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Don't Call it a Panic Attack...

burnout trauma trauma/ptsd Apr 01, 2023

Panic attacks are real, and they are important. Episodes of sudden onset of intense anxiety, impending sense of doom, often with racing heart, rapid breathing, nausea, tingly fingers and lips.

Similar too, but distinct from panic attacks are trauma responses. Trauma responses may have the exact same symptoms as panic attacks, but they are 1.) triggered by a stimulus and 2.) occur in people who have felt their well-being endangered in some way. This could have been a physically threatening situation, such as a car accident or an assault, but it could also have been situations where they felt psychologically threatened or trapped in some way. It may have occurred once, or it may have occurred over and over again.

In my experience, much of what Physicians experience, which they may label as "panic attacks," are actually trauma responses.

This distinction matters because trauma is more deeply embedded in the brain than anxiety and depression, and the treatments required are different. I say this not to undermine the role of the traditional treatments of medication and therapy; I prescribe these routinely for patients. But when someone has deeper trauma, they will not respond to these treatments alone. And they will feel broken and unfixable. 

I know because I have been one of these people. And I felt broken and unfixable.

Trauma requires different treatments, often involving body and brain connections. Most well-known is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). But other effective therapies are available, including Brain Spotting and Craniosacral Therapies, both of which are also evidence-based. These treatments, and other trauma-focused treatments are working on rewiring the nervous system from conditioned responses, rather than numbing or masking the neural pathways.

If you are a Physician, experiencing debilitating symptoms of trauma, including nightmares, emotional outbursts and/or trauma responses, help is available.

Physician Support Line: 1-888-409-0141

EMDR Institute:

Brain Spotting:

CranioSacral Therapy: Search for a provider in your area

Hi There!

I'm Megan. I'm a Physician and a Life Coach and a Mom. I created this blog to help other Physicians and Physician-Moms learn more about why they feel exhausted, burned-out and overwhelmed, and how to start to make changes. I hope that you enjoy what you read, and that it helps you along your journey. And hey, if you want to talk about coaching with me, I'm here for that too! I offer a free 1:1 call to see if we are a good fit. Click the button below to register today.

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