Depression and Panic Attack Syndrome Advice

From someone that's been there, done that, got the T-shirt..

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This page is about major depression and panic attack syndrome. If you just have the blues, try the Are you feeling Miserable? page...

Please note that I am not a doctor, but I am speaking from personal experience of this condition.

The Problem..

Major depression is normally brought about by a number of stressful circumstances, called stressors, that are maintained over a long time period of months or years, and that gradually wear a person down to the point where they are so depressed that they can no longer help themselves. It is impossible for them to "pull themselves together" and they need help from someone to recover.

The main causes of depression are fatigue and time pressure. Too much to do, too little time, and no rest. Additional causes happening at the same time could be sickness, problem babies/kids, finances, etc etc. People who are perfectionists are more prone to this problem.

In my wife's case, she had a tiny baby that wouldn't stop crying for weeks, and this after having a difficult pregnancy, a difficult birth, complications thereafter, and then very little sleep for 2 months. She eventually lapsed into major depression and panic attack syndrome. Panic attack syndrome is when you cannot control a rising sense of anxiety, causing you to breathe faster and shallower until you start to lose consciousness due to oxygen starvation of the brain. Other symptons and contributing factors are a loss of self esteem or self-worth, feelings of inadequacy, fear of future events, creating scenarios of disaster in the mind, negative thinking, loss of hope in the future and so on.

The Cure..

If one of the major problems is fatigue (which is usually the case) then sleep therapy is recommended to start with. This involves being admitted into a hospital where you will be given medicine to relax you and enable you to sleep for 3 or 4 days. Thereafter you should see a clinical psychologist, and let them help you with various methods of relaxation and self-affirmation. You may need to be put on medication for awhile to give you time to recover. Since in South Africa the clinical psychologist cannot prescribe medication, they will refer you to a psychiatrist so he can prescribe medication for you. Please take someone you trust with you to the psychiatrist, so he doesn't talk holes in your head. I am not personally in favour of medications like Prozac and tranquillizers, so if you are put on these medications, try and come off them as soon as possible. You also need someone - a good friend, a spouse, a parent or a brother/sister - to help you through the next couple of months. They will need to help you and train you to think positive thoughts, to tell you to breathe deeply when you have a panic attack (this kills the panic attack within a minute or two) and to encourage you and affirm your worth in society. It is a good idea if they stay with you all the time, until you are able to handle the panic attacks yourself, or they disappear altogether.

"Breathing deeply kills a panic attack within a minute or two"

Carers: Make the panic attack sufferer take at least 2 or 3 very deep breaths.

They won't want to, so be forceful and insist loudly that they deep breathe for you.

Building up your self esteem is made a lot easier if you believe in Jesus and the Bible, because He speaks often about how special each person is, how He will not break off a bent reed or put out a flickering lamp; in other words, no matter how bad or useless or broken you are, He will never reject you but will always accept you as His friend. The Bible also speaks of how much God loves us and cares for us, how He tenderly holds us in His hands and protects us. It also tells us that God is completely in control of every tiny detail in our lives as well as controlling the universe, and this knowledge helps us to have no fear of the future or of imagined catastrophes. It says perfect love casts out all fear. We know God loves us perfectly, so we do not need to fear anything.

Remember, God loves you. Whether you believe in Him or not. Whether you're bad or good, clever or dumb. He loves you.

If you are married, your spouse may need to make some radical and maybe permanent changes to their lives to accomodate your condition. If they love you they will.