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rory's avatar

How do I handle night panic attacks?

Asked by rory (1407points) January 10th, 2015

Every few nights for the month or two I’ve been having panic attacks as I start to fall asleep. It often starts off with general feelings of discomfort—my body feels itchy and like I can’t get comfortable. This leads to me getting the general symptoms of a panic attack, my heart rate quickens, I stop being logical.

When I do fall asleep on these nights, I generally wake up several times in the night from nightmares hyperventilating. Sometimes I remember this happening, but other times I have no recollection of it at all, and only know about it because my partner who shares a bed with me tells me about it in the morning.

I’m in college and live in a dorm, so we share a twin-sized bed, so there isn’t much space. When I wake up, my partner wakes up.

Lately I’ve been so scared of panicking at night that I’ve been taking diphenhydramine every night to fall asleep—it’s an over the counter thing you can buy at drugstores that’s essentially an antihistamine but is marked as a sleep aid. I was taking one pill of that (25 mg), which kind of worked for a while, but my body has adjusted and now I’m taking either one or two a night.

Backstory: I have an anxiety disorder, and was on Zoloft for it all through high school, which I tapered off of this summer with a doctor’s help. I know I should seek a doctor’s advice for what’s going on now, but given what I’ve said, I’m wondering if anyone has been in this situation before, and can offer their experience. I’m feeling increasingly guilty at making my partner suffer through this with me, and that’s the hardest part of it all. They really like sharing a bed with me, but I’m worried that this is causing them harm.

What should I do?

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10 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

Take a warm shower. See a doctor about getting off your meds. Take a year off from school and relax. I have anxiety at nights and I listen to funny Youtube and documentaries.

gailcalled's avatar

There are learned relaxation and deep-breathing techniques.

“Learn to lower your level of everyday anxiety through a variety of techniques, including meditation and exercise.

Learn other relaxation techniques, like deep breathing or guided imagery.

Avoid stimulants, such as nicotine and caffeine, which can be found not only in coffee, but many teas, colas, and chocolate. ‘Webmed

”... psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation, and/or meditation are often used to help relax the body‚Ķ”

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Daily Exercise, B vitamins and no alcohol. Breath DEEPLY.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I’m affected by general anxiety disorder also and after doing much research I have found it’s basically genetic and can be magnified by stress, poor diet and lack of exercise. Shitty deal of cards but it is what it is. I’m not kidding about the B-vitamins and exercise, it’ll help.

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Here2_4's avatar
Pressure points are very effective for many things. Grab yer partner dosado, now ease that stress and pinch their toe.
Really, I am under some stress of my own. My humor suffers more than usual. My attempt was to hint that your partner might enjoy helping you with those pressure points.
Don’t eat large for dinner. Some people eat until they feel stuffed. Only eat until you feel not hungry. About an hour before bed, work some pressure points, either alone, or together. Have a small snack just after. Make it something low cal and easy to digest, possibly some broth and soak it up with bread, or a glass of warm milk and a banana. Try your best to avoid sugary stuff though, that won’t help.
Good luck. I hope you are sleeping comfortably soon.

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JLeslie's avatar

Quit alcohol and caffeine. Keep in mind quitting caffeine (assuming you drink it) will cause a week of feeling crappy. Taper down at first for 3 to 5 days, then quit. Be prepared for headaches for a couple of days and feeling under the weather. You will want the caffeine for a good week, maybe a month, and then you will be accustomed to being without it.

Go to therapy. If you aren’t keen on taking the drugs, then some talk therapy might help. I assume you have participated in therapy before, but maybe not. I don’t know if your GP was prescribing Zoloft for you or a psychiatrist? Maybe you can learn to reframe some thoughts to help control your anxiety. Don’t be discouraged if the first therapist isn’t a good fit for you, seek another. Consider a therapist who speacializes in phobias and avoidance behavior.

Deep breathing and/or meditation techniques might help. Helps to calm the body and to control the mind. You can learn to refocus your mind and clear it. However, nightmares are more tricky obviously.

Lastly, be sure to have your thyroid checked next time your blood is drawn if they have never checked it before. Hyperthyroid can cause a racing heart, high anxiety, light headed, and it is not uncommon to feel the affects of it mostly at night. I assume they have checked it since you have a history, and have been on medication for anxiety, but actually you can’t assume.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Do quit alcohol, taper the caffeine..and slowly. Anxiety can get worse withdrawing from caffeine.

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