How do I get my panic attacks in a car under control?
May 27, 2008 12:28 PM Subscribe
How do I get panic attacks, triggered by the threat of a real physiological condition, under control? Warning: Somewhat gross discussion inside.
posted by wolftrouble to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Obviously this question is a bit embarrassing, and I've been holding off for months asking it in any forum at all. But I have to admit that the situation has gotten beyond my control and I don't know what to do.
I've always had what you could call a nervous stomach or, more clinically, IBS. The short version of the symptoms is that it's difficult for me to remain 'regular', and when I do need to have a bowel movement, it's an immediate thing - I go from feeling a twinge, to a painful ache in my intestines, to needing a bathroom in the space of about ten minutes.
Nervousness has always been a kind of trigger for it, but for a long time I had the situation under pretty good control - With fiber supplements and a careful diet I could manage a pretty normal once-daily cycle, with only the occasional emergency outside my normal time if I was really anxious about something.
At some point, starting about a year ago, I started getting nervous when I was in my car. My commute in the morning and evening is very, very congested - 17 miles takes me about 45 minutes to an hour during rush hour. It may have been because a couple of times I found myself stuck on the highway when my body decided it was time to 'go', but that's happened before, so I don't know if that's what precipitated it. But whatever the reason, I've gone from being a little anxious when stuck in traffic to on the verge of a panic attack ANYTIME I'm in my car at all.
Even if there's no bad traffic, or maybe just the threat of bad traffic, there's this pit of fear in my stomach I can't get rid of. If there IS traffic, or if I'm in a situation where I know I won't be able to quickly get to a bathroom (long bridges for example), I spend the whole drive in what I assume must be a full-on panic attack - I don't know, I've never felt anything like them before, but I figure that's what it is. I'm sweating, terrified, my stomach starts hurting something fierce, and I can't think of anything else. And that triggers at least what feels like my body needing to have a bowel movement, which makes it something of a vicious cycle.
I don't think my physiological condition has changed, this seems to be mental - I don't really have to have a bowel movement until I start panicking and the nervousness makes my intestines clench up. Even right now, writing this post, I'm squirming in my chair and my stomach's making sad noises at me, just because I'm thinking about it.
I don't know what to do. Long car rides are a near-impossibility for me now, I can't go on recreational motorcycle rides like I used to, and in a few months I'm going on a driving tour through Europe that I have no idea how I'm going to cope with. I'm not exaggerating when I say this happens every time I get in the car now, it's become an absolute trigger - I feel fine, I get behind the wheel or in the passenger seat of a friend's car, and that knot forms in my gut. I live in California, so driving a lot is a requirement for my life.
Anyone had this or similar problems they could offer advice on?