General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Have you ever had a panic attack?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (30673points) September 27th, 2010

One of the “joys” of my life is living with anxiety disorder and having random panic attacks. I’ve had them in parking lots, in stores, at home, at the beach, etc. Basically, anywhere you can name I’ve probably had a panic attack there.

They feel awful. I get a sense of impending doom followed by racing thoughts. My heart rate increases, and I begin to sweat. And I cry. It can start from stress or from nothing at all.

I try breathing exercises and meditation, but often times the only thing that really works to bring me down is a pill.

Have you experienced a panic attack? What started it? What helped end it? How did it feel?

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26 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I have had a panic attack. I don’t remember what started it. I only remember grabbing my list of things to do and trying breathing, giving up on taking a hot bath, and finally calling someone who talked me down.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Yes, I used to suffer panic attacks very regularly. On multiple occasions I begged whoever was nearby to call 911, I was absolutely convinced that I was having a heart attack. (In my early 20s, at that.) Same symptoms as you, my heart was racing, sweating, difficulty breathing, my limbs would go numb, swallowing became difficult. I really believed I was going to die.. and they always seemed to strike for no apparent reason.
I found that the most comforting thing for me during a panic attack was to have someone put their hands on my chest. It helped me to become more aware of my breathing. I found that trying to regulate or change my breathing on my own usually made it worse, but having someone touching me kind of brought me back down to earth in a sense. It was also comforting to know that my heart was not literally going to beat out of my chest, because the person touching me would obviously notice if that were going to happen.
I don’t know what changed that I don’t have trouble anymore, it has been years since I’ve really suffered a full blown panic attack.. but I don’t intend to backtrack to find out, honestly.

DominicX's avatar

I’ve had one before, yes. It was exactly like how you described it, rapid heart rate, racing thoughts, and rapid breathing. I know exactly what caused it. It was caused by hypochondria. I was feeling some odd symptoms and they matched something more serious. And I couldn’t get it off my mind and I started thinking something might really be wrong with me. And that’s when I had the panic attack. It was in the morning at home, no one else was there. Just lying down and deep breathing stopped it for me, but that’s the only one I’ve ever had.

My boyfriend tells me that he has had one before. It was caused by him being in a social situation where he knew no one and was the only one there sitting by himself and eventually it just led to a panic attack. He was only 14 when that happened and didn’t even know what had hit him. I was the first person he told about it, just about a year ago. My boyfriend also has some breathing issues and says that sometimes when he feels like he might not be able breathe that well, he starts to feel like he might have a panic attack, but it soon goes away.

JustmeAman's avatar

Yes I have had many attacks. Most of mine start with some of the experiences I get when I meditate though that is better in control now. But you are right once in a while I’m not sure where they came from. They are awful and feel like you are dying sometimes. I never had one until after I had passed and was brought back.

Rarebear's avatar

Yes. I started Paxil and I’ve never had one since.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
FutureMemory's avatar

I’m sure there have been a few, but the only one that immediately comes to mind is the time I thought my SO had been murdered.

edit: This event easily ranks as the most horrible 3 hours I’ve ever experienced. My sympathies to anyone that lives with this on a regular basis.

chels's avatar

I have them sometimes. Unfortunately my anxiety is getting progressively worse, so I’ll probably need some meds at some point.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
cazzie's avatar

I remember clearly having one in high school. I had a ‘tension attack’ once… just last year, I think. I ended up in the ER because I was on the floor and couldn’t breath or move because I had really bad, radiating chest pain. They put a heart monitor on me and my heart was good and strong, so he felt my general muscle areas around my chest, back and shoulders and told me that I was pinching nerves in my back and chest because my muscles were tensed to badly. Tricky, eh?

Aster's avatar

Yes, half a dozen of them before and for a few years after a divorce over twenty years ago. Numb chin, heart pounding but that’s all I remember. And the pain of it. The psychological pain depressed me terribly. It took a few years to go away leaving me with many years of occasional mild to moderate anxiety . PTSD I guess.
Read Clair Weakes’ books; they help.

MacBean's avatar

Anybody watch Mad Men last night? Don Draper had a pretty impressive panic attack. Jon Hamm portrayed it so well, it almost triggered one for me.

jbeckett8's avatar

I had one when i was working on my GCSES I promised never to get to that point again it is quite terifying

loser's avatar

Sorry to hear about that. I get them too. They’re horrible. I have a prescription for Ativan that I carry with me in case one hits and that does help. Also, when they started happening regularly, I took Ativan daily to prevent them from happening and that really helped. Apparently, the more you get them, the more likely you are to get them. They’re kind of evil that way. I feel for you. Hang in there!

philosopher's avatar

I had panic attacks when I was young. Through Yoga, deep breathing, other exercise and understanding myself I over came them for many years. Unfortunately since my autistic son was diagnosed I have them again.
I wish I had a solution but I do not. They are bought on by too much responsibility and feeling overwhelmed. That people around me are clueless and totally despicable.
When I feel overwhelmed I exercise if possible. I will not pick up the phone for anyone but someone that matters to me
I will not attempt to explain to sallow people because they are too ignorant to get it.
I have no problem admitting this happens to me but I rarely take medication. I will not listen to someone lecture me about how it is all in my head and I can control it.
Only someone who has a young adult autistic son or daughter can comprehend my life.


GladysMensch's avatar

I’ve had a few in my life. They seemed to come out of nowhere. I wasn’t overly stressed, or in any other way ill. I had the requisite heart racing, difficulty breathing, and feelings of doom. I also had a feeling that I was slipping in and out of reality; kinda like being really high on pot. The worst part…I felt that if I let myself slip away and didn’t control my reality, then I would fall into the state permanently. I really thought I was losing my mind. (I must add that I hadn’t been high within months of any of my attacks… nor have ever done any hallucinogenic drugs).

One of my worst attacks happened while I was waiting tables. Again, I wasn’t all that busy or stressed. I got through it by having a coworker look me in the eye and tell me “You’re going to be fine.” every time I entered the kitchen. Luckily, we were friends and she did it without questioning me. I don’t know how I would have gotten through that without her.

global_nomad's avatar

I’ve only had a panic attack once. It was when I was a senior in high school and filling out college applications. My dad was yelling at me for something; he was annoyed with all the paperwork, I was annoyed with all of the paper work. Anyways, it lead to me sitting there in the computer chair unable to breathe and hyperventilating. Then I started to cry. It was horrible and so demeaning.

daytonamisticrip's avatar

I had a panic attack. It started because my mom kept calling me a liar and said to me your worth nothing. I went in my room and cried. Then I started feeling like I couldn’t breath. and for awhile I would stop breathing for near a minute and then just take in a big breath. I don’t know how long it took to stop after it did I just went to bed still crying.

GracieT's avatar

I have a seizure disorder. The form that my seizures take is of panic attacks. They only last for 2 or 3 minutes, but they terrify me. I take medicine for them but I still have them. I have to talk to get through them, and I never know when they will happen. They still scare me!

tranquilsea's avatar

I used to get them all the time. They came part and parcel with flashbacks. I took mediation to deal with the worst of them. But eventually even the medication wouldn’t work. I had to learn to to control my breathing and my mind. I often found that going for a quick run helped burn out the heightened feelings.

Panic attacks suck big time. I am so glad that I don’t get them anymore thanks to therapy.

rooeytoo's avatar

They ruled my life for a lot of years. Then I found a counselor who really helped me to figure out why I was having them. From there I found groups such as AA and ACOA which again helped me to understand my life in general and the panic attacks specifically. Finally I found a book ( I know this sounds so simplistic but truly it was my salvation and freedom) Claire Weekes in the author and the book is called “Hope and Help for My Jangled Nerves.” It is old but still available. Order one and read it. It might be your salvation too.

What the book basically made me realize is that they aren’t going to kill me. They always pass and life becomes my version of normal again afterwards. Learn to say, oh shit, here we go again and then just sit back and wait it out. It is an annoyance but much preferable to having a dreaded disease, that is the way I learned to look at it. And once you can view it that way, they lose their power over you. I haven’t had one in a long time and I hope I don’t have anymore ever but….... if I do, I know it won’t kill me. Well unless it is really a heart attack and I just mistake it for anxiety, hehehehe, at almost 66, you never know!

Truly Jakie, give it a try, you got nothing to lose and lots to gain. I just googled her (see here) and found out she is an aussie, I never knew that before.

YARNLADY's avatar

I used to have them all the time, but now my medication is adjusted, and I have plenty of support to help me when things seem to be getting overwhelming.

Jabe73's avatar

Yes, I had the worst kind you could get and they were very consistent. It then came to the point where the panic was constant 24/7 without letup. My condition evolved from occasional panic attacks, then to panic disorder and eventually to full blown extreme fear. Medication helped but I had alot of problems with pills as well and side effects until I found the right one because most of the other meds didn’t work for me. I’m still not sure to this day what caused them. I think being around negative people all the time combined with persistent stress helps to trigger them.

john65pennington's avatar

With my second neck surgery, i suffered panic attacks from the neck brace i had to wear forever. paxil saved the day, even though it took two days to fully enter my bloodstream.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Great Caesar’s ghost, I get a panic attack only when I am driving and there is a cop around, especially behind me, having been stopped DWB more than 7 times in my life I just can’t help it.

Kardamom's avatar

I had several really bad panic attacks when I was a kid. They started around age 7 and all of them seemed to involve heights. Before the first attack, I had no fear of heights, but around the same time I had 3 things happen: a bad airplane flight, a trip up the steep stairs to Coit tower in San Francisco, and a ride on an old hand operated elevator that dropped slightly. After that, I didn’t take the stairs up more than 2 flights again until I was about 15. I stopped flying altogether, even though my Dad worked for an airline. People say that the only way to get over fear of heights and flying is through immersion therapy, in which they slowly, but surely put you in the situation. I just laught and say, “You’ve got to be kidding!” The cure is as bad or worse than the condition. When I was in my mid 20’s I was convinced to fly one time (it was a trip of a lifetime). I had a minor panic attack on the way to the destination and then had a bad flight on the way back. No more flying for me, ever! It’s not worth having the feeling that you are going to die and feeling humiliated by it at the same time. I could not face the treatment.

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