Homeopathic Remedy for Panic Disorder: A Case Study
Tim Shannon, ND
A 69-year-old female, Susanna, presented to me for panic disorder. She was a childhood survivor of a concentration camp. She spoke very seriously, very gravely about her problems, rarely smiled and got right to the point.
Initial Intake: June, 2003
Susanna: “If home, on the weekends, I sit in the house. No matter what I do, I get panic attacks, and I want to die; I don’t want to live. During the week, I’m fine – doing things. My momma said I’d scream at night ‘Momma, Momma!’ and would come to her bed. I remember a childhood nightmare where someone was coming to kill us. Every night that is all I could remember, I was living that dream, maybe there was blood there, too. That may have been the start of the panic – that dream.
“Then I got taken away to a concentration camp. I was eleven when they took me away from my momma. My momma and sister went to another camp. Every year I was sick, didn’t know how I could still walk. We had nothing. Then they substituted me for another child and got me out. At the end of May, I went to the camp where my sister was; I couldn’t find my momma. After a time we all came together again. I didn’t have any panic attacks all that time until the 1960s.
“In ’59 I came to America. At night I’d wake up and have this feeling of being scared to death. Then I’d doze off in the living room, and the same feeling would repeat – five years like that. Then in ’65 I had a panic attack in Europe – at night. The next day I was scared and shaking. Took sleeping pills, and was so dizzy and panicky from those pills.
“At 7 p.m., I calm down.
“When my husband died [16 years ago], he died at 11 p.m. Ever since then, I wake at 11 p.m. exactly. “There were a lot of problems with my husband – he was drinking, and lying too much. … I loved him when he was sober, hated him when he was drunk. He is gone, and he loved life; I should be gone, too.
“A year ago I bought everything to commit suicide. I can’t shake that awful feeling. Why am I scared? Why am I scared of sitting by myself?
“I’m scared to death, and I don’t know what I’m scared of. When I got panic attacks at a friend’s house, I would mow the lawn to keep busy. I was panicking waiting for my neighbor to come to my house. Or I’d walk around and around in the house, to keep moving, until 7 p.m.
“Several years ago my son moved away and I was alone. Then is when it got real bad. The weekends are bad if I have to be alone in the afternoon.
“If this (patient points to chest and throat) – doesn’t open here, if that starts then I know. If it tightens up, I want to open it. When that starts I get depressed and don’t want to live. What for? I’m old enough, my kids are gone.”
Can you tell me about the first panic attack? “I woke up at night, my whole body feeling funny like something was going to happen. I’d doze off and it would come again. That scary feeling, it’s weird. It is a different scared … it is like you are on top of a hill and you are the only one in the whole world, that is how it feels. If I do something it is OK, but when I relax that is when it happens. If it’s bad, the panic wakes me up. It’s because I don’t like the dark. Sometimes during the day I feel it, too.”
Do you have any physical sensations during panic? “Shaking, and suffocating. I have tightness in the center of my chest and in my throat. Even after the attacks, the tightness remains. If I get depressed, that is when it happens. It only happens on the left side of the neck or the center of the sternum. It is like a spasm; it comes suddenly, like when I have it in the house. Then I don’t want to go into the house, because it reminds me. If I have an attack in one place and then go to that place again, I panic. I tell myself I’m stupid and childish, but it doesn’t do any good. If I do exercise or am jumping around, it gets better. That is how I live with it. It is horrible; you never know when it comes.”
When is it particularly bad? “I wake up day and night, can’t eat and just want to die. I’m always thinking about how to commit suicide without my son finding me. I don’t want to live like this anymore. I don’t want to be scared anymore. The only way out is to take my life.”
Do you have any fears, anxieties or phobias? “Claustrophobia.”
Can you tell me something about your relationship to animals? “Horses. I’ve always had recurring nightmares about horses; they always chase me. They were always so big. I can’t get away and I can’t get out. They force me up against the stall. They never get me but it is very close – I finally get away. I’m afraid of horses.”
Are there foods that make you sick, or that you don’t like? “Well, milk I gave up a long time ago, and ice cream. I used to have headaches, used to have a lot of headaches or nausea from milk.”[Thinking of Lac equinum (mare’s milk):] Are you fastidious? “I’m a neat freak. Everything has its place; everything has to be dusted. They call me ‘the one who always cleans.’ I make my bed every day. My mother was like that; everything had its place. I always clean up someone’s house (a neighbor’s).”
Can you tell me something about your sleep? “I wake every 1.5 to 2 hours. It also takes me a while to fall asleep. I can’t stop looking at the clock. By 4 a.m., I am usually awake if I don’t take something.”
Can you tell me about your appetite? “It’s fine, I eat every two hours. I eat a lot of food. I have breakfast at 8 a.m.; at 10 a.m., I have some nuts and fruit; at noon, I have my big dinner; at 2 p.m. I have fruit; and at 5 p.m. I eat my supper and some fruit again.”
This may be a case of post-traumatic stress disorder from the concentration camp, something she was able to manage for a time by being occupied and around others. When she lost her husband and her son moved is when the panic began in earnest.
In my experience, any of the mammal milks can be very healing for patients. Of course, finding the simillimum will have the most profound improvement with a more sustained effect.
I attended a one-week course on a variety of mammal milk remedies with Dr. Massimo Mangialavori, an Italian homeopath. He covered a differential of many different milk remedies. Mangialavori and my own successful cases have taught me that the consistent themes for mammal milks are:
- Marked reaction to milk – either physical symptoms from milk or emotional feelings (they can love or hate dairy)
- Headaches are a common pathology for patients needing milk Rxs
- Difficulty growing up or developing a separate identity from their family members
- Symptoms that gravitate to one side or the other – sometimes switching sides
- Indecision (stems from not having individuated)
- Marked attraction or aversion to the mammal they require (this is common, though not necessary).
My rationale for Lac equinum in this case:
- Repeating dreams of horses and fear of them
- Aggravated by milk
- Restlessness and fastidiousness (Lac equinum)
- Lac equinum has an affinity to the lungs and breathing difficulties
- Issues with time and pace (watching the clock, or eating every 2 hours) – peculiar to Lac equinum
- Industrious – very important for Lac equinum
- Burden and responsibility for others (regularly volunteering to clean her neighbor’s house).
Plan: Lac equinum 200C, Q12 hrs x 2 (dry), extra envelope to hold.
Follow-Up (5 weeks after the initial dose), August 2003
Susanna: “I’m doing much better. I’ve only had mild anxiety three times. I sleep better. My neighbors were gone for nine days and I didn’t have to leave the house. I must be much better, because there was a fight and apparently I slept through it. My neighbors said the walls were shaking. Usually, I’d hear everything and I’d never go into that deep a sleep. That was a surprise to me; I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it!”
You were getting episodes of panic sitting in your house by yourself. How is that? “Now I can sit there. I don’t have to get on the phone or leave. I don’t get so anxious, nothing like it used to be – 70% improvement.”
You were waking frequently and watching the clock? “I woke up only twice with anxiety.”
You were also waking too easily? “Still waking easily, but now able to fall back to sleep.”
You had claustrophobia? “I did sit in a car for a ride and was fine instead of being panicky. It used to be I felt this way even in my own house. I had this panic only once. I used to have it a lot, every day.” Tightness in chest and throat? “I had it maybe two times. It is a lot better.”
“My stomach is better, too. Before, even when drinking only water, 20 minutes later I’d get stomach pains.
When you gave me those little pellets, I thought it was a cruel joke. But I felt something after I took that medicine. For two weeks or so, I felt … like something is working in my head. Not sleepy, but something relaxing. I can’t explain it. Like something was working in my head calming or relaxing me.”
Good response; physical symptoms were improving as well as the panic. She called a week later saying she was slipping slightly into panic. I told her to dissolve some pellets of Lac equinum 200C in water and take a teaspoon once per week.
I saw her again mid-September 2003:
Susanna: “I’m much better. I can handle it now better when I’m at home. This last weekend I was home and I did OK – no panic. In the afternoon when I’m alone, I don’t get this ‘have to do something’ feeling.”
I checked her baseline again to see if she was continuing to improve. She said the tightness in her chest/throat were better. Her sleep was also improved from last visit – less waking and easier to fall asleep. She also confirmed her claustrophobia was still improved:
“I always had to be thinking about what I was going to do the next morning before going to sleep, because I wanted to get out of the house to not be alone. A friend asked me recently, “What are you doing tomorrow?” And it was Saturday! That was my worst day and I hadn’t even thought about it. It is so good to feel good!”
Patient left a voice mail, May 2004: “Hi, Dr. Shannon, I’m doing fine, I’ve had none of your medicine since the second week of March. I’m taking nothing except vitamins. I’m very busy seven days a week. I’m doing just fine. If there is a change, you will hear from me when I get to need you again.”
I didn’t hear from her again, so I called her in January 2005 to check on her. She said she was still doing fine; that since I spoke to her last, she had some mild transient anxiety. Otherwise, she’d had no re-occurrence of panic.
I regularly see mild anxiety to more severe cases like Susanna. Homeopathy has proven equal to the task for most of these cases. I’ve also seen that it’s necessary to have a much wider differential than the polycrest anxiety remedies.
Often, homeopathy is much more effective than conventional drugs. The results become self-sustaining, and the patient’s global health is also significantly increased.
Tim Shannon, ND is in private practice in Portland. He specializes in the treatment of mental, emotional and behavioral health. He uses classical homeopathy to treat a wide range of mental health complaints: ADHD, OCD, PMS, autistic spectrum, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, bi-polar, schizophrenia, etc. Dr. Shannon lectures at NCNM as well as to the local community on a variety of mental health complaints.