a tingle in your head/lip/face, LET IT TINGLE! It's still a good head, regardless of whether it tingles! If you feel numbness somewhere, or like you can't take a deep breath, WHAT MATTER! This learning of acceptance is one of the keys, and you'll find that after lots of practice, your symptoms will begin to subside.

One of the crucial things Dr Weekes explains is that when you have had a panic attack, that's it, your body CANNOT produce symptoms that are any worse. She says there is a limit to the adrenaline effects the body produces, and if you've had a full blown panic attack then you have most likely ALREADY experienced the worst that will ever happen to you. This alone brings relief. Often mid-panic it's easy to be scared that things will get 'even worse' - THEY WON'T, it's not possible for your body to do that.

So, what you must try to do, even if it's only for a few seconds at first, is to try to relax INTO the panic and not stoke the flames. Dr Weekes explains this in terms of 'first' and 'second' fear. First fear is the instinctive feeling that EVERYONE gets - it's the instantaneous feeling of fear when a tiger jumps out at you, and as such is not really controllable. Second fear however is the fear that WE AS HUMANS ADD AFTER FIRST FEAR HITS... in other words, it's the "oh no here it comes again!" type of thought/feeling, which immediately dumps more adrenaline into the system, and so begins the fear-adrenaline-fear cycle. The key is controlling this second fear via complete understanding of the body systems and what is happening to your body at the time. So as I mentioned, when you start to feel an episode beginning, you MUST try to relax into the panic by firstly understanding that:

a) what is happening is a normal bodily reaction and it will not harm or kill you.
b) it's the addition of second fear that will cause the panic to get worse.

So, when you feel the shakyness, or when you feel the weak feelings, or the racing heart, try relaxing into them (as incredibly hard as it is at the time!!). Accept that they are there and they will not harm you. As mentioned, you may only be able to do this for a few seconds at first before full-blown panic resumes - accept that and ride it through. Then, next time try the same thing again. Think 'oh here it comes again, but so what, let it come, let it do its worst!' 'There's my heart beating fast again, and there's that tingly feeling again, but so what, let my head/lips/body tingle, they are still good lips/head/body!'. THE KEY IS NOT TO ADD SECOND FEAR! This is the first step and with practice you will find that the symptoms reduce in severity massively. Then, after a while (maybe weeks, maybe a few months) you will no longer fear them at all, simply because you understand THAT THEY ARE ONLY SILLY FEELINGS/SENSATIONS AND THEY HAVE NOT HARMED YOU IN THE PAST, AND THUS WILL NOT HARM YOU AGAIN THIS TIME!

Also, notice that you already have had numerous panic attacks, yet each time you come through - interesting isn't it? At the time you think you're dying, or you think at least there must be something severely wrong with you... but did you die? Nope, you came through just fine. Acceptance is formed on the back of this level of understanding. You are NOT trying to accept the feelings and thus 'live with them' (that's not correct at all), rather you are accepting the feelings that are coming to you at the time, which automatically reduces their impact on you. Following Dr Weekes method does NOT mean you learn to 'live with this', that's not what you want at all. Rather, it eradicates it completely by making you immune to any future recurrence via lack of fear of the symptoms you currently try so desperately to avoid.

So have a go tonight. If you feel tingly, or shaky, try accepting that feeling for what it is. Just think 'Ok, I feel a little shaky, but I can still do everything I need to do! I can still wash the dishes, I can still sit here and watch TV, I can still read this book, WHAT MATTER IF I AM SHAKING! (replace with whatever the symptom is).

And bear in mind that this is certainly not learning to become pig-headed, or the usual advice of 'pull yourself together' (the single WORST bit of advice to give to an anxiety sufferer!). I understand EXACTLY how hard this is to do (as does Dr Weekes, crucially, because she is the expert in all this), but with gradual steps you will get there. The final one of her steps is 'letting time pass', and that's exactly what has to happen. Ridding yourself of panic will not be an overnight process, and you must allow as much time to pass as necessary. Be patient with yourself and you'll be back to your old self very soon (however far away that may feel right now).

EldritchCleavage Thu 13-Jan-11 15:42:30

Very good advice, Mr.T

Maitri Thu 13-Jan-11 15:57:11

I second the advice, Mr T - Dr Weekes' books are great and one of the best things is that she actually suffered from panic attacks herself - so she's writing from a very knowing place. All the very best!

jellyhead188 Thu 13-Jan-11 15:57:21

Hi ya, I've suffered with panic attacks in the past, they are very frightening. On Tue night I began to be sick (which I am terrified of) and this has led to a state of anxiety and have subsequently had another attack last night. Its very hard to get yourself out of it, at the time you do feel like its going to kill you or that you're going to end up in the loony bin. I had some counselling and ended up on medication - the counselling really helped but I don't think the medication did really - to be honest I found the side effects much more upsetting than the actual attack - for me they make the panic etc much worse before it gets better.

I totally understand the feeling of not feeling normal even when the attack is over, I have felt like that for a few days now. Ive read Mr Ts info with interst and think I'll order that book!

I hope you start to feel better soon, it is so totally debilitating and soul destroying. big hugs to you xx

MrTumnus80 Thu 13-Jan-11 16:13:26

Hi jellyhead188,

Her books are indeed great, but it was her 'Pass Through Panic' audio CD that I found the best, simply because you can actually hear her (it feels like she's talking directly to you). She has that lovely older doctor type manner about her - calming and reassuring, but also quite blunt and direct!

serafina8 Thu 13-Jan-11 16:41:42

Hello & thankyou all very much for your messeages they are a great comfort at the moment.
Today have been back to the dr in desperation, & she has decided to perscibe me something but think i will be to scared to take it anyway as im pregnant.(not sure what it is yet)
I will wait for my dr weekes material & look forward to reading & listening etc....
It really is very reassuring to come on here & read posts from others so thankyou.
I am lucky as my mum who lives close to me has been through the same in the past & is a great help, so am very lucky compared to some.....
Does anyone know if pregnancy hormones make panic & anxiety worse is it common to suffer with this in pregancy? I am hoping that after the baby is born I will feel better who knows....

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