Personal Stories - Panic Disorder & Agoraphobia

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“"I know from personal experience...getting anxious kids help early can be crucial in heading off more serious problems later in life."”

A Childhood Darkened by Severe Anxiety Becomes Brighter




Childhood anxiety, even severe and chronic, doesn’t necessarily stand in the way of success and achievement. But caring parents will do anything to help relieve their children of misery. Scott Stossel, the editor of The Atlantic magazine, tells his story of struggling, coping, and living a very productive life.

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“I’m trying to get off medication so I can have a baby. It's been tough and I've experienced many setbacks, but I haven't given up.”

Childhood Panic—and Hope

It started at the onset of puberty, when I was 11 years old. I was at school, watching my older sister load the school bus to be taken away to 6th-grade camp. Suddenly a wave of panic overcame me. I don't recall my physical symptoms other than a racing heart and nausea.

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“Shortly after beginning CBT, I was able to discontinue medication and stop seeing a therapist.”

Ending the Nightmare

An excellent student, a talented singer and musician, a competitive athlete. That’s how I appeared on the outside as a young child, but I felt as though I were trapped in a nightmare that would never end. Years later, and after a lot of hard work, my bad dream is finally over.

Michael Timmermann, personal storyFear of Being Alone

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“Most shocking to me was that my anxiety would never fully go away, although I could recover and learn to live with it.”

Achieving Happiness

I went through some pretty tough times when I had my first full-blown panic attack.

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“Some days are better than others, but that’s okay.”

Beyond the Blues: Dealing With Recurrent Depression

Jan Silver MaguireI experienced my first bout of what I now know was depression when I was 11—uncontrollable crying, not wanting to get out of bed and go to school, and feelings of worthlessness. I was more sensitive than ever about being “left out” and the mercurial slights that characterize preteen girlhood. Nevertheless, I remained the consummate perfectionist. For instance, anything less than an “A” in school would validate my sense of inadequacy.

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“People need help. And asking for it isn’t a weakness. Admitting you need help and asking for it? That is acknowledging fear and gaining strength from it. ”

Running for Myself

A lot of things scare me. Right now, those things include my first 20-mile run of marathon training that I have this weekend and sharing this post. That’s the thing with fears, though. Embracing them usually makes you stronger.

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“The world was once my oyster; now, it was my prison.”

Perfectionism and Panic

Kara Baskin familyBack in 2006, I had it all: A loving fiancé, a coveted publishing job, a supportive network of friends and family. I was living in Washington, D.C., where I went out almost every night to press parties and trendy restaurants. In my spare time, I delivered meals on wheels and counseled Alzheimer’s patients at the local senior center. Perfectionistic and ever so vigilant, I could’ve won the Perfect Life Olympics.

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“ I was astounded to find no place with others who were going through the same thing, no tidbits on what I could do right now when I needed it most. That’s when I took out a notebook and decided it was time to create AnxietyInTeens.com. ”

Teens Outrunning Anxiety

Solome Tibebu, personal storyI’m 21 years old, and besides my busy schedule as a full-time student the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, keeping a regular running and yoga schedule, work, and trying to balance a social life, I am also the founder and Executive Director of Anxiety In Teens Non-Profit, LLC.

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“A friend asked me to explain what things I couldn't do. I answered that it would take much less time if I simply listed those things I could do.”

How I Achieved My Cure of Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia

I have chosen to focus on my healing, and to say only a few words about my long period of suffering. Chances are, you already know – firsthand or secondhand – more than you'd care  to know about the suffering! My own suffering had its unique form, but essentially, it was no different from what you probably already know.

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“On the outside I was a confident person with everything going for me, but I was a nervous wreck who just wanted to get away from it all. ”

Waiting for the Game to Be Over

I have lived all my life waiting for the game to be over. Feeling anxious and sick to my stomach before high school games, I’d say to myself, “I just can’t wait until the game is over so I don’t have to feel this way.” I was so fearful that I’d make a mistake, disappoint my coaches and family, and let my teammates down. This feeling has stayed with me ever since. Rather than be honest with myself and others, I pretended everything was okay, but inside I was dying.

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“I remember getting so nervous that I would have to leave class and go to the counselor’s office. ”

Now I’m in Control

Looking back, I recall first experiencing a panic attack in the sixth grade. I remember getting so nervous that I would have to leave class and go to the counselor’s office. Until I was 16, I was in and out of psychiatrists’ offices. It was a challenge to find a psychiatrist that I could connect with. Throughout junior high and high school, I still experienced anxiety and panic attacks. And when I started college, my anxiety and panic attacks intensified.

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“I had an overwhelming foreboding that something terrible was about to happen to me, and I wouldn’t be able to escape. ”

Family History

My college life was enriched with family, friends, sorority sisters, successful academic achievement, and a loving boyfriend. But one night, a terrifying new element was suddenly added. Lying in bed, I began to sweat profusely. My heart was racing and I could not stay still. I had an overwhelming foreboding that something terrible was about to happen to me, and I wouldn’t be able to escape. When I called my dad to explain my symptoms, he suggested that I go to the hospital.

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“I found it most ironic; I was someone who enjoyed groups and events, and here I was hamstrung with a phobia that made me detest groups, particularly functions involving a meal.”

My Panic and Anxiety: More Than Nerves

The summer before my senior year in college, my mother died of lung cancer at the age of 57. I dealt with my loss privately, as I had handled most of my problems throughout adolescence: I repressed my grief and kept moving. I avoided talking about my mother's death and I continued my college work and social schedule as if nothing had happened.

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“Each day I tried a new goal. Sometimes it took three or four tries to move forward, but I never went backward.”

Facing My Fears Head On

My story is much like others’ who suffer with panic disorder. Look at a list of symptoms and you’ll see mine.

My first panic attack occurred when I was 14. Later I would have them while driving on the interstate – so I stopped driving on the interstate. I had them at movie theaters or concerts – so I stopped going to those places. I stopped going to the mall, to the grocery store, or flying. I stopped going anywhere alone with my children because I was afraid of what might happen to them if I fainted or died while we were out. Eventually, I stopped going anywhere alone.

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“Was I going to spend the next 40 years making clever excuses about why I was unable to participate in living, laughing, and being whole? ”

Determined to Recover

Rita ClarkAfter more than 20 years of not going to a grocery store, restaurant, or public place alone, not driving out of my safe area and not attending school functions for my children, I began my difficult recovery from panic disorder, agoraphobia, and social anxiety disorder.

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“One day Rita read a newspaper article describing the symptoms of panic disorder and agoraphobia. At that moment she discovered she wasn’t crazy or weak.”

My Mother’s Journey

An evening spent playing bridge with other couples was always fun for Rita, but one time it became a nightmare. Dealing the cards, first her hands began to tremble, and then her body shook uncontrollably. Terrified, she ran to the bathroom where she fell to the floor crying. She didn’t understand what was happening to her, so she told her husband she was ill and needed to go home.

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“I felt a tingling sensation spread throughout my chest. A sudden fear of death seemed to come from nowhere.”

A Traumatic Trigger of Panic

My name is Jacob. I'm 20 years old and this is my story:

It all started on what seemed like a regular day in my sophomore year of college. I went to all my classes and got back to my dorm room at about 5 p.m. When I checked to see if my roommate was in yet, I found him lying on the floor by his bed. He had died of a heart attack at 20 years old.

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“It was so embarrassing to have to tell my friends about my problem, but I knew it had to be done.”

A Normal Kid

My name is Jordan. I am 11 years old.

About one year ago, I began experiencing a feeling of terror and panic during everyday situations. I was scared of everything, from going out to eat to going to a friend’s house. I told my parents, and we thought it might just be that a lot was going on. So we waited. As months went on, the anxiety and panicking didn’t get any better, and everything started to go downhill. I sort of figured I was going to be like this forever.

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“It took a long time for me to accept that panic disorder is something I must live with. It is simply a part of my life.”

Speaking Up for Others

Looking back, I can see that I had symptoms of an anxiety disorder even as a small child. I remember going for weeks at a time waking up, unable to go back to sleep. Then, as if by magic, I would go back to sleeping normally.

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“I spent the next 20 years trying to avoid another panic attack. Unfortunately, avoiding fear also meant reinforcing it. ”

My Anxiety Rescue

Fear is an unseen enemy that can emotionally cripple and turn your life into a nightmare unless you learn, as I did, how to stage your own “anxiety rescue.”

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