So what’s all this about the National Institute of Health reporting, “More than 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety each year, many in the form of anxiety attacks.” What’s with this label ‘attack?’ I can understand a shark attack, a heart attack, an attack of indigestion, but how does anxiety attack…?
If you can’t answer that, be glad. You don’t want to know! It’s defined as a a sudden onslaught of symptoms that can unexpectedly paralyze you with an inexplicable mix of fearfulness, self consciousness, depersonalization, dizziness, sweating, nausea, and a cold crawling panic about your immediate surroundings.
Case in point this last summer. A well-known Broadway actor suffering from chronic anxiety attacks was rushed from backstage to an ER with these symptoms. The staff told him it was a mild heart attack. He remembers sitting up and telling them, “Thank god, I thought it was going to be an anxiety attack!”
Two schools of thought about psychiatric illnesses. One is the traditional, up-by-your-own-bootstraps bravado which dismisses these as “it’s all in your mind.” Ironically, that’s the point! The mind still remains largely a mystery to us, and so too its many diseases and cures. You can keep a smile-on-your-face and whistle-a-happy-tune from here to forever, but that won’t change either here or forever. Panic attacks have been plaguing the human species since the beginning but cavalierly dismissed as: weakness, foolishness, or the work of the devil.
Modern societies have learned otherwise; however, this learning has not always seeped down to where the boys belly up to the bar and the ladies who lunch scoff at their suffering peers. There are many plagues across the land. The terrible ones you can see like hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Then the even more terrible ones you can’t see.
It took a war to finally recognize post-traumatic-disorder. Now what’s it going to take…?
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