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jhellion1031's avatar

Panic attacks....or something worse?

Asked by jhellion1031 (108 points ) August 29th, 2014

I have a history of severe panic attacks. Like, on a scale from 1 to 10 sometimes my anxiety levels reach 257. Over the past few months I’ve experienced the worst panic attacks of my entire life. Multiple visits to the E.R 100% sure that I am dying. I get there & the only test they do on me is a drug screen. (which is always negative for everything) I don’t drink or take any drug other than the ones prescribed to me & those are mostly allergy meds the DR. says help with anxiety. They really don’t. The Dr.s always say it’s just severe panic disorder. The thing is, I’ve dealt with panic attacks for almost twenty years now & these seem very different. They’re much more aggressive and almost impossible to calm myself out of. Another thing that concerns me about these attacks is that a lot of times I will wake up in the middle of the night and already be in full blown panic. There’s no trigger what so ever. They just happen for absolutely no apparent reason. It really is enough to make a person lose their mind. I guess my question is, does anyone else out there suffer from these kind of attacks? And if so, have you gotten any real answers from medical professionals? Not to beat a dead horse, but let me reiterate. These are not “normal” panic attacks, they are so much worse. Along with all the normal symptoms of panic attacks these also come with a traveling numbness, nausea, blindingly painful stomach cramps, & they can last anywhere from an hour to several days. Waking up already in full blown panic is what really confuses me. If you have any experience with these kind of attacks I would be grateful for any advice on how best to deal with them.

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6 Answers

M1952's avatar

I use to suffer from this, when it first starts happening it really does feel like the worst thing ever, and I feel your frustration ): .. I would wake up not being able to catch my breath because I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest, I would try to lay down and close my eyes again, or slow my breathing but majority of the time I would end up having to get into a cold shower at 3–4 in the morning just to make them stop and that was something that helped me a lot. I suffered from panic attacks for the longest time, 6–7 years or so.. Over the past year and a half what I started doing was just telling myself over and over again that it’s just a panic attack, I know it feels like you’re dying but you aren’t, and a panic attack CANNOT kill you. Once you convince your brain that you know you aren’t going to die and you’re just having a panic attack they will likely stop, or at least happen less frequently and not last as long ! my worst ones could last up to 20 minutes, stop, and come right back. Also if something is stressing you out in your life somewhere you may want to get away from that too, if it’s a person I mean, hope this helps !

M1952's avatar

I forgot to mention that I barely get them anymore. I haven’t had a full blown panic attack in the past year. My last panic attack happened after my husband filed divorce lol and lasted about 2 minutes, it’s all a mind game, you have to outsmart your brain !

JLeslie's avatar

First, certain allergy drugs increase anxiety in some people.

Second, it is very possible it is something besides anxiety, but the ER is the least likely place it will get diagnosed. The ER’s main focus is that you don’t die on their watch.

Stomach cramps and nausea are symptoms of anxiety, not sure about the numbness.

I would see if they tested your B12, iron, thyroid (TSH) and vitamin D. If not, you should have all of those tested. Most likely if you are a panicked attack patient for many years they have checked your thyorid more than once, but you can never be sure, especially if you stick with seeing the same doctor for many years. In fact, I would hope the hospital would check your thyroid, but they may not have.

I assume you have been to therapy for anxiety, do you know what is most likely your underlying cause of your anxiety? Loss of control is usually a biggy, or avoidance of the things you dread, or the anticipation of having to deal with something you dread, or the anticipation of a possibly panic attack.

Even if some of your new symptoms are not related to the panic, you still need to address your ongoing anxiety issues. Anxiety has to be one of the worse feelings of all time. I’d rather be depressed and barely able to get out of bed, then have anxiety.

Has there been a recent event? Have you moved? Changed jobs? Someone die? Just married? Just divorced? Financial difficulties?

What about trying some Xanax for a couple of weeks and see if everything gets much better” I’m sure you know Xanax can be very addictive, so you want to beware of that.

LornaLove's avatar

Yes, I have had them and feel like when they are at their worst I could have written this question exactly like you did. I think one of the things that can happen during a panic attack is that you panic about having the panic and it escalates. If that makes sense.

Each attack for me was different. I had one panic attack the other day, that was like no other and I was convinced it was not a panic attack, which made me panic more.

One way to fight a panic attack, is to not fight it. I used to say ‘Come on panic do your worst’ and somehow that helped!

I was given beta-blockers not sedatives for my panic and that almost cured it. I cannot take these anymore because I have asthma. So there are options that are not addictive.

I agree with @JLeslie though, ensure that you have had all your tests, to rule out illness. Just to make sure there is no other cause.

Panic is a terrible thing and can cause such distress in a person. I hope you get help and can manage this soon.

CWOTUS's avatar

Compared to your attacks, I have only suffered the mildest of mild panic attacks in the past, but they have been real feelings. And if mine were mild, as I always thought they were, then I can certainly sympathize with you.

I used to get very mild attacks several times a year while I was younger, but they have completely faded with age. As you mention, those occurred without warning, most often while sleeping, and for reasons that were a complete mystery to me. On the other hand, I am also mildly claustrophobic, and particularly if my limbs are partially or fully restrained and prevented from movement, then that can precipitate a full-blown attack. Even something as benign as having my feet wrapped up in loose bedsheets while sleeping can bring that on. Just thinking about it and writing it sometimes makes me uncomfortable. And that, even when I’m awake, alert and fully conscious of my safe surroundings. Like you, it’s something that I can’t simply rationalize my way out of. I have to correct the lack of motion problem and then get up and walk around a bit – at least! – to regain composure.

My greatest fears are being buried in an avalanche – and living – or suffering locked-in syndrome, where the victim is fully conscious, but paralyzed and unable to express any sign of consciousness or communication. I often wonder whether an unrelieved trigger such as that, and the long-term inability to do anything about it, could by itself bring on some kind of psychosis or mind break.

So, although I don’t have any advice for you I do want you to know that you have company, however little that matters.

Pandora's avatar

I’m with @JLeslie. Have they ever checked your thyroids or are you going through menopause? Some of the symptoms sound thyroid related.

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