Am I Getting Better?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I am a mother of a 17-months-old and have been married since last year. I am originally from Europe and my husband is in the US Military. Four months ago we moved from Europe here to the States. My husband works and I stay at home.

Shortly before leaving Europe I experienced what I now know were anxiety symptoms. I felt like I couldn’t get enough air and my mind was foggy. I was generally scared and apprehensive, and went to see a doctor for my physical symptoms. The doc ran tests which were okay and assumed I was suffering from anxiety. She prescribed Xanax to take as needed to fend of a panic attack. I only once took it. My symptoms disappeared once I got on the plane to the States but about 2 months after my move they came back full-blown. It all started up again when we were visiting my husbands family in another State (I got to meet them for the first time). I suffered from severe panic attacks for about a week, and once we returned home it got slowly better.

I seeked therapy, which I now go to weekly, and I do not take medication. The Xanax has not been very beneficial for me, even when I tried it while having panic attacks so I only took it 2 or 3 times. I hae been improving over the past 2 months, with ups and downs but I no longer have panic attacks at all. What remains is a certain feeling of apprehension, like being “on guard”, and introspective thinking. It’s like I scan myself for how I’m doing.

The only feeling I have not been able to fully overcome yet is derealization, which I get in episodes, mostly around dusk time. The occasional derealization and the “brooding” is really all that’s still bothering me. My question is whether this is the normal course of recovery from panic attacks and anxiety. My therapist says it is, but since I am always on guard and expecting the worst, I sometimes doubt that there’s really nothing majorly wrong with me (i.e. going crazy, staying gloomy forever, never going back to feeling completely like my old self). I would appreciate your take on my situation.

Q. From your short letter, it is difficult to know if there is more going on or if you are indeed getting better. Your symptoms have lessened and you’re in therapy. These are two positive indications that you are improving. I am not sure I understand the “derealization” symptoms or “brooding” that you say you are experiencing so it’s difficult to say what they may indicate. If I knew more about what you meant by these terms I might be able to give you a more precise answer.

Xanax is a medication that is usually prescribed on an “as needed” basis. By this I mean, people generally do not take it on a regular or everyday basis but rather they take it when their symptoms are too much to handle. It’s a fast-acting medication that provides short-term relief. If you take it and it quickly calms you down, then it’s doing its job. Because you feel that overall it’s not that helpful to you, you might want to consider asking your prescribing doctor for a different medication.

It is going to take time to get better. You are in therapy and you are experiencing a reduction in your symptoms. This is the result you should expect out of therapy. I am not sure I can explain or understand your remaining symptoms but from what I can tell from your letter, you are moving in a positive direction. Your therapy does seem to be working.

If you want to write back to detail more about your derealization or “brooding” symptoms, please do. These details may make it easier for me to give you a more specific answer. Good luck and thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Am I Getting Better?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/01/30/am-i-getting-better/

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