Summer 2003
The Man Who Loves Filing His Tax Return!

Imagine being so afraid to leave your own home that visiting your much-loved family is absolute torture.

Imagine wanting to work, but being too anxious to get out and go job-hunting.

That's how it was for 55-year-old Tony D'Amico for more than a decade.

"I get these acute anxiety attacks," he says. "It's just pure panic. You think you're having a heart attack—but you're not." Tony's anxiety attacks became so severe, says Dorothy Zachmann, MD, of the Adult and Geriatric Psychiatric Services at REACH, that he developed agoraphobia—fear of leaving the security of his own home.

He was stuck—until he got the help he needed from Bridgeport Hospital's REACH Adult Program.

"My psychiatrist suggested the REACH program," Tony says. "I fought him on it—I didn't want to leave home for the appointments. But it's changed my life miraculously!"

"Tony was afraid of losing control, or being embarrassed," says REACH social worker Laurie Ballaro, LCSW. "So we taught him coping skills to help him handle his anxiety attacks. He learned how to analyze a situation, see if it's really important."

"I used to have a hard time in grocery checkout lines," Tony interjects. "I was afraid the clerk wouldn't like me. Now I know it's not that big a deal."

Tony also learned to rephrase his fearful thoughts and look at the reality. Instead of thinking, "I hope no one asks me any questions—I won't know what to say," He thinks, "Whatever I say will be OK. I'm not being judged. No one else is being judged, why should I be?"

After a few months of coaching and counseling at REACH, Tony could take his nephews to ballgames and go out to dinner with his family. He even began doing volunteer work at Bridge House, a clubhouse and rehabilitation program for adults recovering from the effects of psychiatric illness. And then Bridge House found a part-time job for Tony, doing maintenance at an area Staples store.

"This year, after so many years of not having a job, I filed an income tax return," says Tony with an impish grin. "I know most people hate to do that, but for me, it was a great accomplishment. REACH has done wonders for me!"

REACH Reaches Out to Help

"Every day, the psychiatrists, psychiatric social workers, psychiatric nurses, activity therapists, and support staff help older adults like Tony D'Amico to surmount problems that are affecting their lives," says Dorothy Zachmann, MD, of the Adult and Geriatric Psychiatric Services at REACH.

Among the conditions that are treated at REACH:

  • depression
  • social isolation
  • loss of motivation or energy
  • appetite or sleep disturbance
  • suicidal thoughts
  • restlessness or agitation
  • difficulty managing anger
  • mood swings
  • paranoia or suspiciousness
  • rapid or repeated thoughts
  • delusional thoughts
  • auditory or visual hallucinations
  • difficulty forming relationships
  • anxiety and panic
  • alcohol and/or drug abuse

If you or someone you love could benefit from the services provided by REACH, you may ask your physician for a referral, or please call REACH directly, at 384-3377.