I come from a family of psychiatrists (both my father and my sister are psychiatrists) so you could say that psychiatry was in my blood to begin with. But more importantly with respect to anxiety, I was a painfully shy kid and so I had to live with anxiety on a daily basis from an early age. Wow. I come from a family of psychiatrists (both my father and my sister are psychiatrists) so you could say that psychiatry was in my blood to begin with. But more importantly with respect to anxiety, I was a painfully shy kid and so I had to live with anxiety on a daily basis from an early age. Wow.
That gave me serious motivation even as a child to figure out how to break out of anxiety so that I could enjoy my life more completely.
Much later, as a psychiatrist and then eventually as a clinical instructor at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, I continued to be fascinated by the treatment of anxiety disorders for several (well, OK, mainly three) reasons. The first is that there are lots of great studies showing that anxiety disorders can be treated quickly and effectively (and, let’s face it, if I’m going to do something for a living, it might as well be something that works!).
The second is that the treatment of anxiety disorders (in particular, with a type of therapy known as cognitive behavioral therapy) involves teaching people how to become their own therapists which has always appealed to me more then the idea of keeping someone in treatment with me for years. And, finally, I learned how to get rid of my own anxiety for good using the techniques that I was teaching!
About two years ago, I was in a situation where I had already conquered my social anxiety and had a thriving practice treating both panic disorder and shyness. I had already seen how the therapy works “hand on” in my own battle with social anxiety, but I had never yet experienced a panic attack.
Like many patients, my first panic attack occurred one night in the context of using a drug. I experimented with drugs very sparingly in college because they had the tendency to make me paranoid. But this one particular night, I had been years without trying, and figured I had defeated my social anxiety to the extent that paranoia would no longer be an issue for me. I was right. But what
I didn’t count on was the sudden, first-ever panic attack that I was to experience. I had “the works”, physical symptoms (I won’t list the full symptoms because I don’t want to trigger you), racing thoughts, an intense fear that I was going crazy (most people fear fainting, a heart attack, vomiting, or being lost in a void, but the fear of going crazy is pretty
So, being a psychiatrist that already specialized in panic disorder, I busted out my cognitive behavioral techniques. And you know what… they worked!
I broke out of the panic attack after a few minutes and was able to rejoin my friends. Later, I actually felt happy that I got to experience at least one panic attack. It gave me a taste of what my patients have had to go through on a regular basis and also how they have been able to break through it using the therapy.
My actual book on panic disorder started out as a series of handouts that I used to give my patients after our therapy sessions. I was finally talked into developing those handouts into a book and also a website after conducting a Google search. Many of my patients were coming in with confusing and contradictory information about panic disorder from the internet. Oddly enough, although all of them had already heard of cognitive behavioral therapy, none of them had been able to find detailed information on how to actually do it!
My Google searches confirmed my patient’s experiences. I was alarmed by both the variable quality of information about panic disorder on the internet, and also by the lack of websites that specifically describes how to do cognitive behavioral therapy in detailed step-by-step way. The situation was as follows:
All of the major university, psychiatric association, and psychological association websites recommended cognitive behavioral therapy for panic disorder, but none of them told you how to do it!