Teen Faces Down Anxiety Disorder


Days one and two of Lindsay's five-day treatment are devoted to psychotherapy. Pincus wants to train her not to run for help when her panic attacks set in.

"The more you avoid and decide, 'Okay, I'm not gonna stay at school and I'm not gonna stay in my bed at night,' what do you think happens to your panic thoughts?" Pincus said to Lindsay during one of their sessions. "The next time you get into your bed at night, do you think it will be easier or harder?"

"Harder," Lindsay said.

"Yeah, and do you think those panic thoughts might be even stronger," Pincus said.

"Yeah," Lindsay said.

Pincus told Lindsay that she needs to experience her feelings of anxiety in order to overcome them. She puts Lindsay through a series of exercises designed to produce the physical sensations that normally accompany her panic attack: Jogging in place to make her heart race; breathing through a cocktail straw to make her feel faint; staring at a bright light bulb, which makes her leg start to shake uncontrollably.

"Our goal is going to be is to continue to experience these feelings and allow the body to resolve itself," Pincus said.

Pincus has Lindsay's parents go through the exercises so they understand what their daughter feels like every day.

On day four, it was time for Lindsay to try it in the real world.

Pincus loaded Lindsay up with caffeine to make her jittery. She took away Lindsay's cell phone and iPod and sent her off on the Boston subway alone. The fear set in quickly.

"I was just like nervous," Lindsay said. "I had a headache."

The next assignment prompted a full-blown panic attack. As Lindsay got her food and sat alone, her anxiety level climbed to what she estimates is a seven on an eight-point scale. But she stayed put and rode the wave of panic until it subsided. Pincus said it was a breakthrough.

On day five, Pincus put Lindsay through her toughest trial yet and sent her on a 90-minute boat tour with no way to escape and no one she knew aboard to turn to if she panicked, but she made it.

"I'm just really excited," Lindsay said. "I mean, we waited a long time for this and you know, I can already feel the difference."

"I think Lindsay has done incredibly well and gotten herself to a point where now, if she continues practicing, she will be cured," Pincus said.

Lindsay came so far that she was able to attend a Jason Mraz concert. Concerts used to bring out intense feelings of anxiety.

"It was really good," Lindsay said. "Today it was easy. I'm planning to go to more concerts and do more things on my own."

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