Press Release – Panic Prevention Day 10 July 2009
Panic is a scary illness that affects us all
40-year-old Benoni township resident and correctional officer, Kenneth, has felt deathly afraid for 7 years of his life. When he was 33, Kenneth was at a petrol station at 9:30pm when he ‘knew’ something bad was going to happen to him. “I felt like I was losing myself and I was out of control. I went into the shop and they called an ambulance. I was taken to hospital and admitted.” Everyone assumed Kenneth was having a heart attack – he had all the symptoms: racing heart, shortness of breath, sweating, pins and needles in his hands and feet, blurred vision, and chest pain.
After seeing the doctor and the cardiologist at the hospital, Kenneth was told his heart was fine. But what was wrong? He avoided being alone, and always wanted company and people around him. His wife knew how he was feeling and how scared he felt even though there was no reason for it. She stood by him and supported him through his ordeal and encouraged him to keep trying to get help.
Kenneth heard about the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) and approached them for help. SADAG offers telephonic counselling, support and referral for people suffering from anxiety or depression and can be contacted 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm on 0800 20 50 26 or via SMS on 31393. After his second attack, Kenneth called SADAG who referred him to Benrose Hospital where he was finally diagnosed with a real and frightening illness – Panic Disorder. Panic Disorder is an anxiety disorder that affects 16% of South Africans. The good news is that panic is not dangerous and can be treated!
The 10th July is Panic Prevention and Awareness Day and SADAG wants everyone to know that Panic Disorder is a real illness, but as scary as it feels, it is not life-threatening. And there is help. “Many people who suffer from Panic Disorder don’t get help as they feel they are mad or that no-one will understand”, says SADAG’s Cassey Amoore. “But there is help.”
“I got some medication from the hospital that I would put under my tongue when I felt the attack coming. They really helped me get through the fear and panic but I was worried that I still didn’t really understand what was wrong with me”, says Kenneth. So he called SADAG again. “I was referred to a Support Group and that really helped me a lot.” The Support Group members, and the SADAG counselors, helped Kenneth understand that Panic Disorder was an illness but it could be controlled – and beaten.
Nomsa, a portfolio manager, has experienced panic attacks for over 8 years. The attacks started after she was continually harassed and bullied by her nanny. “Every time she threatened me I felt scared and anxious and would have an attack.” But even years after the nanny had left, the attacks continued. She felt isolated and alone, sure that no-one could possibly understand what she was going through. She became very shy, withdrew from people, and became increasingly depressed. The attacks continued and she always feared the next one – when would it happen, where would she be.
Nomsa knew there was something seriously wrong and went to her GP. After numerous tests and scans, she was told there was nothing wrong with her. “Now I knew that I had to be crazy. I wasn’t imagining these attacks – not being able to breathe, feeling nauseas and sick, scared all the time – but there was nothing wrong?” She withdrew even more, afraid to be in public because she did not know if she would faint or die. “I had to have someone around me all the time just in case.” She felt more and more alone, frightened, and depressed. She too phoned SADAG. Through them she was able to get a referral to a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and information about what was really wrong with her. “It was such a relief to find out that I wasn’t crazy – I was sick, it just wasn’t my body that was sick. I had Panic Disorder and now, finally 8 years later, I knew I could get help.”
On Saturday the XXXXXX there will be a Panic Therapy workshop at the Morningside Clinic in Sandton run by South African expert Dr Colinda Linde. The workshop will be run from 9am til 12 and will cost only R50. Dr Linde will explain what panic attacks are and how to deal with them. This workshop is essential for Panic sufferers and their loved ones. If you’d like to attend, please contact Chevonne at SADAG on 011 262 6396 to book your place.
Kenneth believes that we need to educate everyone and help each other. “Support really helps - confide in someone. Also get hold of a psychologist or therapist to learn relaxation and how to control this illness. When I learnt what an attack is, what to do, and that they aren’t dangerous, I calmed down and the attacks started to go away.” He says that he is “100% now and sharp.”
To help answer your questions, SADAG and health24 are hosting an online chat on www.health24.co.za from Tuesday 7th until Saturday the 11th July. Your questions on panic and anxiety will be answered by three psychologists and a psychiatrist.
Nomsa’s best advice for people is to learn about your disorder. “Information is power. Get treatment. Don’t give up, you can get help.”
Symptoms of a panic attack include:
· Racing heartbeat
· Difficulty breathing, feeling as though you 'can't get enough air'
· Dizziness, light-headedness or nausea
· Trembling, sweating, shaking
· Chest pains
· Hot flashes, or sudden chills
· Tingling in fingers or toes ('pins and needles')
· Fear that you're going to go crazy or are about to die