Episode 146 |

The Antidote for Anxiety and Panic Attacks with Andrea Petersen

What is it about modern society that has anxiety disorder on the rise? Find out with health journalist @andreaapetersen on the next @OptimizedGeek. Click To Tweet




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This Week’s Guest:

When those of us who don’t suffer from anxiety or panic attacks hear about others having them, it’s easy to minimize the experience. We might think a panic attack just feels like a few minutes of extreme stress, which we’ve all been through! In fact, a true panic attack can be far more intense. Imagine being fine one moment and completely disoriented the next. Picture having difficulty breathing and intense vision distortions. Your heart is pounding, you’re covered in sweat, and you’re terrified that you’re literally dying.


Andrea Petersen is here to explore the world of anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Regardless of whether you have anxiety yourself or just know someone else who does, this insightful episode will be very helpful. Andrea is the author of On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety and a contributing writer at the WSJ, where she reports on psychology, health, and neuroscience. She also received the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism.

Find Out More About Andrea Here:

Andrea Petersen
@andreaapetersen on Twitter
Andrea Petersen at the Wall Street Journal

In This Episode:

  • [01:33] – Why did Andrea write her new book and bare her soul in this way? She answers, then discusses whether anxiety disorders are a growing epidemic.
  • [05:08] – Andrea talks about whether some people might have anxiety disorders without even being aware of it.
  • [07:08] – For listeners who may not understand what a panic attack feels like, Andrea describes the experience.
  • [10:48] – Andrea shares what it felt like to go through the process of trying to figure out what was wrong with her.
  • [13:40] – Treatment involves amassing new learning that overrides the fears that you have, Andrea explains. She and Stephan then discuss other treatment strategies.
  • [17:34] – Andrea talks more about meditation and yoga, and the tools that she uses to practice both.
  • [23:01] – Stephan points out that there are three fear responses: fight, flight, or freeze.
  • [26:06] – Andrea explores some of the exciting developments happening in terms of treatments for underlying brain dysfunctions.
  • [29:39] – Has Andrea tried any apps for synchronizing her breathing to her heart rate variability?
  • [32:05] – We hear about Stephan’s experience working with Dr. Daniel Amen.
  • [34:09] – Andrea talks about whether she has tried eye tracking.
  • [36:39] – It’s good to start with evidence-based, peer-reviewed, research-tested methodologies, and then branch out from there.
  • [38:07] – Andrea explores relapses, which can be caused by different things depending on the person, she explains.
  • [41:10] – We learn about whether girls are more likely to suffer trauma while growing up than boys.
  • [45:04] – Stephan talks about the dangers of overly accommodating your kids as they’re growing up in terms of a Kabbalistic concept.
  • [47:44] – Andrea describes what ACEs is and how it potentially plays a role in a child’s development of an anxiety disorder over their lifetime.
  • [52:33] – Andrea lists some places where listeners can find her or buy her book.

Links and Resources:

Your Checklist of Actions to Take:

☑ Have empathy and stop stigmatizing anxiety and mental health issues. Recognize that anyone can experience this and people should not be excluded or judged.

☑ Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek therapy when struggling with anxiety. Panic attacks can disrupt my life and the lives of those around me.

☑ Learn how to identify my triggers. Awareness can help me deal with and prevent panic attacks.

☑ Practice being present and in the moment. Overthinking the past and future can create unnecessary scenarios in my mind.

☑ Find an activity that relaxes my mind and keeps me in a free flow state. It can be exercising, meditating, doing yoga, running or even baking.

☑ Make it a priority to regularly do activities I love. Don’t make excuses and optimize my time by joining online classes so that I can do what I love wherever, whenever.

☑ Make sure I get enough sleep and avoid caffeinated drinks. Sleep deprivation can lead to many health issues.

☑ Make use of apps that can help me calm down. Andrea recommends YogaGlo and Personal Zen.

☑ Be more aware of my parenting style. Being a helicopter parent can give my child more anxiety and a lack of independence.

☑ Grab a copy of Andrea Petersen’s book On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety.



S: I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t know a lot about anxiety, panic attacks, all that. I wanted to understand more about what other people experience, who go through these panic attacks, or have anxiety disorders, and how I could help them. Now, if you have anxiety or you know somebody who has anxiety, this episode will be very helpful. It’s episode number 146. Today’s guest is Andrea Petersen. She’s the author on On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety. Andrea is also a contributing writer at The Wall Street Journal where she reports on psychology, health, and neuroscience. She is the recipient of a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism. Andrea, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show.


A: Thanks for having me.


S: Let’s talk about your new book. We’ll start by why did you write this book, On Edge, and bare your soul in such a way?


A: I’ve been balling over doing this for many years now and partly because I had such a long journey to my own diagnosis and I knew I wanted to be able to provide empathy, insight, understanding, and information to the 40 million Americans actually that each have an anxiety disorder and to the people who care about them because for those people who don’t necessarily struggle with serious anxiety can be baffling. Also, as a long-time health journalist, I was realizing that there was a really interesting story here, too. This is an amazingly fruitful time in anxiety research. Advances in neuroscience, neuroimaging, and genetics are starting to unravel some of the mysteries of the anxious brain. New treatments are on the horizon and even scientists are looking at the ability to prevent anxiety disorders and kids as young as two. Both as an anxiety sufferer and wanting to tell people to share my own story, so people who also struggle with anxiety could relate to it and maybe see themselves in it. Also, just convey this really exciting information I was out there as a journalist. My goal was two-fold.


S: Got it. Would you say that anxiety disorder is becoming more of an epidemic?


A: You know it’s interesting. There does seem to be some evidence that the rates of anxiety disorders—troubled with serious anxiety—the rates are increasing among young people particularly college students. The latest data I’ve seen has shown that in the last year, 21% of college students have been either diagnosed with or treated for anxiety problems in the last year. That’s up from about 10% in 2008. There’s clearly something going on here.


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