Author Archives: Colleen Brennan

Panic Attacks (Extra Credit)

The descriptions we discussed during class about panic and anxiety don’t even scratch the surface of what a real panic attack looks and feels like. I have had panic attacks all of varying degree, but the symptoms were usually the same. Most people have slightly different experiences, but I’m sure others can relate. When I get a panic attack, I start to sweat all over; it happens really fast. It’s like you can feel yourself burning up. Sometimes, my ears would start to ring. It would usually be a high-pitched ring and would last about five or ten seconds. Heart palpitations would start to happen every other minute. The best way I can describe a palpitation is when you’re having a dream that you’re falling and you wake up right before you hit the ground. Background noises start to become louder and louder, until it feels like every single side conversation is being yelled into your ears. . When I would have a panic attack, it felt like every time I had a palpitation the noise would get louder immediately. Sometimes it feels like every move you make is slowing down. The largest part to a panic attack is what really made me freak out. The best way I could describe it is feeling like your life suddenly feels like a dream, and nothing you see is real. It’s almost like a veil is covered over your eyes, and everything doesn’t seem as clear as it has before.  I really wish I could describe this better. I want to say it’s almost like your vision becomes darker. In my opinion, that’s what causes the fear of dying or passing out. Nothing feels real, nothing feels right, and you feel like nothing can calm you down. If anyone saw me while I was having a panic attack, they would probably notice that my eyes would be wide, I’d most likely be pale, and I would be extremely fidgety Some times I would feel sick to my stomach, but that was a rare occurrence. I know that frequently happens to others, though. I’ve discussed this with other people that have dealt with this before, and they can all attest that this is very similar to their panic attacks. .. This is something I hope I never have to feel again, and I would never wish this upon others.

Med Students Give Dementia Patients Happiness

I recently stumbled upon an article I found via Reddit. According to the Associated Press, first-year medical students attending Northwestern University are actively engaged in a program that pairs up medical students with either a dementia or Alzheimer’s patient. More schools are starting to do the same due to the success of the program.  Each student and patient go out and have a great time together doing things that they both enjoy.  Students are paired up with patients based on their common interests and hobbies. This program gives students a more personal perspective that cannot be found during lectures or in textbooks.  Actively engaging with an Alzheimer’s patient is very rewarding emotionally for both parties.  This article takes a look into a relationship between Dan Winship, an 80 year-old retired physician originally from Texas and Jared Worthington, a first-year medical student from Ontario, Canada.  The program has been so powerful that about 75 percent of students who participated in the program went on to study in a field that deals with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  Being involved with the patients at such a personal level can make students realize that their future patients are people just like them, so they should be treated with the utmost respect and compassion, and not just as a file on their shelf. Winship and Worthington spend their time together by going out to eat, seeing movies, going for walks, and even visiting the Aquarium. Dan Winship was diagnosed in 2013. Prior to his diagnosis, Winship was a well-endowed physician and professor. He specialized in gastroenterology and was the medical school dean for the University of Loyola in Chicago for ten years.  He also worked in Columbia at the University of Missouri as well as the Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington, D.C.  Dan’s wife, Jean, was actively looking online for treatment options when she stumbled upon Northwestern University’s program.  The numbers of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are constantly rising.  According to the article, “More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, a number that could triple by 2050 (Eichenbaum, 2014).” In hopes of making more students interested in conducting research, therefore creating an even bigger pool of knowledge in lieu of finding a cure, more and more schools are implementing the same program.  This disease has never personally affected me, but I do know people that have been.  I think this program is a fantastic idea, and should be done with patients that have other diseases.


Here is the full article for those that are interested:

The Psychology behind Anxiety and Panic Attacks

How many times have you felt so nervous about a test or performance that you start to sweat, you get heart palpitations, and you feel like you’re going to pass out? If that has ever happened to you, then you’ve experienced an anxiety attack. Have you ever walked down a street or hallway, when suddenly your ears start to ring, your stomach hurts, and voices become louder? If you have, then you’ve experienced a panic attack, and that’s really unfortunate. Trust me, I should now. But, I will get to that later.

What is truly amazing is the science behind why our bodies do this. When we feel stressed out over a situation, our body immediately goes into Fight or Flight mode, which we discussed in class. Our brain is doing a number of different things when we go into Fight or Flight mode. It all starts with the Hypothalamus activating two separate nervous systems: the sympathetic adrenal-cortical systems. In class we talked about how the sympathetic nervous system controls our bodies’ reactions. The adrenal-cortical system affects our bloodstreams. The sympathetic nervous system sends out two “stress hormones” to the body’s muscles, called adrenaline and noradrenaline. This causes increased heart rate and blood pressure. At the same time, the adrenal-cortical system starts to work. According to an article on, “the hypothalamus releases corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) into the pituitary gland, activating the adrenal-cortical system. The pituitary gland (a major endocrine gland) secretes the hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). ACTH moves through the bloodstream and ultimately arrives at the adrenal cortex, where it activates the release of approximately 30 different hormones that get the body prepared to deal with a threat “(Layton).  This sudden rush of hormones sends our bodies into overdrive, causing extreme discomfort when one isn’t even put into a stressful situation.

Now, I’m going to talk about my personal experience. During my junior year of high school, I suffered from a severe panic disorder where I would get extremely severe panic attacks during school. Because of that, I developed anticipatory anxiety (getting anxious because you don’t want a panic attack to happen, but it happens anyway), and feared sitting in class, walking to class, and eating lunch in the cafeteria. Unfortunately, it got so bad that I had to do my work in my school’s guidance office without falling behind; no one expected me to be there for seven weeks. Thankfully, all of my teachers were willing to cooperate with me, while I struggled with trying to become healthy again. I’m not going to go into too many details, but I became depressed and missed out on a lot of important things. But, those gruesome months have made into a much better person. If it weren’t for SSRI’s, I would probably not be where I am today. I didn’t choose to talk about this to gain pity. I chose to write about this because I think people need to recognize that this is a serious issue that many people deal with, and knowing what actually is happening during a panic attack takes away the thought, “Holy shit, I’m going to die” which can send someone even further into panic mode.


If you have any questions, this is the article I used: