Coping with Panic Attacks
Right as the interview started in our Prineville office, Christopher Koontz made it clear he had a rough night.
“I had a really bad panic attack last night,” he said. “It’s always tough for me to think clearly the next day.”
But for the next hour, Koontz talked about the debilitating panic attacks that brought him to LCS Northwest and the progress he is making. His first panic attack hit when he was working alone at a pizza and sandwich shop in 2015. His mom took him to the ER.
“I thought I was having a heart attack, but they told me I was having a panic attack,” Koontz said. At first, the attacks came every two weeks. Then the frequency picked up to having them every day.
Doctors said the panic attacks stem from an old spinal injury that creates anxiety. Koontz eventually spent 9 days at an inpatient psychiatric facility, where he was heavily sedated. Heavy sedation wasn’t the direction he wanted to go.
Then last December, he came to LCS Northwest in Prineville. He started individual counseling and group therapy. His panic attacks have diminished to once a week.
“I worked to lower my anxiety,” Koontz said. “My thinking started changing and how I was acting.”
When panic attacks hit, he can usually control them within 20 to 45 minutes. He thinks about positive things, uses breathing techniques, and opens a binder full of notes and pictures. The binder helps him focus.
He participates in two groups – Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Healthy Boundaries. He’s met others who experience panic attacks. He’s met some who no longer have them.
“Being able to talk and share that you have problems makes us more comfortable with our own problems,” Koontz said. “You don’t feel alone. It’s not as scary.”
Koontz says he is much happier and smiles a lot more now. But, he’s not where he wants to be in life. An excellent math student who has already taken two types of calculus, Koontz is more than half way to an associate’s degree in accounting.
“I just want to be self-reliant,” he said. “I have a long ways to go.”
His goals include owning a one-story house, earning a decent paycheck, and becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
“I can’t say that I’ve made any progress without Lutheran’s help,” Koontz said. “They have all the resources and tools available for people like me.”