How I Healed my Panic Disorder

Marlena Eva
6 min readJun 21, 2024

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Photo by Jessica Ticozzelli on pexels.com

I can’t believe that I suffered from panic disorder almost ten years ago. Back then, I thought I would never heal my panic attacks and life would only be bearable for me. I’d wake up each day thinking of when the next attack would occur.

I would take precautions to avoid triggers (I’d stay away from crowded places, meeting friends, and standing in line; the cinema theatre was a ‘no go’ zone for me and I would often cancel train trips to avoid getting emotional).

I was a mess and the obsessions I had back then with my body got out of control. (I would take my blood pressure and check my pulse numerous times a day to make sure it was in the ‘normal’ ranges)

From the outside, my life seemed OK then. I was in therapy, had a job and a relationship. I was living in my dream country and didn’t have anything to complain about. However, the therapy that I was in at the time helped me discover stuff that I buried deep inside and did not want to deal with.

My therapist helped me with something I was struggling with: my emotions. What were my emotions, how to accept my emotions, how to express negative feelings so, one day, I would feel safe in my body.

According to Mayo Clinic panic disorder is when someone experiences frequent and unexpected panic attacks and spends long periods being terrified of when the next attack will occur.

These attacks can show up daily or weekly. You can be struck by one at the supermarket, while driving, at work or even during sleep (I used to have nocturnal panic attacks as well). The symptoms are not pretty: rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, trembling and shaking, pins and needles in your arms and legs, chest pain, diziness, and the feeling like you’re going to die in next moment.

The fear of feelings is a big problem in anxiety sufferers. They don’t accept how they feel and often try to have control over their bodies or their environment. (hence why I was trying to measure my pulse and keep it at ‘normal’ values)

Panic disorder sufferers have trouble connecting with their bodies and don’t like to sit in one place, meditate or relax.

Because they’re terrified of both their mind and body, anxious individuals think they are abnormal and, thus, they develop a shameful attitude about their condition. They believe they should not be afraid and that their feelings are not OK. They should be in control of this situation and are angry at themselves for not being on top of things.

This attitude is unhealthy but it can be changed. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or talk therapy can help you feel safer in your body.

Below, I list a few things I’ve done to heal my panic disorder. However, be aware that these steps are personal to me and may not apply to you. Take what I write here with a grain of salt and reach out to a psychotherapist to help you with these issues.

1. Therapy

The biggest step I took to heal my panic disorder was to go to psychotherapy and learn how to deal with my negative emotions. If you’ve been reading my Medium Blog, you know I am often writing about narcissistic parents. The abuse perpetrated by these parents leads to complex trauma, a type of trauma that is hard to heal.

Complex trauma (c-PTSD) is when a person is abused or emotionally injured by an individual, group of individuals or the state of their country (eg. war) daily over a long period.

A therapist once said that childhood trauma survivors are ‘soaked’ in their traumatic experiences for years or decades and so, when they start to deal with their issues, they realize they can’t tell the difference between being traumatized and living a trauma-free life. Trauma is all they know.

My point is that you need therapy to deal with your childhood abuse or whatever difficult experiences you’ve gone through as a child so that your life becomes manageable.

2. SSRIs

My panic disorder improved immensely when I started a course of anti-depressants. SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors boost the serotonin in your brain. As a result, you will have a better mood and fewer negative emotions. While I don’t believe SSRIs can cure any mental health issue, they are helpful.

They are designed to take the ‘edge’ of your mental illness.

For example, if you’re panicking daily, your panic attacks will be reduced to once a week or a month. I took Paxil for my panic attacks. They were so helpful that I could be on a plane without panicking (remember that before Paxil, I couldn’t even get on a short-distance train without freaking out).

If you’re thinking of trying SSRIs, be mindful of them. Discuss with your psychiatrist about what type of SSRI would be good for you. Also, do not expect that the first antidepressant you’ll be on is the one that will help you. (I’ve tried a few until I found Paxil)

Many of these meds have mild to severe side effects (eg. suicide ideation, insomnia, dizziness, lack of emotions, etc) so please, make sure you choose one that is not harmful to you and has the least amount of side effects. Paxil did not have many side effects. I had some bloating while on it and gained a bit of weight but that’s it.

3. Know the root cause

If one and two are good steps, no. 3 is the ‘golden’ step of recovery from panic disorder. You need to talk with your therapist to get to the bottom of your panic attacks. If you know the problem that triggers these attacks you can make a plan to deal with it.

Having panic attacks is very often a matter of being confused and not knowing what the hell is wrong with you. Many sufferers say “my panic attack came out of the blue” or “I did not see that one coming”. The most common affirmation is “My life is great, I have a business, a partner who loves me and yet I have panic attacks that show up out of the blue.”

It is incorrect to think that panic attacks are not caused by a deeper problem in the psyche and they just wash over you because they love messing with your brain.

No, panic attacks don’t have a life of their own. They are a symptom of a much bigger, more challenging problem. This problem is often ignored or ‘swiped under the rug’ and, a panic attack is your brain telling you ‘Deal with your problem” or “Please help me, I’m in pain.”

The root cause of my anxiety was having a narcissistic mother in my life. I was not dealing with the trauma and suffering she put me through, thus, the panic attacks.

4. Meditation

Panic attacks can be improved with meditation. There are meditation classes you can attend in the city where you live. I used to go every week to a lovely meditation centre. It helped me befriend my body little by little. Learning that I can sit still and ‘tolerate’ my physical sensations for minutes or even half an hour at a time is extremely empowering.

5. Journaling

A 2018 study shows that people with anxiety who write in their diary experience an improvement in their symptoms. The reason is that when you write about your thoughts and feelings, you process your emotional experience.

Your difficult thoughts are not stuck in your mind anymore. They are on your paper, freed up from that prison we often lock ourselves in.

If you are currently experiencing panic attacks, make an appointment with a mental health professional right away. There are there to help you make sense of these overwhelming symptoms.

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Marlena Eva

MA in Social Psychology. Freelance Writer. Poet. Writes about: narcissism (NPD), relationships, mental health.