Anxiety rears its head in everyone’s life- day to day, hour to hour – anxiety about work, school, relationships, etc. Anxiety passes for most but for some it lingers, destroying the fabric of their existence.
Take the case of Asim. A healthy, happy 29 year old, he followed a life of routine. Work, home and the occasional weekend away. He too got anxious from time to time, but nothing that was much cause for concern. One day, as he was going about his routine, he was struck by an awful feeling of terror. His heart was pounding, his body was trembling, he was dripping sweat from every pore and his breathing was laboured. It would seem that he had just escaped a life threatening situation. All this took place while he was commuting to work. Certain that something serious was happening to him, he took the day off to consult a physician. Finding nothing wrong with him physically, the doctor gave him a clean bill of health. A few more days passed by uneventfully before another such attack occurred, this time as he was heading out to the grocery store. Another trip to the physician confirmed that he wasn’t having a heart attack or a stroke – the things he thought were happening to him.
What begin next changed the course of his life. He grew more obsessed with these panic attacks and dreaded the next such event. The anticipation of this caused him to suffer even more anxiety. Being given the clean bill of health by the doctor, he thought that his attacks could be associated with external factors such as time or location. Having realised that his attacks happened while travelling, he reduced all unnecessary movement. With the passage of time and the increasing number of panic attacks this association grew stronger in his mind. He moved so that he would much closer to his office and thus spend much less time commuting. Asim even started to face problems at work. He spend more and more days sick since he was terrified about stepping out of the house. Eventually he lost his job and ended up as a recluse.
What Asim suffered from is a condition known as panic disorder with agoraphobia. Put simply, it is an anxiety disorder in which a person begins to fear and thus avoid situations or places that can cause them to have panic attacks or places from where they cannot easily escape if they have a panic attack. People develop anxiety about commuting, open spaces, standing in lines or being in crowds. They will then go to extreme lengths to avoid such situations. This condition, although severe, can be reversed. The root cause of this illness in some individuals can be biological. Not all people who suffer panic attacks go on to suffer from agoraphobia but the incidence is known to be high.
With sufficient medication and ample counselling, Asim, and others who suffer from this debilitating condition can be cured. One of the most successful techniques of curing this condition is to get the patient to face their particular fear. This is carried out gradually and with initial guidance from a counsellor.
Taking things slowly, Asim did manage to get his life together again. He still suffers the rare panic attack, but has learnt to push on through.
Please note that the information in this case study should not be considered as medical advice for an individual’s condition. If anyone shows or feel symptoms of a possible medical condition, we strongly encourage you to seek advice from your primary physician or a mental health professional for an evaluation as soon as possible.
The names been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.