An interview with a 22-year old male with panic disorder

Hi there. I am a 22 year old student finishing my Bachelor degree. In my free time I like to read, write, watch movies, hike in the nature and take photos. I also like to spend time with my friends and family, probably just like you. If I had to point out something, that makes me different from most of you, I'd probably mention I am suffering from panic disorder. Panic disorder is characterized by reoccuring panic attacks, which are periods of intense fear that include somatic symptoms, like shortness of breath, palpitations etc. They lead to different behavioral and cognitive outcomes, such as avoidance of places associated with one of the attacks. In this interview, psychology students from EFPSA's Social Impact Initiative explored how life with this condition is like for me, and if you want to know more, you're most welcome to read it.

. How would you (figuratively) describe your mental disorder?

I would describe it as a ghost that starts strangling you out of the blue and disappears after it had its fun.            

Are you in treatment for your disorder?

            I'm in treatment.

How has living with the condition shaped who you are today?

            Hasn't really.

In what way did your disorder have the biggest influence/impact on your life?

            My life satisfaction has decreased. I often don't see the point of suffering every day.

What would you like the world to know regarding mental disorders?

That stigmatization feels horrible. A person living with a mental disorder like mine has to battle themselves every day, which isn't easy. You feel as if your body is betraying your soul, or vice versa, since it's the mind that brings the body down to its knees. To sum up, it takes a lot of effort for you to get better. If you perceive that others view you as very different, »broken« even, it's a huge additional load to handle. We just need understanding and acceptance.

What would help you in your situation right now the most?

            If I could take a break from current life for recovery time and finding meaning of life again.

What kind of reaction do you normally get from people if you tell them about your mental disorder?

            Uff, I'm very stressed too. You need  just to relax, and everything will be better.

What reaction would you like to get?

That somebody says I shouldn't be ashamed of myself and I shouldn't be afraid of saying if there is anything they can do for me.

How does the disorder affect your close personal relationships?

Everyone wants to help, but often they start blaming me – that I'm the one to blame for my disorder or they start minimizing my problems or interpreting it from their own point of view and that hurts me a lot. However I wouldn't say the dynamics of my close relationships has changed a lot.  

Do you feel reduced to your mental disorder when you talk to people?

Rarely. Surprisingly, I had that feeling the most while telling some doctors or other medical staff about my disorder, which was an unpleasant surprise.

What would be the question that you would like to be asked by others?

            Are you ok? Describe how you really feel!

How could people help you?

If you truly want to help a person with a mental disorder, get to know their condition. You can help most by being aware of the condition and more understanding. By knowing what helps and what doesn't – because a lot of people say things that don't really help with the best intentions. But, as Madonna puts it – the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

What is your favourite book about mental health / psychology or in general?

A thousand splendid suns by Khaled Hosseini.


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