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Adrienne Dellwo

Panic Disorder in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By November 25, 2011

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It's Black Friday, and you can bet I'm nowhere near a store right now. This is my annual day to stay home, recover from Thanksgiving, and not subject myself to the panic attack that's likely to strike if I go out into the shopping madness.

Panic attacks are a common symptom of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, and a noisy, chaotic, crowded big box store is the perfect environment to trigger one.

It's like our nervous systems can't handle the flood of sensory input. To me, it feels like I just short out and can no longer control my mind.

If panic attacks are a major symptom for you, it's possible that it's gone beyond "symptom" and become a diagnosable panic disorder. Even if it's not severe enough for that, you may benefit from learning about panic disorders and how to manage them:

There, you'll find a compilation of articles from expert Katharina Star, About.com's Guide to Panic Disorder. She's not only a counselor, she's dealt with panic disorder herself.

Do you get panic attacks? Have you been diagnosed with a panic disorder? What triggers your attacks? What helps? Leave your comments below!

Learn more or join the conversation!


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November 25, 2011 at 3:47 pm
(1) Lulu says:

Quite honestly, CFS and Fibromyalgia have now been associated with so many other physiological and psychiatric disorders that I can barely get through the confusion of it all. Both my aunt and mother have Fibromyalgia. I also suffer from fatigue which a doctor has attributed to food allergies. I was diagnosed with Acute Anxiety Disorder with frequent panic attacks that sent me to the hospital. The tranquilizers leave me tired which contributes to my pre-existing fatigue. I am in a labyrinth-I’m cursed with a bad gene pool.

November 26, 2011 at 11:04 pm
(2) Michelle says:

“I am in a labyrinth-Iím cursed with a bad gene pool.” My feeling exactly! Why Me….. Then you have to know that very few could handle this stuff!

November 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm
(3) Karen Wolfe says:

I have the panic attacks too & have to take meds to help control them. Never had them before I was dx’d with the FMS. Had to stop working & go on disability due to the FMS &related issues ike IBS. I do everything I can to try to avoid the stress that initiates the panic attack but they still sneak up on me. They’re quite scarey at times.

November 25, 2011 at 4:28 pm
(4) Leslie says:

Yes, yes, yes. The primary thing that makes me feel like I’m close to panicking is sensory overload. The kitchen last night at Thanksgiving brought me to the brink with so many people working and talking in a small space. The other thing that can be a trigger for me is low blood sugar. Don’t know that I’ve ever had what would be called a full-blown attack, but I’ve felt on the brink many times – when it was all I could do to keep from bolting like a spooked horse and making a mad dash to anywhere be the place where I was.

November 25, 2011 at 4:41 pm
(5) kathy says:

i feel like i’ve just found the right sisterhood to belong to. i’m in the amen corner with all that i’ve read here so far in the comments. i’ve always discribed it like sensory overload. i too just stay out of harms way. i had to quit working with fms and also receive ss disability. i started treatment for agoraphobia about 20 yrs before fms started. ofcourse i’ve got ibs, ocd, xyz and abc, too. haha i guess i overdid it with the pie that was brought home to me yesterday and am giddy with a sugar high. i don’t go to friends (who has any?) or family dinners, too many people. i just have my room mate bring me a to go plate. i just go to the dr and the drugstorre, and if i get lucky, a craft store maybe once a year. i’ll be 60 this year, but i live the life of someone twice my age-120!! well, maybe i went too far there. but, seriously, i have major depression, phobias, anxiety right along with all the physical junk that goes with fms and cfs.

November 25, 2011 at 4:46 pm
(6) Jodster says:

Anxiety… YES everyday. Panic Attacks… YES at least once or twice a week. Able to leave the house? NO Been diagnosed with agrophobia (sp?). All showed up during the first 3 years before I was diagnosed with CFS and FM. When I first started having to bolt from work and go directly to my dr. I didn’t know what was going on. I was just sort of frozen, in tremors, but didn’t know what i could be feeling afraid of, and couldn’t do my job, I found myself just staring at my computer monitor, and after who knows how long, I’d sort of wake up and wonder what the heck? I’d never had anything like this before. A few years later I had to bring all my medications with me to see a new dr. The admitting nurse went thru them all and picked out 3 and asked, “why are you on all these anti-anxiety medications?” I said, “anit what?” no one told me… but 3 different dr’s had prescribed ativan, xanax and clonezopam and i didn’t even know i was having anxiety attacks. I knew that i was having trouble finishing a short list of tasks to do outside of the house, like return movies to video store, stop at the bank, get the mail, gas up, etc… and could never finish my list. I just had to get home right now. I only felt safe and calm at home. Dr’s tell me all the time I have an anxiety issue, but no one yet has told me it has anything to do with CFS/FM. I’m glad to hear this but wish dr’s would become more informed.

November 25, 2011 at 6:25 pm
(7) Connie Lee says:

I get panic attacks even though I am on medication. I have fibromyalgia also. If I overdue physically, a weather change, I will have more problems. What I don’t like is not knowing when you are going to get a panic attack and you are out in the public. I do my concentrated slow breathing and tell myself that I am on the wrong side of getting well.

November 25, 2011 at 6:33 pm
(8) Janet says:

I started having panic attacks while driving in my early 20s. Rheumy’s opinion is that i’ve had FMS since my teens. I always put the attacks back then to the distress of a messy marriage and divorce – managed to continue driving by effectively doing my own Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and not letting it get out of hand. I again had problems with driving once my twins were born – giving me three children under two (!!!) – i again started panicking in the car but managed to keep driving by avoiding certain roads. I did know that i couldn’t drive on highways when i was tired after work etc. After nearly 30 years and with a dx of FMS i now take cymbalta to reduce my hupersensitivity. An unexpected bonus is that i have almost miraculously started driving on roads that i have avoided almost my entire adult life – saving time and fuel into the bargain. I feel real and whole and competent again. And in light of my dx, no wonder i couldn’t drive properly when i was tired!!

November 25, 2011 at 10:41 pm
(9) Stephanie says:

I have been fighting fibro since 1982 even then everybody thought that I was just depressed or god forbid just crazy but when I started saying that i was having panic attacks it was just one more crazy thing that i have made up in my mind. Well i got news for my family you are the fools. I have spent the last month being stressed from a family member taking advantage now the panic attacks have come back with a force that i have never felt before and im not going to defend myself one more time they have no idea what it is to live the way i do and im tired of them making me fell like i dont have an illness. Im going to the doc monday for the panic attacks and the stress. i wish that one has to feel like ido just the crazy one of the family and the sad thing is that i never wanted this in my life. Thanks for listening.

November 26, 2011 at 12:38 am
(10) panicked says:

Yes, 20 times a day. Panic attacks just came back a few months ago and worsened to the point of going for meds and also a psychologist for help. They eased up some but have now surfaced again but not as bad. Had become completely agorophobic and still have problems leaving the house – have been in 10 days now with no desire to leave. I have fibro/cfs for about 11 years and it wrecked my life. I was glad to see this – had not connected the dots that they are part of fibro….interesting. I have had them on and off since I was 5. Maybe…the fibro has been there that long and just got worse. Thanks for all the posts – it sure does help to not be alone in this mess of stuff we all experience.

November 26, 2011 at 9:26 am
(11) Tammy R says:

I took Cymbalta for General Anxiety Disorder for about 4 years. Part of that time health insurance paid for it, however, when we lost our health insurance, I got samples from the doctor’s office. It was great until the samples ran out. I couldn’t afford to buy the meds so I decided to quit taking Cymbalta cold turkey. Worst mistake of my life. It was about the worst two weeks of my life. I felt like a drug addict who couldn’t get her fix.
And the panic attacks came back about a month later along with other symptoms that the drug dealt with.
Now I take half or a whole Benadryl to try to take the edge off the panic attack and sometimes it works.
I know that I will never be normal, but a normal day now and then is great.

December 2, 2011 at 10:44 am
(12) Carol says:

I have allodynia, anxiety, digestive symptoms, low back pain. I’ve tried SSRI’S but I get so jittery it’s intolerable. HOWEVER, the allodynia, digestive problems and low back pain are relieved and I’ve actually had a day or two after I stopped taking them that I have felt confident and happy. Has anyone experimented with greatly reduced dosages of SSRI’s or tried Buspar when they’ve had a jittery reaction like I did?

December 2, 2011 at 10:47 am
(13) Carol says:

Triggers: misplacing something, not eating, too tired, alone, something goes wrong with the house, loud noise, traffic, big box stores, airports, Oh, my goodness!!!! Take care everyone! I need a calm pet!

August 7, 2012 at 11:27 pm
(14) Dawn says:

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in October 2011 and have recently started having more frequent panic attacks. My first major one was in the hospital when I was being treated for a blood clot, which seems to be the root cause of the mess I currently find myself in. For me, the trigger seems to be when I’m in a noisy/crowded place or riding in a car in heavy traffic. When one comes on I start feeling hot/shaky and a sensation of being smothered, then it’s like my whole body is screaming, “I’ve gotta get out of here NOW!” If I’m in a car, I’m clutching onto my seat or the door handle for dear life. For now, my doctor is increasing my dose of Paxil to the maximum (60 mgs.) and filled out the paperwork to get me on a drug assistance program for Cymbalta. Also, I’ve been forwarded for counseling and I’m hoping to find some relief.

June 26, 2013 at 1:52 pm
(15) Erin says:

I started having panic attacks at 14. It is like having the fight or flight feeling come over you. At 37 I was diagnosed and put on Xanax At 56, I am still on it. Diagnosed 2010 with Fibro. I suggest that you check with your Doctor if you think you may be having them or having an anxious feeling frequently. Now, for me, I have found that taking vitamin D in the morning and evening up to a total of about 8,000 IU a day, helps with attacks of anxiety. I actually don’t have the feeling like I did. I suggest that you also look up what to do for SAD or Seasonal Anxiety Disorder and follow the vitamins they say helps. It isn’t an answer, but it has really helped me. Gentle Hugs….

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