Panic disorders physical

By Tricia Roegner

More than 11 million people in the U.S. suffer from some sort of panic disorder, most of them being college-age students.

Jay Holehan, a 1990 NIU graduate, is one of those people who has suffered from the disorder since his college years. Holehan began experiencing his first panic attacks in December 1989 when he was a junior at NIU.

“I felt like I was dying because I could not control my anxiety at all,” Holehan said.

Although medical research shows that panic disorders are physical, Holehan said the panic attacks started during a stressful time in his college career.

“I was experiencing a lot of pressure to do well on my exams,” he said.

“Because of this, I was pulling a lot of all-nighters and consuming a lot of caffeine in order to keep myself awake,” he said.

When the panic attacks began to occur more frequently, Holehan decided to see some of the psychologists who are at NIU. Holehan said, however, most of the psychologists thought the disorders had simply been brought on by stress.

“The psychologists at NIU said that I was simply experiencing stress that almost all college students sometimes feel,” he said.

Holehan, however, was not just experiencing the common college stress. Panic disorders are physical, and include symptoms such as choking sensations, out-of-body feelings, chest pains and feelings of losing your mind, said Rosemary Lane, director of NIU’s University Health Services.

Lane said although the common misconception is that panic disorders are brought on by stress, the disorder is physical and something a sufferer has no control over it.

“Panic disorder is an illness that one is born with, and that a person has no control of,” Lane said.

After going to a number of other psychiatrists in his hometown, Holehan finally was diagnosed as having a panic disorder which is now controlled by medication.

Holehan said his advice to students who are experiencing some symptoms is to get some sort of counseling or medical help.

“Make sure you go to a psychiatrist who is familiar with treating panic disorders,” Holehan said.