After feeling chest tightness, shortness of breath, and dizziness, the patient got herself to an emergency department. While waiting to be seen, she experienced profuse sweating that was accompanied by shaking, tingling, and a sense of impending doom. Could this be a heart attack? Is she dying?
After more than 25 years of experience, cardiologist Dr. Edwin Weiss of the New York University Medical Center knows that some of these patients are suffering from panic disorder--a severe type of anxiety disorder.
In the few cases in which patients have good insight and no other comorbid psychiatric disorders, Dr. Weiss offers a quick treatment that simulates the light-headedness and dizziness of panic disorder. "Under my supervision, I have them blow in and out of a paper bag, and under their control, they experience the lightheadedness and dizziness. That shows them that they can be in control of the attack, rather than letting the attack be in control of them. For some, this is very helpful," Dr. Weiss, who has a vibrant practice in New York, said in an interview.
But Dr. Weiss also refers many patients to psychiatrists. "That's what I consider good medical care," he said.
In the 1980s and through the 1990s, "panic disorder" almost became a …