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Being in a Dark Place – Panic Attacks

James ulcerative colitis Michigan

James from Michigan


I am from Michigan and have been diagnosed with UC since 1993. I’m 43 years old and my hobbies include boating (Lake Michigan), golfing, scuba diving, biking/hiking, camping, exercising and photography.

Colitis Symptoms:

Urgency to go to the bathroom four to six times a day. Pain in left side. Cramping. Achiness after going to the bathroom. Gas and bloating. No blood since I am in “remission” according to the Doctors. Yeah, right….. I sure don’t classify this as “in remission”.

High anxiety/panic attacks.


I feel UC has held me back in many ways.

I do have a hard time dealing with it. The worst part for me is all the anxiety/panic attacks I get when I am placed in situations as to where I feel I cannot get away quick enough to head to the bathroom. Put me on a plane or bus and it is shear terror for me. In fact, I feel this way most of the time just by leaving the house. I do take Amodium and even put on Depends undergarments (embarrassing to say that), and it only helps a little in the mental department.

The hardest part of this disease is my phobia of becoming “sick” in front of others. It seems that I cannot shake this feeling and I am getting further and further depressed about it. My wife helps, but I admit that I hide it a lot when I am in pain and feel that I am in the middle of an “episode”. Call me crazy, but I have a very strong feeling of not letting my pain affect others.

Why should my pain be a burden onto others?

Maybe that is why I get those panic attacks knowing that I could embarrass or make others feel uncomfortable if I am thrown into one of my episodes.

As you can see from my Bio, I am an active person….but with a price. Everything that I do, I have a panic attack either before or during an activity. How can someone fully enjoy life and enjoy these activities when you live like this? How can I take away the full enjoyment that my wife deserves in my condition and my mental state? I am ALWAYS….and I mean ALWAYS thinking about my condition and when and where it will hit. A simple walk outside turns into a mental struggle for me.

Most of the time, I feel that I am in a deep dark place that one can never get out.

Colitis Medications:

I am currently taking the following medications: three 3mg pills of Entocort, three 50mg of Imuran, four 1.2g pills of Lialda, one 1000mg pill Canasa, one pill of Lomotil, one to two pills of Hyomax-FT and Amodium as needed.

I wish I could tell you that this combination of pills work. They may keep a huge flareup from presenting itself, but I still have the urgency / bloating / gas and slight pain that comes with UC. It seems the only difference that I am having now when compared to a full blown flareup is slightly less frequency of going to the bathroom (average 4 to 5 times a day…..mainly in the morning), gut does not hurt as much (but still does at a lesser degree) and no blood in the stool.

Sometimes I wonder if these pills do give me some the symptoms of UC, but helps keep it from going full blown. I just want these pills to make me feel close to being normal again, but they don’t.

Also, is there some pills to help with the anxiety and panic attacks without side effects? :o) Yeah…just what I need….more pills. :o)

written by James

submitted in the Colitis Venting Area


21 thoughts on “Being in a Dark Place – Panic Attacks”

  1. hey, im 22 was diagnosed with UC in november. But I am living with panic attacks since I am 15 so I feel your pain. Some people don’t think there a big deal but oh yes they are they take over your entire life, but the secret is to “fight” them. Tell these panic attacks you are not going to let them ruin your day and tell them to go away. LOL seriously it can work in some situations. Easier said than done but sure give it a try. Im on Lexapro and xanex for my panic attack and also go to see a councillor which I would recommend talking to someone professionaly soon because my panic attacks turned into a long road of beating depression its a hard rut to get out of. I don’t really have any more advice to give you but be strong and don’t feel like your a burden to your wife she would prob prefer you tell her how you feel so she can support you and you will feel a hell of alot better by getting it off your chest. Always remember YOU have control don’t let panic attacks control you. Wish you all the best and hope you are back to yourself soon enough.. :)

    1. Thanks Lynsey! I appreciate the feed back. It may take a differnt mental approch on my part to help me in those panic modes. I keep a LOT inside. Maybe I need to let it out sometimes. Acutally say things out loud like “I’m O.K….I’m O.K….I’m O.K.” I don’t mean scream it out loud, but softly say it out loud. :o) Screaming it out loud may cause other issues with people. LOL!!!

      I was thinking about seeing a professional or councelor about my panic attacks, but really do not know where to begin. May take a little research on my part here in my neck of the woods.

      thanks again for the input!

      1. no prob.wish i cud help.. i was told during a panic attack so its not obvious to others get a tissue put ur favourite smell/scent on it an sniff it.u could pretend ur blowing ur nose in public, if u take it in a deep breath it relaxes u,jus cud just pop this tissue in ur pocket as a safety blanket..hope it helps.. all the best to u.. :)

  2. Sorry to hear about your panic attacks James, I can’t relate somewhat only because my brother Stephen is having the same problems right now. Technically you could say because he’s not bleeding and his colon looks pretty good he’s in a remission but yet he still has a lot of bloating going on. He is on a really strict diet as well. He sticks to the SCD diet but also doesn’t eat gluten and has issues with almonds and some other things that normally would be ok on the diet but give him issues. Please take my advice do what you can to try to avoid going on any medication for anxiety please please please. He is on so much medication is unfreakin real. I think after having control over his disease for 17 years and with the last flare he was in mentally he was broken down. They have him on klonopin, remeron, seroquel, and ambien(the last two because he has insomnia) plus asacol, eczema creams and rowasa, all together I know I’m forgetting some but he takes like 13 meds. He went to Cleveland Clinic recently and they did get him of Zoloft and Xanax which was great but then put him on Seroquel and Ambien plus the klonopin. It’s awful!! I know he could actually start to get better if he could just get off these drugs. I know for him working out and playing tennis used to be he go to for stress and now he’s so weak and drugged up he can’t manage it so it’s like a vicious cycle that isn’t stopping. There are natural things on the market for anxiety and I would encourage you to seek those methods out before popping any drugs the doctors are going to prescribe. Although you really have to have a lot of patience because it’s not like popping Xanax(please don’t get on these) which is immediate in the long run you will be much better off. I really hope you know you’re not alone so many people are affected from anxiety from this disease. I hope someone else can shed more light on it. I can only relate because of having a family member with this and being in it right now. I have to go see if he needs any help as we speak so have a good day! – aimee

    1. Hey Aimee,

      I totally agree with you about being on meds for my panic attacks. I feel that I am on enough meds already just for the UC alone. Hell, I feel like I rattle when I walk! LOL!!!

      I do feel for your brother. It sure sounds like he has gone (and is still going through) hell with this disease. I do so wish him luck on everything that he does.

      I have a friend who does alternative medicine such as acupuncture, erbal teas, etc. etc. Lots of natural medicine. I have been thinking about seeing what she can do for me.

      Thanks again for the post, Aimee. I do really appreciate it!

  3. James, I had panic attacks before being diagnosed. So far I have mastered them, only flying, medical procedures and tight.crowds still bring them on. I remind myself of their absurdity, list all the reasons why I should not be having it. Also, use large muscle groups to use up the adrenaline that is being pumped in them. Tense up your quads, biceps…etc and then relax them. This can be done with no obvious movement. I am have had a bad week and trying not to become depressed and house bound. It is a mental struggle! Good luck!

  4. Thanks so much Shannon. I will be giving your ideas a try. I may have been doing methods that really don’t help when I get that panic attack going. I usual try to get real calm and close my eyes and don’t move a muscle. I kinda’ try to get in that Zen mood if that makes sense. Like you, it really comes on when I am flying and in tight crowds. Just hate that!!! I never thought of re-directing the adrenaline by flexing the muscles. Sounds like a great idea! I will be going on a trip here in the near future that will require me to get on a subway. This will be a big challenge for me. Just thinking about getting on that thing, having the doors close and knowing that no matter what…you are trapped for a certain length of time with no way out. Get’s my heart just uh racing!

    I know what you mean about having bad days and weeks. It sure is tuff not getting yourself down and out. I hope every day gets better and better for you. Being house bound is terrible especially if you are an active type of person.

    Keep us posted as how your week is going!

  5. Hi James,

    I am so sorry you are going through all of this. I have to be honest, i am experiencing the same thing with anxiety. I am 45 years old and have had UC for over 20 yrs now. My UC was in remission for many many years (YAY!) but in October 2011 it came out of remission and this is the worst flare up ever. Right now I am taking Asacol HD – 6 pills a day… my doctor also prescribe steroids but i have yet to take them. I am trying my hardest not to go on them because of all the side affects.

    Right now in my life, i am scared to do anything. so scared that when i am out i will have one of those nasty gross GAS ATTACKS! I always know when an attack is coming… my anxiety goes through the roof. i get a funny feeling in my head and in my tummy. But once i go to the bathroom…anxiety goes away. And as a matter of fact, I had to quit my 2nd job because of having accidents. And working at a department store helping customers and having an accident…I’m sure you get the picture.

    I am getting tired of UC controlling my life, so today I ordered Adams books and i cant wait to get them. I am hoping the books will help me out.

    Stay strong and stay positive James. Maybe you should order Adams books too.

    Keep us posted on how you are doing.

    1. hey there Joanne!

      Yup! Just ordered Adams books as well. Having a bit of difficulty in downloading it right now, but am looking forward to them.

      I know EXACTLY what you mean about when that “feeling” comes along in both your head and tummy. I get the ole’ “butterflies in the stomach” which triggers a panic attack, which triggers the IBD which triggers…..well, you know how it goes. :)

      I plan on doing a lot of reading to see if I can turn my life around with this crazy stuff. I will keep everyone posted! Hope you do to!


  6. Hi James. Sorry to hear you’re feeling panicky – know how that feels! I hope that if you try the SCD, it may help to calm your symptoms enough to allow you to relax a bit. Do visit here for some understanding of why your physical symptoms can cause anxiety for purely physical reasons, even without the constant worry of crapping yourself in public. :) .

    I also believe that lack of B vitamins due to diahorrhea causes anxiety – make sure to get a good B complex down yourself, such as the SCD-compatible vitamins from Lucy’s Kitchen Shop. Much of the dizziness, light-headedness, trembling hands, etc, is really a lack of B vits.

    You can try keeping a change of clothing in the car, just in case, and when travelling long distances, never eat the night before, in order to have a more empty gut. And, obviously, planning your journey with rest stops, etc, can help, or travelling at night when you can always dash for a hedgerow!

    Acupuncture helps a great deal, as does practising yoga and meditation – but you need to do them all the time so that when you need the weapon, you can just pull it out and use it.

    Having said all this, personally I have not found a complete solution for the problem of anxiety – for occasional anxiety I take Alprazolam, which can start to work within 20 minutes, but this would be something to discuss with your doctor, given the meds you are already taking. But really, a lot of it IS in your head – if you can take the leap of faith that you WILL be OK, this can help a great deal. Good luck with your trip. :) Trish

    1. Thanks for the advice Trish. I do appreciate each and everyone here and what they can offer. I really do need to check more into the meditation aspect. I really do not want to take any more med, but am at a point to do just about anything to get rid of these panic attacks! I will be reading more and more of peoples posts on this sight for any help that they can offer…such as yours.

      Thanks a whole bunch!


  7. Hi James
    I can relate with your panic attack issues. I used to have them somewhat regularly in my twenties, before I developped UC.
    I have found that breathing is key when working through a panic attack. It is best to practice a breathing technique in a quiet place that you are comfortable in, like home, so that when you are placed in a challenging situation your body will remember ‘how to breath’. In fact, just sitting comfortably, eyes closed and focusing on the breath is a form of meditation, which would be really great for you anyway!
    Start with long slow, controlled breaths, in and out through the nose if possible. If this is challenging, then exhale through the mouth. Pay attention to your posture – whether sitting, standing or lying down your spine needs to be long and lengthened, without collapsing at the back of the neck. Imagine a string suspending the crown of your head up so that your neck is long, with the chin drawing slightly down and in. Once you have mastered long slow breaths (it may take several sessions), then try what is called ‘square’ breathing. This is a technique where the inhale and exhale are of equal length, as are the pauses in between them. It’s like this: inhale for a count of 3, hold (pause) for 3, exhale for 3, pause for 3. The pause after the exhale can be difficult at first – the body tends to want to breath in straight away. Practice this square breathing technique until it becomes comfortable for you. The length of the breaths can increase from 3 counts (you can start with 2 if 3 is too hard) – up to however long you can manage. Don’t feel that you have to take a complete deep breath in either when starting at 2 or 3 counts.
    When you are entering a situation that you know will bring on a panic response, start breathing well in advance. See if while standing on the subway you can focus your mind on ‘square breathing’. It may take effort but the act of concentrating on it, as well as the physiological effect the breathing has on the body, may preclude a panic attack. If you feel the panic rising, keep breathing. If square breathing flys out the window, keep deep breathing, focusing on long exhales as this has a calming effect.
    Some great advice I got once was to let the ‘feeling of panic wash over you’. I think the anxiety comes from trying to push a panic attack down – but if you face it head on and let it wash over you, it loses it’s power and dissipates. If you breathe through it as it’s happening, it won’t be nearly as strong. Gradually, they might lesson in severity and they may happen less and less. Breath is key.

  8. All great advice. I also suffer from panic/anxiety/nervousness and for years have been drinking herbal teas. They amazingly work well. Some good ones are chamomile, any tea without caffeine, ginger tea in blends, believe it or not, basil makes a great tea to help with relaxation. Sometimes it takes more than 1 cup. Also yoga excerises and/or meditation. However, recently, I had a bad set back from using Cimzia, a starting dose, and it’s caused major anxiety attacks with difficulty breathing. I had to be hospitalized 2x two days after the initial dosing, then the day after that because the 2nd time I knew what was causing it. The doctor on call in the emergency said I was the 2nd person to come that week from using Cimzia (for my UC). He gave me Lorazapam, low dose, 1mg. I’m still taking it plus the herbal teas but I only take it at night and it seems to get me by all through the next day. For me it’s a panacea. I know it’s another drug but it might help if nothing else is helping much. It doesn’t make me feel weird and helps me to sleep through the night. Good luck and I hope you find the answer you need.

    1. Hey Maggie,

      I have been looking into just about any means to get my head on straight with this UC. As almost everyone here knows….it aint easy!

      Thanks for the advice. I will checking out what you have stated and see where it leads me.

      Thanks again and keep posting!

  9. James,
    We’re brothers, man! I am also 43 with UC and I know EXACTLY how you feel. The anxiety I get when I know I’m doing something far away from a bathroom is exactly as you describe. Most of the time, those feelings are just feelings and everything works out fine but I always know in the back of my mind that I am carrying around a colon bomb that could go off at any minute. Everywhere I go, I am always thinking about where the bathroom is. Last August, my wife and I went to Aruba and we got tickets to go out on this glass bottom boat and look at fish on the reef. So, we show up and the ticket lady says “make sure you use the bathroom before you leave because there’s no bathroom on the boat”. First thing I ask is “how long is the trip?” – “two hours”. Can you imagine what I am now thinking? I bet you can. Holy crap! Everything turned out just fine but the whole time I’m out there, I couldn’t relax and just enjoy the trip. I’m sure you know what I mean.

    all the best,

    1. Paul! Dude, we must be brothers because we both sound like we go through the same damn thing. Just reading about you getting on that glass bottom boat got my hear uh racing! I’m just like you…I have gone through MANY places that I thought I was going to pass out because of a panic attack of the UC kind.

      I usually pop an Imodium or two before getting in a position of where I could be tied up a while. But, mentally…that sometimes does not help very much. Getting ready to go see a hockey game this coming weekend (GO REDWINGS!!!) and my mind is just uh flying with bad thoughts.

      I scuba dive and that sometimes can get the ole’ mind going as well when you are down over fifty 50 deep or so. Last thing I want to do is have an episode down there and “feed the fishies” so to speak. LOL!!!! UC humor…got to love it!

  10. haha I should just change the name at the top and submit this myself. Im 22 from sydney diagnosed 7 yrs ago. Absolute same when it comes to urgency and the freak out of not knowing where a bathroom is, or whether it is available. I won’t catch public transport, won’t be a passenger in cars where i am not in control. And its a rarity that I will have a passenger. The worst time for me is in the morning, then i stock up on the immodium and hope for the best. Am completely over it as I had to stop playing rugby, surfing and so on. I’m very close to making a date for surgery! :|

    1. Hey there Zach! Sydney Australia? Sweet! I live up here in the States, but have been to Sydney a couple of years ago. LOVED IT!!! Stayed in the Holdiay Inn in Old Sydney. What a great place! Even climbed the bridge. What a view…. Would love to go back down there some day. Talk about a long flight! :)


      Reading your reply is like “looking in a mirror”. Getting on a plane for me is just pure torture until the plane takes off and I can move around freely. Even then, when I see people go into the bathroom, my mind still keeps thinking that “Uh-Oh. The bathrooms are full”. And the ole panic attack could kick in.

      95% of the time, I insist that I drive if we are going somewhere with people. I guess it’s my little way of keeping in control if I feel the urge to use a bathroom real quick and not having to shout out loud that its an emergency. I can just floor it or pull over to the side immediatley.

      I know what you mean about surgery. It has crossed my mind as well to get me out of this hell hole that I am in. But, make sure you do everything you can to make the right decission. I am going to try the SCD diet that has been stated here several times. I sure hope it does the trick….both physically and mentally.

      Keep posting!


      1. Hello
        Did you get anywhere with this? I find relaxation techniques help as does a severely modified diet. I I run in races a lot and these used to be my major issue but I have found coping mechanisms so that I can hopefully live a full life.

      2. Hi James,

        I found your thread while searching for reasons why I might be experiencing anxiety attacks with laboured breathing. I’m also experiencing anxiety issues, and everything you have mentioned right down to the depends. I’m a brittle diabetic (insulin dependant) with pancolitis controlled by Remicade with all the side effects, that go with it. My anxiety attacks hit without warning and are the most debilitating of all my symptoms. I find myself feeling like a trapped animal at times. At first I too thought it was just my fear of having a bathroom accident in public, but overtime, and much recapitulation of the attack events, I finally came to the conclusion that my anxiety attacks where coming from all the many medications that I’m on. I hope you’ve found the answers that you were looking for. My best wishes!

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