The following is the first chapter of the book "Stop Panic. " It is presented here to give you a flavor of the Stop Panic philosophy and approach. If, after reading this segment, you wish to obtain more information, the method for doing so is detailed below.
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AN INTRODUCTION TO StopPanic:
HOW TO RID YOUR LIFE OF CRIPPLING ANXIETY WITHOUT DRUGS: A NON-TECHNICAL, SELF HELP SYSTEM FOR THOSE SUFFERING FROM PANIC DISORDER, AND THEIR FRIENDS
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 and its companion web site StopPanic.com are 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 you with a simple, straightforward and effective means of stopping it
following are true cases 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
In a later chapter of this book, we describe what ultimately happened to these
people and why they had their panic and phobic problems in the first place.
In a later chapter of this book, we describe what ultimately happened to these people and why they had their panic and phobic problems in the first place.
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 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 had been
troubling him that he was aware of, 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 his fear of
going over bridges. He was an attorney and 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 bridges.
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.
enormity of this problem began to dominate his every waking hour. No 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, just 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, the unavoidable need to do so arose. On
these occasions he experienced such severe fright that he believed he would
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 his problem, but was helpless to do anything
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 professional.
he reported that 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, which actually triggered the problem, are explained later on in
this book. Though they were unusual, the essential 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
multinational corporation that had recognized his talents since hiring him
about five years before. 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 StopPanic.com.
My own turn came on the day that I took the oral boards for the defense
of my dissertation.
was the final phase of a doctoral program at a major Eastern university. The
process was as grueling as it was long rumored to be. For two and one half
hours a group of professors grilled me about all manner of technical and
arcane things, some of which were, and some which were not, related to my
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 couple of 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. A smiling senior
professor who was a member of my committee invited me in. I was greeted with
"Congratulations Dr. Guller, you did very well. Sorry to have kept you
waiting, but we got into 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 my ride uptown, the tightness in my chest eased.
I realized I had just had my first (and up to now, thankfully, last) panic
attack. In later years that episode taught me a lot and that is part of
what we hope to teach 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. It seems to come directly out of the blue with no
forewarning, and 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 latter situation is called agoraphobia and is
discussed in more detail later on.
attacks can strike at any age, but seem especially prevalent in early to
middle adulthood. Often they have 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 and related web site 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 it for the rest of their lives.
is not an idle claim. The process has succeeded with many individuals
and can frequently be done without any medication. In some instances,
medication is helpful on a temporary basis, but it never cures the problem.
The methods described here work. They are also 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 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 clear 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. This book and this site 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 it available
to more people.
medium of the Internet is so well suited to helping them that the StopPanic.com
site was born. This book is a summary and extension of it. Through both,
we hope to help far more than can be reached by individual treatment.
recognize that not every person with this disorder will be helped completely
by this program. But, it may 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 openly and freely discuss what you have learned with