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What we did: Panic attacks and anxiety disorder

EXERCISE HELPS

Several years ago a friend suggested that I begin a regular exercise program in an effort to lessen my anxiety. My anxiety condition eventually became more severe and in a desperate attempt to find something that might help, I took the advice of my friend. At first I began swimming several times each week. Later, I began to incorporate exercise into my daily schedule by riding my bike to work. Exercise wasn't the only answer in my coping with an anxiety disorder, but it was an important part of the answer. — Anthon McLaws, Gilbert, Ariz.

FIND SOME HOPE

Medication has been found to help. However, there is another means that will help just as much. The person must find some hope at the end of the tunnel. That hope might stem from a father's blessing, or from a passage found in a serious study of the scriptures, or from some talk by a General Authority. Every person is different. Loved ones, just be there and help the person find such a key! — Richard A. Gudmansen, Orange, Calif.

HYMN BRINGS GREAT COMFORT

Several years ago, after a few weeks of very difficult times in my life, I was suddenly hit with "panic attacks." I was the ward Relief Society president with a young family, and I was so determined that I could not let these attacks make me become debilitated. The attacks were so bad at first that when I was in public, I could not walk without hanging on to something.

Gratefully, I had a very wise bishop who counseled me to write down all the events of the previous few weeks in my journal and then to forget them. That way I would not have to keep re-living them. This was very therapeutic for me.

Also, the words of the hymn, "Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King," which continues, "Triumphant over death, Life thou didst bring" (Hymns, No. 181) brought me great comfort. I knew that if the Savior could triumph over death that He could certainly help me overcome these attacks. — N. A. Gross, Fruitland, Idaho

GOSPEL VALUES BRING PEACE

As a long-term sufferer from both panic attacks and anxiety disorder, I did not realize how the gospel would affect these when I joined the Church in 1993.

To summarize what I learned:

Go to the temple frequently so you can bring that peace home with you. I have not had a panic attack since receiving my endowments, and my anxiety disorder is under control with only occasional break-through episodes during periods of extreme stress.

Study scriptures daily and have prayer, as well as providing service to others. This adds to the peace in one's life.

Be careful about what what you expose yourself to on television, radio and other mass media. I find that inappropriate movies tend to increase anxiety levels. — Name withheld, Arlington, Texas

TOOL FOR COPING

My ongoing battle with anxiety was brought on following surgery to remove a brain tumor. The gospel is my tool for coping, to which traditional medicine is added.

Finding a qualified mental health practitioner can be daunting. I find it helpful to not allow my religious standards to be muddled. This can be accomplished by finding a practitioner who is a member, or who has an open mind and will not try to change my testimony. Do not be afraid to protect your faith in the gospel. — Karen M. Elliott, San Antonio, Texas

WARN FAMILY, GET SUPPORT

When I feel a panic attack coming on, I may have only a few minutes to warn my family. If they react in anger, the anxiety hits with full force, which is very frightening for them and terrifying for me. Symptoms vary for different people, but I experience an overwhelming loss of control, fear, elevated heart rate, inability to breathe and sometimes severe chest pains. Yet if those around me pick up on my warning, they can sometimes help me avoid it. My daughter will put her arms around me and hold me gently, telling me it will be O.K. — Name withheld, Salem, Utah

SOURCE OF LEARNING

I have come to the realization that the Lord has taught me a lot through my sometimes traumatic experiences with anxiety. He has taught me about humility and about understanding others. He has taught me to rely upon Him and to continue to try even when things get tough. I believe that learning to rely upon the Lord in these trials, combined with the right professional help, can see one through these problems. — Name withheld, New Zealand

EDUCATE SELF, LOVED ONES

Research as much as you can about your particular illness. Reading books, pamphlets, essays and even talking to a professional are ways to learn more. Then share this information with those you love.

The biggest mistake I made was keeping this secret to myself. I was afraid people would make fun of me or not understand, but it was quite the opposite. I have never felt so much love and acceptance. — Heidi Jo Larson, Newhall, Calif.

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