Psychology 1301. This course reference sounded slightly intimidating when I added it to my class list for the semester, but I came to discover that the initial intimidation would give way to a treasure trove of useful knowledge and insightful thinking of the inner workings of the mind. The knowledge I gained, and hopefully will retain for a long time to come, has thus far proved to be invaluable to me. This knowledge that I have acquired through this class has taught me much about the problems I have as an individual as well as helping me recognize some traits that show in individuals I associate with. The excellent expertise of my professor on the subject was definitely a plus too.

One of the sections that caught my attention in particular was psychological disorders, and more specifically the portions that spoke on anxiety and panic disorders. To understand panic disorder, one must first understand anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders involve uncontrollable fears that are usually blown way out of proportion to the actual danger the person might be in, and may prove to be disruptive of ordinary life. People with high levels of anxiety tend to worry a lot, but the anxiety they experience does not always impact their ability to function. Anxiety disorders on the other hand may feature motor tension like jumpiness or fidgeting, hyperactivity such as dizziness or a racing heart. Panic disorder is when someone experiences a very sudden onset of some sort of fear that would otherwise, outside of that state of mind, be considered irrational.

With panic disorder, people experience recurrent, sudden onsets of intense apprehension or terror, most of the time without warning and with no specific cause. Panic attacks, which from my experience are a horrible thing to have happen, can produce severe heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pains, and an impending sense of doom. Many of these symptoms are directly in line with those of a heart attack, which can be deadly and can lead to more panic as one thinks about this fact. I personally suffer from panic disorder, and used to have terrible panic attacks. The very first time that I experienced a panic attack I thought that I was having a heart attack and was going to die. I was only 20 so that diagnosis was highly unlikely, but in my state of sheer terror and panic, these sort of facts had no meaning to me. I remember being extremely stressed out at the time, but these stressors weren’t currently on my conscious thought. I stood up from a sitting position, and felt like I had been filled with lead that was coursing to my feet, I felt extremely heavy. My heart rate instantly shot up and I turned ghost white, I turned to my girlfriend and exclaimed “Something is NOT RIGHT”! I had my friend drive me to the hospital, but half way there I thought I was going to die so I told her to pull over and call 9-1-1. It was by chance that we pulled over next to a police officer and he was able to get on the radio and summon an ambulance for us. I remember that as soon as I was inside the ambulance I started to feel better, being in the presence of medical professionals that could help me if something went wrong was extremely comforting. They told me that my heart rate was almost 190 beats per minute and that they strongly advised that I go to the hospital. I refused because I was feeling better and I was unsure if my insurance would cover an ambulance ride. There was no specific cause as to why this panic attack took place, but it scared me. For a while after that I would rush off to the hospital at any sort of abnormality in the feeling in my chest. I have since been put on an SSRI as well as a benzodiazepine to control my anxiety with great success. The textbook says that women are two times more likely to experience panic disorders. I disagree with this; I believe that it has a lot to do with past experiences and current stressors. I have had a gun held to my head twice, and it was shortly after these unfortunate experiences that I started having problems. This experience is what caused me to be so intrigued when the subjects of panic disorders and anxiety arose in class.

Another couple of subjects that caught my attention were psychotherapy and drug therapy. Psychotherapy is, in a sense, counseling. You speak to someone who is required by law to respect your privacy, and you are supposed to feel comfortable speaking to them. They in turn try to delve deeper into your mind to find the underlying causes, perhaps residing in your unconscious, of your psychological problems. It helps individuals with psychological disorders recognize and overcome their problems. There are a number of strategies employed to alleviate symptoms of psychological disorders: talking, interpreting, listening, rewarding, and modeling. When I was a kid, my parents got divorced when I was around nine years old. My father got custody of me and was concerned when my grades began to slip. He began me on a play therapy route of counseling. I don’t remember it ever doing much for me; I never wanted to talk to the therapist. I was surrounded by games and toys, so the last thing on my mind was facing the problems that they wanted me to get off of my chest; I wasn’t ready to confront my problems. Albeit I was only a child, and hearing from a child that they aren’t ready to talk about their problems may seem a bit farfetched. It wasn’t until sometime after I entered my early adulthood that I realized that deep within myself I wasn’t ready at the time.

Drug therapy for psychological problems covers a few categories including anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and schizophrenia. My focus will discuss two of them; antianxiety drugs and antidepressant drugs. Antianxiety drugs, also known as tranquilizers reduce anxiety by making a person calmer and less excitable. Benzodiazepines generally offer the greatest relief for anxiety symptom, I can vouch for this first hand, but that will come later. Antianxiety drugs are used to improve people’s ability to cope with their problems effectively but they are best used only temporarily for symptomatic relief. Antidepressant drugs regulate a person’s mood, they act on ones neurotransmitters and allow the persons brain to increase or maintain its level of important neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine. There are four classes of antidepressants: tricyclics, tetracyclics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. After my traumatic gun-to-the-head experience as I stated above, the first line of drugs prescribed to me was a very mild regimen of Xanax, a common benzodiazepine. This worked great, as I took them twice a day, and as needed when my anxiety would spike up. I later expressed concern that I was having problems in between doses, and thus was taking more to alleviate my symptoms. My doctor then prescribed me Zoloft, a common selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, leaving me with the Xanax as a backup should I experience a sudden panic attack. This regimen worked, and continues to do so, very well for me. SSRI’s are classified as an antidepressant, but can be prescribed off label for other things, most commonly panic disorders. The most absurd thing I find about my whole situation though is that it is not a psychiatrist or therapist that prescribed me these, but my rheumatologist. I originally went to see a rheumatologist because I was thinking that my chest pain may be attributed to ankylosing-spondylitis, a degenerative arthritis that runs in my family. That was however not the case, so my rheumatologist took it in to her hands to manage my anxiety in hopes that it would help with the pain as well. I can’t say that the pains resembling a heart attack are completely gone, but they are definitely less often, and less intense.

I am extremely glad that I took a psychology class, it has taught me many invaluable things about myself and I hope that with the knowledge I have gained here I can continue this path of self-recognition of problems and calm myself down whenever I feel as though I am letting my mind get the better of me. The mind is a vast expanse of knowledge and power contained in a small space, and I hope to learn as much as possible about it. This class and the way it was taught has actually made me think about changing my major to something psychology related. I never fathomed that something like that would happen, but I apparently have taken a profound interest in how people think and why they think what they do. Lastly, I would like to thank you for the knowledge you have shared with me. I am aware this is slightly off topic, but it is a reflection paper isn’t it?

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