Cynthia Santiago, LCSW – “Are These Panic Attacks I’m Having?”

QUESTION: Hi. I recently noticed that one thing that used to bother me as a kid is coming back. Every time I would feel upset, I would get this feeling similar to claustrophobia. I would feel like time started to go really fast and I’d become very hot and nervous. Well, it recently started to happen again and it makes me feel scared. Is this something I should worry about or get checked? Is it a panick attack or something similar?

MS. SANTIAGO’S ADVICE: I’m so glad you are reaching out for help and not keeping yourself isolated with this situation. Some of the symptoms you are describing could be related to an anxiety disorder, and I would strongly recommend that you see a mental health professional that can evaluate your specific needs as soon as possible.

You should know that it’s quite normal to worry or feel anxious or nervous when you may be facing a stressful situation. In fact, anxiety is the body’s natural response to many situations and the body’s way of preparing for threats of danger. In moderation, anxiety is also the body’s way of staying focused and alert, and it can, in healthy doses help you to focus and take action in positive ways. However, when anxiety is constant or overwhelming, it no longer serves a positive function and can be debilitating. This is often the place where anxiety has crossed from being a healthy component into what is commonly referred to as “panic attacks.”

I know it is quite common in the Latino community, where a mix of cultural and socioeconomic factors have combined to stigmatize people with mental health issues, to delay or avoid seeking professional help. I’m not sure if this is the case for you; however, based on the symptoms you described, it is time to confront the fact that your anxiety has reached a point where it is having a negative impact on you. During this time, it is important that you seek confidential treatment with an experienced mental health professional such as a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Ongoing treatment with a mental health professional will allow you to identify the events or circumstances that trigger your anxiety and provide you with the tools you will need to manage your symptoms and overcome the anxiety.

Finding the right mental health professional is important as the therapeutic relationship you build will be important in your treatment. For many people, finding the right therapist can feel daunting. Try not to be discouraged because your efforts will be worth the longer-term benefits you will derive in working with a good mental health professional. You can seek a referral for a therapist from your insurance provider or primary care physician. If you feel comfortable enough, you can also talk with your friends or family and ask them if they have any referrals.

Finally, prepare for your first call or initial consultation by preparing a list of questions you can ask the mental health professional. As a potential client, you have the right to assess and evaluate whether this service provider is a right fit for you.

With love and light on your healing journey,

Cynthia Santiago, LCSW-R


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