TO RID YOUR LIFE OF CRIPPLING ANXIETY WITHOUT DRUGS
NON-TECHNICAL, SELF HELP SYSTEM FOR THOSE SUFFERING FROM PANIC DISORDER, AND
THEIR FRIENDS AND RELATIVES.
BOOK IS A COMPANION TO THE WEB SITE StopPanic.com
Irving B. Guller, Ph.D.
B. Guller Ph.D.
Copyright ă 2000 by Irving B. Guller
All rights reserved under International and Pan American Copyright Convention. Published in the United States by StopPanic.com, Inc.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means---electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other --- except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior written permission of the publisher. For information address StopPanic.com, Inc., P.O. Box 4029, Brick, N.J. 08723
Printed in the United States of America
attacks (also called panic disorder and anxiety attacks) are among the most
common of psychological problems affecting our modern world. Literally
millions of people suffer from them in the U.S. alone and many more millions
throughout the world have become afflicted. It seems that the more advanced
the society, the more frequent this problem becomes.
book is designed to help people who have suffered from this condition as
well as their friends and loved ones who are also affected by it.
Our intent is to first help you understand what causes the problem and
then provide a simple, straightforward and effective means of stopping it from
following are true stories of people who have been temporarily overwhelmed by
this problem. Only the names and
some details have been changed in order to protect the identity of the persons
and his wife Lynn were taking a leisurely drive down New Jersey's Garden State
Parkway one sunny autumn afternoon about ten years ago. It was a weekday, but
both were free from work. The children were in school and the traffic was
the distance Ron spotted a strange configuration to the right side, which he
could not immediately make out. As they approached, he saw that it was a
man beyond middle age laboriously pushing a car off the roadway. When closer,
Ron and Lynn could see an older woman, presumably the man's wife, steering the
vehicle while he pushed.
immediately said to Lynn "Lets stop and I'll give him a hand", to
which she replied, "No, just go on. He's just about got it off the road
already." So, Ron drove on.
more than ten minutes later and a few miles down the road, Ron suddenly felt a
severe tightness in his chest and his heart began pounding. He broke into a
cold sweat, experienced extreme weakness and had to pull off to the shoulder
of the road. He was sure he was having a heart attack. He gaspingly told his
wife he needed medical assistance and thought he was dying. Terrified, his
wife got out of the car and frantically tried to wave down a passing motorist.
a patrolling State Trooper soon came along. When informed of the situation, he
radioed for emergency medical assistance. An ambulance transported Ron, with
Lynn beside him, to a nearby hospital where a cardiologist was called.
much probing and testing, the specialist told Ron he could find no cardiac
problems, or anything similar and that he seemed otherwise O.K., from a
medical standpoint. After a couple of hours in the hospital, he was told he
could go home but he was not given any explanation for his sudden, and
seemingly life threatening, symptoms. As he was shakily leaving, one of the
emergency room doctors commented that it might just be 'nerves.'
explanation did not seem to fit Ron at all and, in fact, annoyed him. He was
an outgoing salesman who was active in his community, seemed to have a good
marriage and two healthy, well adjusted kids. No recent problems that he was
aware of had been troubling him, and no one ever regarded him as the nervous
type. In fact, he was known for his ability to stay calm in situations when
others became irritable or upset.
though he did not know it at the time, Ron had experienced his first panic
attack. It was to be one of many which finally brought him into treatment and
ended with a new understanding of himself, and how to deal with the attacks he
so doing, he was ultimately able to avoid ever having panic attacks in the
future, so far as we know. As we
will see below, that first attack was the result of a lifetime of experiences
coupled with certain triggering events in the present.
was like most otherwise perfectly normal people who are suddenly, and from
their standpoint, inexplicably, hit by panic attacks. He had no clue as to why
this was happening to him. When the mystery of that attack was solved, the
road to freedom from further attacks became open to him, as will be the case
for yourself, if you are a victim of this condition. Understanding of the
hidden facts behind the attacks provides the tools for dealing with them.
was a large, imposing man who normally exuded an aura of self-assurance,
competence and authority. But, when first seen, he was a troubled, confused
and frightened person, whose life had come to be dominated by a fear of going
over bridges. He was a high level executive with a major corporation. He lived
in an affluent suburban area. In order to get into the large nearby city where
his company's headquarters were located, he normally had to drive over several
little ones were somewhat frightening, but he could usually manage them
without too much trouble. Sometimes he tricked his mind into ignoring their
presence. But, when it came to the big ones, he was terrified.
Furthermore, his work regularly required him to be in Washington D.C. While he
could sometimes fly there or take the train, it was occasionally necessary to
drive, as for example, when he had to accompany the CEO in a limo. He could
not get there by car without going over some major bridges. The enormity of
this problem began to dominate his every waking hour.
matter what he did he would think of his problem with bridges. Sometimes when
he was trying not to think of it, the thoughts would invade his
consciousness and he would go into a panic attack.
at his home base, he ultimately began to drive ten or twelve miles out of his
way every workday so that he could take a tunnel to get to his office. This,
despite the hour or more of extra rush hour traffic he had to endure, so he
could avoid the big bridge. He also went through a variety of machinations to
avoid driving in a car to Washington, D.C. Inevitably, and far more frequently
than he could tolerate, he could not avoid the need to do so. On these
occasions he experienced such severe fright that he believed he would die.
anxiety was compounded by the fear that anyone in a car with him would observe
his condition and question him about it. As is true of most people with panic
disorder and the commonly associated phobic problems, fear of embarrassment or
of being observed, only intensified the problem.
he first came into our office, he said what most people suffering from panic
(or, as in his case, panic and paralyzing phobia) usually say. He was
embarrassed and felt stupid about this problem, but was helpless to do
anything about it.
had tried a variety of remedies, including tranquilizers prescribed by the
family physician. They really did not help. He learned to breathe deeply when
approaching a bridge. It didn’t help. He had tried meditation and had also
consulted with his minister. It
was only in desperation that he finally had decided to consult a mental health
reported that, strangely, the visit to the minister made him feel even worse.
He certainly could not figure out what was wrong with him. The rather unique
circumstances that actually triggered the problem are described later on in
this book. Though they were unusual, the essential root problem
was the one most persons with panic disorder suffer from.
was an Australian living and working in the U.S. He was employed by a large,
multi-national corporation that had recognized his talents since hiring him
about five years earlier. He was a young man of about 32 and highly successful
at what he did, which was to sell big ticket medical devices to hospitals.
Unfortunately, he had begun to experience progressively more debilitating
panic attacks in the very settings where he had to be most effective; that is,
in hospitals. He had experienced something similar when he was a young
teenager and once again few years later, while in the army. But he had had
none for over ten years.
quite a while he had not even thought of the attacks, and believed they were
gone forever. They were not. When his situation was brought to our attention,
he was just about to give up. He had tried medications, prescribed by a
psychiatrist. They only helped slightly. He had spoken with friends (which is
somewhat unusual since most persons with the problem keep it secret). That
relieved the anxiety somewhat but it did not have any lasting effects. As time
went on the attacks became worse and he felt he would have to give up his
promising career. He felt, as do most sufferers, as if some mysterious
affliction had taken hold of him and as if he would never get out of its
a few sessions, based upon the same principals embodied in this book and the
StopPanic.com web site, he was able to resume his regular work. When seen
two years later on a courtesy visit, he was symptom free. He had long before
stopped taking medication, with his doctor's concurrence But this time, he
also knew he was not going to have the attacks ever again, because he now
fully understood them. The reasons for his problem and those of
others mentioned here are explained later in this book.
was a warm hearted, skilled hairdresser who was also the mother of three
children and a leader in her church. She was used to dealing with difficult
and demanding clients in her upscale suburban salon. She was never considered
a nervous or ‘high strung’ person. One
day she asked her boss to leave early because one of her children had an after
school soccer game which Joanne wanted to attend.
boss was generally accommodating and understanding. In this instance, however,
she told Joanne that it would be difficult for her to leave early because one
of the other women had called in sick that day and the client list was long.
Being a highly responsible worker, and feeling she had to pitch in, she stayed
and kept on working.
an hour before close, she told her boss she felt dizzy, had trouble with her
vision, and thought she was going to pass out. The boss had her sit down and
called a local doctor. Joanne was taken to the doctor's office. On the way
Joanne felt she might be having some sort of seizure, a condition she had
never experienced. The doctor took her blood pressure, which was found to be
somewhat high but he could not, otherwise, find anything physically wrong with
her. Joanne had had her first panic attack.
experience of panic attack is not theoretical to the authors of this book and
its companion web site. We have had personal
experience with the problem.
own turn came on the day that I took the oral boards in the defense of my
dissertation. This was the final phase of a doctoral program at a major
Eastern university The process was grueling, as it was long rumored to be. For
over two and one half hours a group of professors grilled me about all manner
of technical and arcane things. Some were, and others were not, related to my
dissertation research. In fact, some seemed to come out of the blue.
orals were known to be the 'do or die' determiner of whether one was awarded
the Ph.D. or was: a) thrown out of the program or b) required to go
through an additional year or more of misery to get it right. As can be well
imagined, it was harrowing. To add to my stress, my wife was a several days
overdue with our first son, and I had already informed the committee that I
might get an emergency call at any moment.
after the questions had been asked and the answers given, the candidate was
sent out of the room briefly, while the committee discussed its decision.
‘Briefly’ usually meant about five minutes. The place where this all took
place was an imposing paneled conference room in the university library and
you were sent out into the hall to cool your heels until the verdict was in.
up and down I waited impatiently for the door to open and be told the news,
good or bad. After five minutes I started to get even more nervous. When
fifteen minutes passed, I was beside myself. This surely meant disaster, I
thought. Finally after twenty five minutes, the door opened. I was invited in
by a smiling senior professor (Dr. David Wechsler, of I.Q. testing fame) who
was a member of the committee. I was greeted with "Congratulations Dr.
Guller, you did very well. Sorry to have kept you waiting, but we got involved
in telling some jokes."
have been addressed as "Dr." was an amazing relief, but somehow, I
didn't feel any elation. I just thanked everybody and quickly took my leave.
As I walked to the bus stop and waited in the rather bright, sunny afternoon
for my ride back uptown, I was numb. Suddenly out of nowhere, I began to feel
as if my chest was being constricted., my heart started racing, I broke out
into a cold sweat and felt weak all over. In short, I felt like I was going to
father had died of a heart attack at a rather young age and I remember
thinking "Oh no! Just when I get through all of this I am going to die
before I have any chance to benefit from it." I missed the next bus that
came along, but managed to get onto the one after that. I felt as if I would
never be able to get off. I thought of telling someone to call and ambulance
but slowly, as time passed on the ride uptown, the tightness in my chest
eased. I only later realized I had had my first (and up to now, thankfully,
last) panic attack. In succeeding years, that episode taught me a lot
and that is part of what we hope to offer you, here.
the several million people each year who experience something like what hit
Ron, Ed, Robert, Joanne or myself, panic can become a plague. The feeling is
terrible. It is frightening, and seems to come directly out of the blue with
no forewarning. It often mimics a heart attack, even in a person with no
history of any cardiac problems. The person may feel paralyzed, and as if
trapped in a life threatening situation.
the first episode, which the person may ascribe to any number of causes
including food poisoning, heat stroke, low blood sugar, etc., he or she is
invariably on guard against another. When the second episode occurs (often
soon after the first) the person feels confused and terribly frightened. As
the episodes persist, the victim feels more and more helpless, inadequate and
thoroughly bewildered by the situation. Neither the victim, nor most medical
specialists, can see any reason for the problem. It just doesn't seem to make
the person may begin to restrict his or her daily activities, out of fear of
recurrence. They may not go to stores, movies or restaurants, won't ride in
any public conveyance or will not ride at all. They may retreat to their own
home, their own bedroom and, ultimately, to their own bed where they sometimes
will remain as prisoners. The restriction of one’s movements outside of the
home, generally coupled with avoidance of any crowded place, is called
agoraphobia and is discussed in more detail later on. The condition is well
recognized and had been described in the literature for over a hundred years.
As will be seen, however, the principal cause of panic attacks, which
frequently give rise to agoraphobia, has never, to our knowledge, been clearly
identified before. Indeed, the
concept, or any alternative version of it, does not even exist in the indexes
of most books on the subject.
attacks can strike at any age, but seem especially prevalent in early to
middle adulthood. Often they have previously occurred in the person's
childhood but have not persisted. They may appear more frequently in women but
this is not certain. Many men have them but will not seek professional help,
hoping, instead, to 'beat the problem' on their own. This almost never works.
attacks and phobias, as well as some related conditions, may occur in the well
educated as well as the illiterate. There seems to be a greater likelihood
that they will strike those who are socially stable, solidly conformist and
the pillars of our society, rather than sociopathic or generally unstable
individuals. On the other hand, they do afflict persons prone to alcohol abuse
experiences of the four persons described above are used here because they
illustrate several of the main issues involved in panic disorder. The
principles of this book can help a very large percentage of those who suffer
from, or have experienced panic disorder in the past, to understand where it
is coming from, and dispel some myths about it. For many, it will enable them
to rid themselves of the problem for the rest of their lives.
is not an idle claim. The process described here has been remarkably
successful with many individuals from all walks of life and all ages. Success
is generally achieved without any medication. In some instances, medication is
helpful on a temporary basis, but medication has never cured this condition.
It has only reduced symptoms and the accompanying dread of recurrence.
But recurrences do take place, even in persons receiving carefully monitored
medication. The methods described here are
simple and can be used by anyone. They require no more than a desire to
get better and a willingness to look at oneself honestly and in a kinder and
less self-critical manner.
persons suffering from panic disorder have a desperate wish to get rid of it.
They just don't know what to do. They may have become convinced that for them,
there is no rational answer. This is almost never the case. Panic attacks are caused by an understandable sequence of
events. One needs to, and can, find out what causes them. That is the
principal objective of this book and web site. They will help in a
non-technical and easy to apply way.
nearly forty years of working with persons suffering from panic disorders, we
have distilled certain simple truths about overcoming them. It has become
clear that simply helping individuals who find their way to therapist’s
offices is not enough. The problem affects so many and there is so much
confusion as to how to deal with it, that we felt we had to make this
knowledge available to more people. The medium of the Internet is so well
suited to that task, that StopPanic.com
was born. This book is a summary and extension of
it. Through both, we hope to help far more than can be reached by
We recognize that not every person with this disorder will be
helped completely by this system. But, it can give even those with very
resistant problems a concrete starting point. It is also recommended that if,
as expected, this system works for you, and you are now in treatment with a
mental health professional, that you do not simply leave treatment.
But, openly and freely discuss what you have learned here with that