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

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

by Sherri Woodbridge |

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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. 

***

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.

Comments

Paul Kustow avatar

Paul Kustow

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.

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tom avatar

tom

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"

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Zachari I Partridge avatar

Zachari I Partridge

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

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Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Thank YOU for sharing!

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Will avatar

Will

I’m 38 with PD and just started experiencing the symptoms a couple days ago. Almost a week ago I had one and ended up calling the ambulance and going to the ER for treatment. Other than the PD, I exercise regularly and I’m still in good health. But I would like to get These panic attacks under control. Any feedback would be very much appreciated. Thanks!

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Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Will - Panic attacks can be scary. What helps me most is to close my eyes, take deep breaths and say the name of Jesus as I exhale. Since I started doing this, they don’t last long at all, nor scare me like they did. If you are not a Christian or there are some who think this is crazy, you could take deep breaths and say ‘peace’ as you exhale. I think it is getting your mind off of what is happening to you and calming yourself down. Good luck.

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Karrie D avatar

Karrie D

Sherri,
Thanks so much for sharing this! ❤️ I have young onset Parkinson's diagnosed at 39 & I'm now 47. I take two 25/250 four times a day and 25/100s whenever I need them throughout the day and night. I just had my 1st panic attack ever last week , but since then I've had probably 6-9! They last between 15 minutes to 2 hours & they're terrifying! I can't breathe right? I get shortness of breath, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, but the worst is the horrific FEAR that grips me! Like I think about what will happen when my husband died. Not about him being my caregiver, but I just love him so much & I panic, more like freak out that I can't live without him. We are strong Christians and I've tried reciting Bible verses and prayers, but I will definitely try your method next time. Thanks so much ❤️❤️

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Hi Karrie - I’m so sorry you are experiencing the panic attacks. They can be debilitating, to be sure. As you try “my method”, to be even more specific when the attacks come on, I just say Jesus’ name over and over again. It’s my “foolproof” method, but I can’t get that specific in my articles. Thanks for commenting. My prayers are with you and - we are in this together! -sherri

Susan avatar

Susan

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?

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Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Thanks Susan for your comment - hopefully we’ll get some responses with something that works!

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Rigo avatar

Rigo

Why sherry.
List wondering how do you know if someone has PD or anxiety symptoms.

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Sadiq hussain avatar

Sadiq hussain

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

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Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Thanks for sharing your experience!

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Raine avatar

Raine

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.

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Von avatar

Von

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

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CTEPARKY avatar

CTEPARKY

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.

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Janet McAlister avatar

Janet McAlister

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.

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Susan avatar

Susan

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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Charlie avatar

Charlie

I’m 44 and had my first panic attack two days ago. Since then I have felt on edge, panicky, and have a lot of anxiety. I am dreading the next time they have a panic attack. I also kind of feel nervous and trembling somewhat. This has put me into a depression. I know my grandmother had Parkinson’s so I am concerned that I may have the same. I would like to thank everybody for sharing their experiences:).

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Kyle avatar

Kyle

Thank you for sharing. Can you advise on which genetic testing facility or service you used/recommend?

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Michelle Rowe avatar

Michelle Rowe

My Mother has panic attacks almost daily. They do seem worse during her off times but could occur at any time. Any physical or mental distress can trigger one. This is especially heartbreaking because she has been an athlete all her life and now can hardly walk around her yard without experiencing a panic attack. She also has such bad mucus buildup from the Parkinson’s that it will trigger an episode too. These have lasted from 15 minutes to over 8 hours. You just never know. We tried all meds, Behavorial therapy, new doctors and basically any suggestions I could find online to try, all with no solutions. The only thing we have now that provides her any relief is an oxygen concentrator which we put on her as soon as it begins. It seems the pure oxygen is not a solution but helps!

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Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Michelle - i am so sorry your mom is dealing with panic attacks - it can definitely can be scary and that coming from one who has experienced next to nothing to what it sounds like both your mom and you are dealing with. My prayers are with you...

Reply
Mari avatar

Mari

My mom has had Parkinson's for a decade. She has taken Cardidopa/Levadopa for that entire time. She now suffers dyskinesia, as a side effect of the long term use of C/L as it necessarily affects 100% of persons who use it for a decade or more. Recently she began experiencing panic attacks that range from controllable, to spinning out of control at full speed. She has the sudden fright of someone falling from a building. She was prescribed Ativan, and it doesnt work well enough for the panic disorders. Now we give her THC infused coconut oil, and though we have to wait for it to kick in, for what feels like FOREVER, when it kicks in, we have ourselves a guaranteed relaxation period.

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Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Glad to hear you have found a silver lining in this disease !

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Safia Iqbal avatar

Safia Iqbal

This article connects me exactly to the time when I was captured by panic attacks. My case got worst as I am an insomniac and sleep is the best cure to calm your nerves. I have been to psychologists and attended a few CBT sessions. However, for me the best treatment was self-awareness. Now, I know the triggering symptoms and I can treat it before it gets out of my control.

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Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Panic attacks are no fun! Glad you have found the triggering symptoms and can get to it before they get to you! Thanks so much for your comment!

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Paco johnson avatar

Paco johnson

I found the instant cure for anxiety and panic attacks for me is klonopin.Just .5 mg twice a day.Only physciatrist can issue that much.They act like I am a junkie when I ask for that much so my primary care doctor has tried me on every ssri and a few other things no help.

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