Expert advice

Paul Morgan: mental health advisor

Paul Morgan is Deputy Director of SANE Australia, the mental health charity. He is a leading expert in promoting understanding of mental illness in the community. ASK ME A QUESTION

Panic attacks

Thursday, December 13, 2001
Around 20 percent of Australians are affected by anxiety disorders at some time in their life, so the experiences you describe are actually quite common.

Question:
When I was about 13, for no apparent reason I would have a feeling come over me of nausea, my hearing would be faint and I would find it difficult to concentrate for a few minutes. It was almost as if my brain had shut down. I don't have a social fear or anything like that. These attacks would happen anytime, anyplace. They went away and came back briefly when I was about 19. Now, I'm 22 and I'm getting these attacks again. Can you tell me what's happening to me?

Answer:
The feelings you describe sound very much like panic attacks, where the brain and nervous system are needlessly responding as though you were under great stress or in danger. Panic attacks are a form of anxiety disorder, and it's important to understand that these conditions are treatable — that you can get help to deal with them, and get on with your life again.

Around 20 percent of Australians are affected by anxiety disorders at some time in their life, so the experiences you describe are actually quite common. While the causes aren't fully understood, treatment can usually reduce and even get rid of the symptoms. Talk to your GP about these attacks, mentioning when they've occurred in the past as well, and they will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment. Medication can sometimes be helpful in the short-term, but therapy from a psychiatrist or psychologist is also shown to be very valuable in helping people get on top of these symptoms.

If necessary, the GP can give you a referral to a psychiatrist just as they would to any other form of medical specialist, and with the same Medicare cover. Some parts of the country also have support groups for people with anxiety disorders — contact the SANE Helpline Online at www.sane.org to ask for details about your local area.


"How can I improve my memory?" "I'm 30 and have never had a boyfriend" "Is my daughter a compulsive liar?" Panic attacks
advertisement