Entries in Anxiety Disorders (3)


Charlie Beljan Soldiers on to PGA Tour Win Despite Panic Attack

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images(LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.) -- Charlie Beljan came out on top at this weekend’s PGA Tour event, but on Friday, during the second round, he suffered a panic attack so severe, he thought he wouldn’t be able to finish.

“I thought I was having a heart attack,” he told ABC News. “I felt from the first tee to the 18th, I felt like I was going to pass out but I didn’t have a choice.”

With his future on the PGA tour and his livelihood on the line -- he needed to win the tournament to avoid having to re-qualify for his tour card, Beljan kept the paramedics at bay as he progressed one hole at a time at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

“I told the caddy, I said, ‘I’m not leaving here until I’m getting carted off from the middle of the fairway or somewhere,’” he said. “I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and I got through the day.”

After he finished the round, Beljan was transported by ambulance to a hospital where doctors determined that his heart appeared to be healthy.

Beljan eventually learned that he’d suffered a panic attack or the sudden onset of extreme anxiety.

Extreme anxiety causes the body to pump out adrenalin and epinefren as the body’s fight or flight response kicks in. The physical symptoms can be frightening and resemble a heart attack, with the person experiencing heart palpitations, sweating and a shortness of breath.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 6 million Americans suffer from panic disorders.

“Most often when people experience panic, they try to escape the situation that they find themselves in,” said Dr. Jeffrey Janata, a University Hospitals Case Medical Center psychologist. “He [Beljan,] by virtue of what he was doing, was unable to escape so he had to sort of hang in there while these panic symptoms persisted.”

Beljan said on Friday evening, as he lay in a hospital, he realized how well he had managed to play.

“I finally looked at my phone at 10:30 [p.m.] and that’s when I realized I had a 3-shot lead,” he told ABC News. “It was probably a blessing in disguise because I spent more time worrying about breathing and slowing things down.”

Despite the panic attack, Beljan had carded a 64, his second-best round of the year. He played two more rounds during the weekend, not only keeping his panic at bay and forcing himself to stay calm, but also holding off the rest of the field. His 16-under-par 272 gave him his first PGA victory, making him the fourth rookie to win on tour this year.

“It’s quite remarkable that he was able to kind of talk himself through it,” Janata said, “[and] manage the symptoms cognitively and get through a round and do quite well.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


JetBlue Pilot Rage Likely Not Panic; Drugs or Brain Tumor Possible

Scott Olson/Getty Images(AMARILLO, Texas) -- Clayton Osbon, the pilot who was subdued aboard JetBlue flight 191 after going into a rage, may have had a toxic reaction to infection, drugs or even an encephalitic event caused by a brain tumor.

On a routine flight from JFK Airport in New York to Las Vegas, Osbon "began acting erratically, flipping switches in the cockpit and appearing confused," according to sources.

"The captain of the plane just went berserk," passenger Wayne Holmes told ABC. "He came out of the other end of the plane -- came running back to the cockpit and he was shouting out these numbers -- 500 something. He started banging on the cockpit door."

A passenger subdued Osbon, a veteran captain, and the flight was diverted safely to Amarillo, Texas. There were 131 passengers and six crew members aboard.

Osbon has been "suspended" until questions about his medical condition have been cleared up, ABC has learned.

For now, authorities are saying Osbon, 49, suffered a panic attack. Yet there are still many unanswered questions.

"The JetBlue pilot's behavior is much more than a simple panic attack, which might occur as a result of a phobia or panic disorder," said Una McCann, director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins Medical Institution.

At one point, when a flight attendant asked Osbon what was wrong, he frantically replied, "You'd better start praying right now," and he then began shouting about al Qaeda, a bomb, and warning that the plane would crash, according to passengers on the flight.

"Rage is not a typical feature of uncomplicated panic, so there is clearly something additional that took place here," said McCann. "While JetBlue may not be misinforming the public when they say their pilot had a panic attack, they are not telling the full story."

Panic attacks can also occur in conjunction with paranoid psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks, but McCann said that Osbon's behavior looked more like a drug-induced toxic reaction.

Even a simple fever from an infection can cause hallucinations and confusion, she said. Also, psychotic disorders like schizophrenia are more apt to surface in the teens and 20s. Osbon was 49.

The pilot remains in custody of authorities while under the care of medical professionals in Amarillo. He is expected be released from the medical facility later this week after a 72-hour hold, according to airline sources.

The rest of the flight crew has been taken off duty to help with the investigation and to decompress after the incident, sources said.

More than 40 million Americans suffer from panic attacks, which are characterized by a sudden and repeated fear of disaster or losing control, even when there is no real danger, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety disorder sufferers are mostly women.

Unlike the relatively mild, brief anxiety caused by a stressful event, anxiety disorders last at least six months and can get worse if they are not treated.

They can also occur along with other mental and physical illnesses, including substance abuse.

McCann said that doctors should be able to determine the cause of the pilot's erratic behavior during the next few days.

While hospitalized Osbon is expected to undergo toxic screening, including blood counts to make sure he has no infection, vital signs to see if his temperature is within normal ranges and a neurological exam that might include a scan of the brain, according to McCann.

"A brain tumor could do this," she said of his erratic behavior.

"They will also investigate things that can impact the central nervous system, like drugs," said McCann. "Drugs prescribed over the counter, and, in particular sleep deprivation, can turn someone over the edge."

Doctors will also look for use of stimulants for a potential toxic reaction. "Pilots often have weird shift work," according to McCann, and stimulant abuse is said to be prevalent.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Woman Travels World to Meet All Her Facebook Friends to Beat Anxiety

John Foxx/Thinkstock(WILMETTE, Ill.) -- Last year at this time, Arlynn Presser made a New Year’s resolution that nearly scared her to death.   

The 51-year-old romance novelist and mother of two resolved to travel around the world to meet all 324 of her Facebook friends.

It would have been a daunting mission for anyone, but even more so for Presser:  Her white-knuckled fear of leaving her Wilmette, Ill., home was intense enough to trigger debilitating panic attacks.  She had battled agoraphobia -- a type of anxiety disorder that can be triggered by open spaces, leaving home, crowds or other uncontrolled situations -- since she was a teenager. First, she’d experience sweating and shortness of breath, and then severe pressure in her chest that felt like a heart attack.

 ”I’m not even sure what sets me off. The first anxiety attack was in a thunderstorm in a grocery store.  I had another one in a bookstore. Your world gets smaller and smaller, because the places that become off-limits grows,”  Presser said. ” At one point I was having trouble getting out of my bedroom.”  

 On her blog, she put it this way:

“I’m scared of travel.  I’m scared of flying.  I’m scared of just about anything outside my door.  I probably use Facebook to keep in touch with my friends in a way that may be good or might just give me a false sense of intimacy....I will meet every one of my facebook friends this year, and I figure I’m going to be surprised.  A lot.”

She was. Three hundred and sixty-four days later, Presser had visited 292 friends and traveled to 11 countries. With her 23-year-old son, Joseph, she flew to Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Mumbai, Rome, Austria, Germany and England. Her journey also took her throughout the United States and Mexico. She would still get panic attacks, but her son helped her work though them.

Presser had tried therapy and medication in the past, but nothing seemed to ease her fear.

"I didn’t go to my son’s high school or college graduation, and I never went to his college to visit,” Presser said. But on her Facebook-fueled odyssey, Presser finally got a friend to take her to her son’s alma mater.  ”She took me on a tour of Boston University two years after he graduated. It was amazing. It was the parent’s weekend I never had.”

The year-long journey cost about $30,000, but Presser said it was worth every penny. “I need a little time to sort of process it, but I do feel like I have more of my life back.”

Presser is no longer a prisoner trapped in her home. She was out for a walk in an Illinois Forest Preserve when ABC News reached her by phone for this interview.  Presser said she still got panic attacks but finds herself better able to work through them.

“I think that therapy teaches you to rely on your therapist. Drugs teach you to rely on drugs. This taught me to rely on my friends and myself. ”

There is also power in peer pressure.  Had she not made her resolution public on Facebook, Presser said she would not have had the support and encouragement of friends who held her accountable.

“I think that’s the real important thing about resolutions. If you say publicly to all of your friends, ‘This is what I’m going to do,’ there is this energy and you have to follow through.”

Presser has not made any resolutions this year but said she would likely spend her time trying to help others who battle the same type of paralyzing fear.

“I’m learning there are a lot of us,” she said, “I want to learn how to help people who have reached out to say, ‘I’m just like you.’”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio