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Mimishu1995's avatar

What does a panic attack feel like?

Asked by Mimishu1995 (15264points) June 18th, 2017

I’m just curious of what a panic attack feel like through the eyes of a sufferer. I know the symptoms through Google search, but I just need to know what someone going through one would actually feel. I can’t find a good description on the experience on the internet. Bonus lurves if you can describe a panic attack from the onset to the aftermath.

Sorry in advance if this question makes anyone feel uncomfortable. I don’t mean any ill will when I ask this. Just curious.

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15 Answers

DominicY's avatar

I’ve only experienced one or two in my life thankfully (both brought on by my hypochondria. I became convinced something was seriously medically wrong with me and that brought on a panic attack). I’m sure different people experience them differently. For me the main symptom was shortness of breath, increased heart rate…the more I thought about what was happening, the worse it got: the more my breathing rate increased and the more my heart pounded. I soon felt like I wouldn’t be able to breathe if it kept up, which of course, just made it even worse. It’s a positive feedback loop. I also felt like I was going insane. The only thing that stopped it was splashing cold water on my face. Once I could tell that my heart rate was actually beginning to slow, that allowed me to relax and finally it abated. Not a fun experience. Hope this helped your question, though.

Kardamom's avatar

I used to get full blown panic attacks every now and then as a child. They are the direct cause of my fear of heights and flying. I still get minor ones when I have to go up in a tall building. I don’t fly at all.

You are suddenly overcome with a sense of dread. With me, I would also be a little shaky and sweaty, and have a bit of paralysis. I simply couldn’t get up and walk. And my heart would race. You feel completely out of control and scared to death.

I wouldn’t wish panic attacks on my worst enemy.

chyna's avatar

My symptoms are much like @DominicY. Short of breath and my heart pounds out of my chest. I feel like everything in my peripheral vison is going black. It can last seconds or minutes. I have yet to find a reason to blame my attacks on. I can be relaxing at home, in my car, at work, etc.
Also, I have them about 3 or 4 times a month.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Feels like being on board a speeding train with poor lighting. You are barreling fast somewhere but you don’t know where. You can’t see things in good detail because of the poor lighting. Everything outside is moving too fast for you to even want to look at that.
When the train makes stops they are sudden and only for moments, and you aren’t sure if you should be trying to get off or not. If you get off at the wrong place you could never get back on so youjuststaywhereyouareandhopeitwillbeoversoon.
After leaves you feeling meek, and embarrassed, and tired.

Roadtodebt's avatar

I have suffered with panic disorder since I was about 14 years old, and up until now I’ve gone through about 4 different feelings of panic attack, when it first started my heart would just beat really fast, then progressed later on into fast heart rate with a feeling of not being able to catch my breath, I have an easier time controlling them now and get them maybe once every 3 months but they’re much worse now, I get a fast heart rate with almost like a choking feeling, it’s very scary but thankfully I’ve been able to control my mind enough that when I do get them they only last about a minute or 2. I think it’s hard to say what if feels like because I imagine it’s different for everyone.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Like having a grenade going off in your chest. Shaken to the core. On a roller coaster.

NomoreY_A's avatar

I think Kardamom described it best. I never get them any more, I used to get them all the time if I had to ride a damn elevator. I hated elevators. Until I read somewhere that Dean Martin, of all people, had had the same problem. Until he forced himself to ride up and down on an elevator in Vegas one night, and convinced himself there was nothing to fear. I did the same thing at a condo, and it seems like it works. Still don’t like the damn coffins, but I can use them now without freaking out.

SergeantQueen's avatar

When I start getting a panic attack, I feel like there is a giant black hole in my stomach. And the more I think about whatever is making me panic, it gets bigger and bigger. I can’t breathe right and I feel like I’m having a hot flash and I get dizzy. I feel like I am paralyzed and I can’t focus on anything. Typically I get these when I’m around a bunch of people I don’t know, or before/after a performance of some sort. I can usually tell when it’s happening because I start getting short of breath. I try to breathe and get myself to calm down, but sometimes that doesn’t work.

Afterward, I feel super tired. I typically just fall asleep after. I also feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest.

I hate panic attacks. It feels like I am dying, not trying to exaggerate. It is the worst feeling I have ever felt. And just like @Kardamom said, I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone.

Mimishu1995's avatar

Thanks all for taking time to answer. I really appreciate you courage to share the experience and I hope you don’t feel too uncomfortable. I just need some facts.

I’m sorry if you are still experiencing panic attack.

YARNLADY's avatar

Think of the feeling you get when someone surprises you enough to make you jump, and you say “Oh, you startled me”. Now think about that feeling doesn’t go away for an hour or more. That is how I feel. In addition to heart beating wildly, breathing gets difficult, I feel like I am about to pass out and I sweat profusely.

AshlynM's avatar

I think symptoms may vary from person to person. I rarely have them. I just experienced one a few months ago at the DMV. All of a sudden I got this overwhelming sense of fear, I have no idea why. I had an extreme adrenaline rush. When it was my turn to go to the counter, my right hand and leg started shaking. My voice was cracking, it was a little embarrassing but all of it stopped once I got out of the building.
Maybe my attack was due to the fact the DMV was very crowded. It’s funny, I go to the mall alot and I never have these attacks. Maybe it’s crowds in a very confined space. I don’t know what triggers it for me.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Sadly accurate descriptions here…

I would add, it feels like you’re falling. Like if you’re leaning back in a chair, and you loose your balance and fall backwards. It’s that momentary feeling of falling uncontrollably, except it doesn’t go away…

I’m sad to see so many of us suffer from this….

Peace n love…

PullMyFinger's avatar

My one and only panic attack came when I was 24 years old. At work I became so sick and dizzy that I went home, and could barely make it to the living room couch without almost falling down. Mt father-in-law (along with my wife) drove me to the Emergency Room, with me lying on the back seat.

I was sure that this had to be a tumor or something, and began to hyperventilate. My hands and arms folded up tight to my body, and I could not move them at all. Convinced that I was dying, I kept saying ‘I’m sorry’ to my (9 months pregnant) wife,

The ER doctor gave me a shot which made my arms finally unfold and return to normal. He said that sometimes during a panic attack, people can breathe so erratically that they blow away the layer of carbon dioxide which surrounds and protects the brain, and the brain reacts by shutting down muscular control (this is why they tell people to do that ‘paper bag’ thing… helps retain your carbon dioxide levels).

I asked him to please go tell the very pregnant woman in the waiting area that I was not, in fact, going to die.

My imagined ‘brain tumor’ turned out to be a severe middle-ear infection, which can literally cause you to suddenly fall uncontrollably to the ground (and yes, on another occasion I did that….into two feet of snow….but this time I knew that I wasn’t dying…..)

Patty_Melt's avatar

My brief experience with it was the result of my medication.
What I take for fibromyalgia is also used for depression. I was monitored closely at first for side effects, but dizzy spells was it (fell off a chair once, that dizzy).
During the winter I caught a cold which gave me a sore throat so bad I could not swallow my pills. For a week I could manage only occasional sips and it hurt to swallow even the fluids.
Coming off the meds for that long caused panic attacks, sleep disturbance, it was awful.
By the time my sore throat healed, I was such a mess I couldn’t keep my pills straight from one day to the next, and I was so full of anxiety I couldn’t refill my prescription. I went more than a month on that train ride, finally managing to force myself to get my scrip refilled.
It was a nightmare I never want to live again.

kobefan24's avatar

It can vary from person to person. Some are more severe then others. I had my share of panic attacks, they are awful. Usually my hands start to sweat, and I feel a tightness in my chest. Panic Attacks can also cause you to feel out breath, and cause you to shake. I only get them a few times a year.

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