Panic attack support group starts Wednesday in Craig

At a glance

• Panic attack, anxiety and stress support group scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday.

• Residents must register and complete phone screening.

• Participants will be told event location after screening.

• Sessions cost $8 each.

• Participants must purchase $15 workbook at www.panicreliefin...>

• For more information, call 732-940-9658.

The onset of a panic attack can be accompanied by one or more troubling symptoms.

Heart palpitations.

Chest pains.

Light-headedness.

All these disturbing abnormalities can occur for no apparent reason.

Judy Schiffman is all too familiar with the signs indicating a panic attack is on the way.

She began getting panic attacks in 1989 and suffered from them nearly every day for the next four years, she said.

"That took a toll on me, mentally and physically," she added. "And then I started avoiding life because of it."

She found a system she thinks put her on the path to wellness.

Schiffman, a New Jersey resident, now is reaching out to people who have been through the same experiences she has.

Schiffman founded Panic Relief, Inc. in 1994, and now leads help groups across the country for people who suffer from panic attacks, stress and severe anxiety.

Her program, IDEAL, is scheduled to debut in Craig at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Schiffman will conduct the meeting via a conference call.

Residents pay $8 for each meeting and must purchase a $15 workbook available at www.panicreliefinc.com.

Residents interested in the program must first complete a screening over the phone, where they will be told where Wednesday's meeting will take place.

Schiffman prefers to screen potential group members before disclosing the location to ensure only people who will benefit from the program are registered.

"Not everyone is appropriate for the class, depending on their mental wellness," she said. "We have to be careful because we're not therapists."

Local mental health professionals were contacted for this story, but could not be reached by press time Sunday.

IDEAL is an acronym for the five steps in the process to overcoming panic attacks: identify, discover, empower, apply and learn.

Program lessons touch on five topics Schiffman thinks can contribute to patients' panic attacks: personality characteristics, including perfectionism; a person's response to past, present and future circumstances; anticipatory anxiety and fear; anger and self-esteem.

Participants start off each session with a conference call with Schiffman, who delivers a lesson. Then, participants split off into informal groups to discuss what they've learned.

Schiffman also gives participants an assignment, or a way in which they can practice program techniques in daily life.

She thinks the key to overcoming panic attacks is taking charge and becoming educated on what triggers them.

"It's really important to get help as soon as possible," she said. "It's very important to get out of your head, in respect to anxiety, and really empower yourself : so the things you do in life will work for you."

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