Panic Attacks Can Go Hand-in-Hand with Parkinson’s Disease

Panic Attacks Can Go Hand-in-Hand with Parkinson’s Disease

Twice in the past month I have had what I am calling panic (anxiety) attacks, which are something I had never experienced before. I had shortness of breath and my heart was beating much faster than normal. Since the only activity I was involved in at the time was trying to go to sleep, it concerned me. It scared me enough that I told my husband about it the following day.

I consulted Dr. Google and here’s what I found:

A study showed that panic attacks in Parkinson’s disease could possibly be a long-term complication of levodopa therapy. The keyword here is “possibly,” which isn’t definitive enough for me, plus the study is from 1993. I skipped that one and continued my search.

Dr. Google led me to the Parkinson’s Foundation, which stated, “Anxiety is a common non-motor symptom of PD. It is important to note that anxiety is not simply a reaction to the diagnosis of Parkinson’s, but is instead a part of the disease itself, caused by changes in the brain chemistry of the brain.”

It went on to say that, “Anxiety (or panic) attacks usually start suddenly with a sense of severe physical and emotional distress. Individuals may feel as if they cannot breathe or are having a heart attack. They may feel they are experiencing a medical emergency. These episodes usually last a few minutes to an hour, particularly when associated with ‘off’ periods, though they can last for longer periods of time.” 

Several different sources agree that some of the symptoms of a panic attack can be trouble sleeping, heart palpitations, hyperventilating, uncontrollable worry, chest pain, dizziness, tunnel vision, and hot or cold flashes.

Bingo. They hit that nail on the head.

The list goes on and it can be hard to diagnose what is happening, as the symptoms mimic other possibilities of what could be going on. 

When I identified what I believed to be the culprit (a panic attack), I made a note to bring it up at my upcoming appointment with my neurologist. Until then, I decided to rely on the hope and faith I had within me. I forced myself to breathe normally and drew deep upon that faith. The attack finally subsided and I was able to quit worrying about getting the porch fixed and the gate repaired and the shower installed and the sink replaced and …

Here I go again … 

This time I’m diving deep into that faith before the panic kicks in. 

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

Sherri was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s disease over fifteen years ago. She can be found working in her garden, going for walks, taking pictures, or reading books to her three favorite grandkids. Taking life somewhat slower, and perhaps with guarded steps, but she’s not giving in.
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Sherri was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s disease over fifteen years ago. She can be found working in her garden, going for walks, taking pictures, or reading books to her three favorite grandkids. Taking life somewhat slower, and perhaps with guarded steps, but she’s not giving in.

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13 comments

  1. Paul Kustow says:

    Panic attacks are a frequent and regular accompaniment to my wife’s, at least two major ‘off’ periods every day. These are characterised by tightness in the chest, making breathing difficult and this symptom can be very alarming and frightening for her. She has had one course of CBT to help her control the panic attacks, but she is now being referred for a second course, as she is now no better than she was before the CBT.
    She saw her GP this morning to ask amongst other question if Ventolin might help with the breathlessness, but the response was negative. The doctor did not believe Ventolin would help with this symptom, hence the second referral for CBT.
    I guess the difficulties breathing are due to dystonia in the chest wall, or even in the diaphragm and I fully understand that Ventolin would probably not deal with dystonia.
    She does use the Headspace meditation app, which help ps somewhat.

    • tom says:

      I do not fully grasp how your system works, but will try to make a comment. Exercise and, to a lesser extent, diet are the Holy Grail of living with PD, along with mental endeavor. I do some yoga every day, plus each day swim, hike, bike, or golf. If the workout is strenuous, I find that taking a small booster of leva dopa helps avoid getting “droopy”

  2. I too came close to a panic attack last April. Haven’t had one for forty years. Definitely think it was brain chemistry; I was not taking levodopa yet (or any other medicine.) My opinion was this was part of my PD.

    Thank you for sharing,
    Zack

  3. Susan says:

    My mother has had Parkinson’s related panic attacks for over two years now. Some so bad we brought her to the ER – only to have everything checked out “ok” and handed some Ativan. It helped, but not a long term solution. She has also tried CBT oil and has adverse reactions… the episodes are now daily, more prolonged and horrible to endure. Increasing Levadopa does nothing for her… anyone here find something, medical / otherwise, that works?

  4. Sadiq hussain says:

    Iam also facing same problem anxiety attacks seviour headache palpatation mouth dry dizziness sweating shaking since 2017 April after a year I came to know that this is called panic attack and it also called anxiety attacks .but after a long year gap I start working since I came to know is only symptoms nothing more than that

  5. Raine says:

    I’ve suffered from panic attacks and severe aniexty for now 30 yrs. 30 yrs of my life have been stolen from this horrible illness. I’ve been on every med possible.. I truly wish there was some cure.. It would be great to enjoy my life.

  6. Von says:

    I have had anxiety for 3 years noe i cant seem too find the right solution too help or relax it but Benadryl an i have two children that suffers behind my sickness pleasr give me some tips too ask my doctor about or home remedies thanks

  7. CTEPARKY says:

    Propanol is a great Panic Attack treatment. It will lower blood pressure a few points so that should be considered and discussed with your Dr.

  8. Janet McAlister says:

    My dad started having panic attacks in his 40s before his Parkinson’s symptoms became obvious. It made him sad because he couldn’t attend church or go to my concerts. He eventually went to a clinic that taught biofeedback and meditation techniques to help control it.

    Parkinson’s runs in my family and when I began having occasional panic attacks I was concerned it was an early sign for me as well. Then when I developed a tremor in my 50s I felt was really concerned. About that time I had genetic testing that showed our family has a rare mutation that causes low serum uric acid levels (uric acid helps protect the brain). I started taking a supplement to raise my levels and the tremor went away and the panic attacks disappeared.

    • Susan says:

      Janet, EVERYONE, Thank you so much for this information!

      Mom has a doctor appt tomorrow and will ask about low serum uric acid levels, Propanol, Biofeedback…. Grateful for the community and sharing!

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