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I’m Dying: What a Panic Attack Feels Like

by Mike on October 1, 2008 · 354 comments

scream sm Im Dying: What a Panic Attack Feels LikeThe term “panic attack” is part of our common language. We hear it all the time.

“When I saw the electricity bill I just had a panic attack!” Or, “I had a panic attack when I woke up and saw I was two hours late for work!” Or, “When I realized I’d just eaten a raw oyster I about had a panic attack!” All these statements are inaccurate uses of the term “panic attack,” and are what are called clinomorphisms, or exaggerated use of a medical term.

Panic attacks are no laughing matter, and people who have the real ones cringe when they hear the term bandied about in everyday speech like it was nothing. They know the feeling that you are about to die, the intense fear, and the sudden onset are far more than what most people think of as a “panic attack.”

So how does it really feel to have a panic attack? Few people, aside from panic attack sufferers themselves, really know. It’s the purpose of this post to give you an insider’s view of what it actually feels like to have a panic attack. 

Check out the article What Panic Attacks Have Taught Me for more help on overcoming Panic Attacks. And can panic attacks physically harm you? Panic Attacks Can’t Hurt You–Really! says no!

What exactly is a panic or anxiety attack?

Sudden surge of overwhelming fear

A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. It is far more intense than the feeling of being “stressed out” that most people experience. A panic attack is marked by:

  • Occurring suddenly, without any warning and without any way to stop it.
  • The level of fear is way out of proportion to the actual situation, and is often completely unrelated.
  • It passes in a few minutes, however, repeated attacks can continue to recur for hours.

For detailed information on panic attacks, please see the “Panic Attacks” reference article, For help making it through a panic attack, see the post, “Are You Having a Panic Attack? What Can You Do?“ 

What do psychiatrists say are the symptoms of a panic attack?

The “official” criteria for panic attacks

First, let’s get the “official” criteria for determining whether what you are feeling is a panic attack or not. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) of the American Psychiatric Association is the standard for diagnosis of mental disorders all over the world. 

It requires that at least four of the following symptoms develop abruptly and reach a peak within 10 minutes for a diagnosis of panic attack:

1. Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate

2. Sweating

3. Trembling or shaking

4. Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering

5. Feeling of choking

6. Chest pain or discomfort

7. Nausea or abdominal distress

8. Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint

9. Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)

10. Fear of losing control or going crazy

11. Fear of dying

12. Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)

13. Chills or hot flushes

My panic attacks

Muscle constrictions, pounding heart, weakness and tingling, and fear of losing control

I hesitate to insert a personal side to this post, but since I have first-hand knowledge of how it feels to have a  panic attack, I believe it is appropriate to describe mine. Each of my panic attacks is a little different, but all follow the same general outline: muscle constrictions, pounding heart, weakness and tingling, and fear of losing control and fainting.

My panic attacks start with muscle constrictions and tingling around the eyes, then the feeling spreads to my mouth and lower face. I develop a headache and feel a choking muscle constriction in my neck and tightening of my chest. There is a funny feeling in my chest, like shooting electricity. My heart starts pounding, my breathing is constricted and I feel very weak, especially in my arms and hands. A tingly feeling spreads over my whole body. I have a sense of unreality, of watching myself from a distance, and a growing fear of being unable to control myself. As things escalate, I desperately look for someplace — any place — to escape to. At its peak, I feel like I am going to faint and if things continue, I will surely die.

What do others say are their symptoms during a panic attack?

An informal compiled list of symptoms

Panic attacks are by their nature subjective experiences, and like all subjective experiences, are open to the interpretation and description of the sufferer. Following is an informal compiled list of symptoms from Wikipedia. They are grouped under “physical,” “mental,” “emotional,” and “perceptual” headings:

Physical

  • A sensation of adrenaline going through your entire body
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Stomach Problems (spastic colon)
  • Racing or pounding heartbeat or palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea or stomach pains
  • Hyperventilation
  • Choking or smothering sensations
  • Hot flashes
  • Cold flashes
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands, face, feet or mouth (paresthesia)
  • Feelings of “crawly,” “itchy,” or “cringy” skin sensations.
  • Burning sensations
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Feeling of claustrophobia
  • Feeling like the body is shutting down and/or dying
  • Tremors in the legs and thighs
  • Tingling spine
  • Feeling like one is experiencing a heart attack
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle spasms
  • Feeling of physical weakness or limpness of the body
  • Grinding teeth or tensing other muscles repeatedly or for prolonged periods of time
  • Temporary blindness
  • Sizzling or ringing in ears

Mental

  • Intense and/or frightening realizations of reality
  • Loss of the ability to react logically to stimuli
  • Loss of cognitive ability in general
  • Racing thoughts (often based on fear)
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Loud internal dialogue
  • Feeling like nothing is real
  • Feeling of impending doom
  • Feeling of “going crazy”
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling like no one understands what is happening
  • Vision is somewhat impaired (eyes may feel like they are shaking.)
  • Feeling like you are going to die any second
  • Avoidance behavior
  • Agoraphobia

Emotional

  • Terror, or a sense that something unimaginably horrible is about to occur and one is powerless to prevent it
  • Fear that the panic is a symptom of a serious illness
  • Fear that the panic will not subside
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of death
  • Fear of living
  • Fear of going crazy
  • Flashbacks to earlier panic trigger
  • Intense “scared” feeling
  • Fear of failure

Perceptual

  • Tunnel vision
  • Heightened senses
  • The apparent slowing down or speeding up of time
  • Dream-like sensation or perceptual distortion (derealization)
  • Dissociation, or the perception that one is not connected to the body or is disconnected from space and time (depersonalization)
  • Feeling of loss of free will, as if acting entirely automatically without control

If you think that you are having panic attacks…

Panic attacks are not dangerous in themselves

If you are experiencing four or more of the symptoms listed by the DSM-IV for panic attacks within 10 minutes, you need to contact your doctor as soon as possible. Panic attacks are not dangerous in and of themselves, though you often feel like you’re dying. But the avoidance of the situations that trigger panic attacks can very rapidly lead to a severe constriction of your life, to Panic Disorder, and to Agoraphobia. The danger is not in the panic attacks, but in what they can lead to.

Panic attacks are one of the most treatable of the Anxiety Disorders, and many times a mental health professional can help you manage them without the use of drugs. The course of treatments is often not very long, and you will have the ability to control your condition for the rest of your life. 

What do you think?

  • Do you have panic attack symptoms that are not listed here?
  • Can you describe your own panic attacks?
  • What do you think of people who misuse the term “panic attack?”

What can you do now?

Your comments are always welcome, and are important to this blog’s community! Leave a comment now.

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©2008 Anxiety, Panic & Health. All rights reserved.

Resources used in this post:
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association. 1994.
Wikipedia. (2008). Panic attack. Retrieved June 28, 2008 from Wikipedia Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_attack

{ 345 comments… read them below or add one }

Rose May 4, 2013 at 11:53 am

My panic attacks started about 35 yrs ago which I believe I learned from my mom. We both married alcoholics and both had violent nausa and diahrrea. Mom died early but I am 63 now. I have left the alcoholic home and my father too has passed. I am on paxil now for several years. It has taken the agoraphobia away so I have a large radius space of living. I have been using Xanax in harsh situations (for me) like this week I was set to fly to Virginia to visit my son and family. By the time I got to the car to go to the airport, the nausa, etc and extreme hot sensation through my body started. THe Xanax did not work this time. If we are having a family reunion or if I am in a situation of newness- I take a Xanax to get calm. My attacks used to last for days at a time and I spent most of it in the bathroom. I got to a point I would not go anywhere unless I knew there was a bathroom that I could use in privacy. Very scary stuff and no where to hide when it hits. Wish I could just ignore my scary situations and just go for it. Still having them but not as much as before. I hate to limit myself to staying in my 50 radius bubble but at least I can move around in here. Sometimes you just have to realize, It is, what it is. Good luck to all those suffering this annoying condition. Rose

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cohcoh May 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm

35 years is a long time Rose, I pray 4 Gods speedy hand of recovery upon u, and peace of mind

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K August 12, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Ditto Rose. I pray for the same.

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Char May 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm

My daughter can not get out of bed,her attacks are constant…she tried 2 antidepressants and they put the attacks on steroids!!!Super attacks!! now she stop them…she was on one for 2 days and wound up in the hosp. ,the other was for 10 days and did nothing to help only hurt….now she takes ativan and that is not helping….how can we help? What other meds .should she try,allthough she is scared to try another anti med.

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cohcoh May 7, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Perhaps you ought to try a different practitioner all in all, expeditiously! Some people respond better to herbal meds, try ‘vital’ vitamin b complex 4 nervousness and mental boost one is in a red and white box the other orange and white, thy not antidepressants, they more like vitamins** praying 4 her**

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Char May 8, 2013 at 10:53 am

Thank you….we figured out on our own that she was also having withdraw from the anti depressants….so she is going to try the natural way like you said….she is still sickly and in bed but she sounds more human today and did get up and brush her teeth!!!!baby steps!! later we will try the shower and she ate a little this morning!!Praying also helped…so thank you again….will keep posting!!!

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cohcoh May 8, 2013 at 11:29 am

And Ill keep responding… Keep supporting her, scrol up and let her recite the prayer aloud when she feels the attck coming, its one of my coping strategies… Stay strong and all the best

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923 June 29, 2013 at 4:48 am

You should also try and focus on when the attacks started happening. What happened to her, you know?

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Char May 9, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Hi, My daughter has officially withdrawn from that anti depression crap!!!….she is still weak ,but today she was out of bed and out of P.J.’s!!! But this afternoon had a bad panic attack. But it was still better than what she was feeling like for the past month….Those anti meds are for the birds……they make you worse… …thanks for listening!!!

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MeAndAnxiety May 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm

A couple of months ago, in January, I was sitting behind my desk doing my everyday stuff on my pc when I suddenly felt like wood burning in my nostrils, I could smell the “smoke”. I had this happen before many tines but this time it was so strong like chemicals. My head got really dizzy, my body felt weak, I was duddenly sweating, my heart was beating really fast, my blood pressure was high(150/100). I had no idea what this was, I knew what pannick attacks were but at that tine I thought I had a stroke or heart attack. When I calmed down, took about 15 minutes, it then made more sense thst it was my first panic attack. I am only 21 years old, I always had anxiety problems but never thought I would have an actual panic attack. I had the same thing happen again twice the following months but they weren’t as strong like the first time. I thought I would get better then but even though the panic attacks went away I was feeling very sick, I was so sad because in July I am going to study abroad, it was something I was looking forward to, and just like this all my dreams fade away. I slowly started feeling better, I am feeling much better now and life goes on as if nothing happened but I won’t forget.

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Nicole May 29, 2013 at 7:37 pm

I got my first panic attack when I was pregnant in 2009 I was 19. After that I continued to get them. Now they occur at random and it scares me. The worse two I’ve ever had was in wal-mart and in school. I was in wal-mart one day with my family and all of a sudden my chest feels like it drops and my hurt beats weirdly slow for a few seconds then it starts beating rapidly, I get really dizzy almost like tunnel vision and sometimes black spots. I feel super weak and I feel like I’m about to die because of how fast my heart is beating, I was telling my husband come on let’s go I can’t be here. I was hot, my face was sweaty and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Another time it occurred at school after a Anatomy & Phisiology test. I came out looked at my paper and I had two questions wrong and then I had a panick attack. I’ve found that sometimes mine just won’t stop unless I lay flat on my back and breathe a few deep breaths and its over and its like my body has been released by a hard grip of some kind. But afterwards I feel so exhausted. But usually laying on my back flat on the ground stops it abrubtly which is what makes it so bad in public because that be embarrassing just laying on the floor and I imagine the looks I’d get and that’s what makes me worry more while I’m having one. Does anyone else feel like it stops when you lay down? If I continue to set up or stand up the feeling gets worse and my heart continues to race.

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Kerry March 11, 2014 at 1:25 pm

That is exactly what I’m going through right now. I don’t know what to do or what’s causing it. Please let me know if you did anything to help yourself get better.

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Saib May 31, 2013 at 1:00 am

“people who have the real ones cringe when they hear the term bandied”

Please don’t claim to speak for everyone. I’ve had panic attacks for years, to the point that, I’m ashamed to say, I have not worked the past couple of years. But I most certainly do not “cringe” when I hear people use the term “panic attack” without the medical connotations. I simply understand that words can have different meanings or different shades of meanings.

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Dan June 1, 2013 at 3:27 pm

I started having panic attacks in 2009, I am now 40 years old but ever since the episodes began I feel like I am 75. I am so confused about mine and do not understand them at all. I only have the attacks when I feel any type of pain or discomfort in my body, or is it the opposite?? Do I get the pain and discomfort because of the attack or is the attack triggered by the pain and discomfort. Most all of my episodes are the same; light headed, confusion, shivering, and I spend countless hours pacing the house until it either passes or I get into the fetal position and fall asleep. I went through a period of time where I would run to the ER every time I had an attack, but I have somewhat controlled it to the point where I am able to trick my mind into knowing that nothing is wrong with me, and because of that my attacks have gone from hours to just under an hour or even minutes. I have refused to accept any medication to help me, I feel I am way to young and healthy to have to rely on medication to get me through each day. But whether my episodes last and hour, a minute, or several hours they are still very real and very frightening, and I nobody should ever have to feel this.

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derek June 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I just had a panic attack from hell I feel warm all over and like I’m dying but my mom helped me thru it and I have to get treated for it I dont know what triggered it but my chest hurts and my body is warm all over I feel like I’m going to die and I walk around a lot And I need to get it fixed

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cohcoh June 2, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Hey, my last attack had burning sensations as well, as if I’m coming down with a fever/cold, so annoying to describe it the least…

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Josh June 4, 2013 at 10:36 am

Im 16 this is happened to me a few times im not really sure what it is but here it is. my vision starts to go black i get weak dizzy, lightheaded ,start to sweat,exhausted,ears ringing really loud makeing it hard to hear anything eles almost feels like a stroke or im dyeing or something when it happens i have to sit down imediately. it usually last around 15 to 20 minutes if anyone could give me some feedback it would be apreciated.

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johan June 6, 2013 at 6:22 am

I belive my first panic attack was at a hotel lobby in Havanna when I was there with some of my friends. I didn`t recognize it as a panic attack then and moved forward with my life.
Second experience was in NY at another trip and I didn`t recognize it as a panic attack either.
Everything changed one year later when I was walking with my new girlfirend and had another attack, it was a combination with a hang over from last night party that maybe fueld this attack. It was severe.
Things changed this time. I gained a fear of new attack whitch I didn`t get with the to first attack. Later that night I was shaking my way to sleep and woke up next morning with an “idea” setting root in my brain that said “I am sick” The last three years have been a roller coaster in emotions and thouhgts. Why and how.

I think the key to solve the enigma anxiety and panic attack are is to let go the “idea” that is plantet by our unconcious mind that we are sick. Over and over again we fight ourselves with thoughts that drag us down to the pavement.

(sorry for bad english I`m european)

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steve June 6, 2013 at 12:26 pm

i recently tried speed for the first time, after suffering a few panic/anxiety attacks it scared me, how long will they last? knowing it was my very first time smoking spped and having the attacks

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Lisa June 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm

After 11 months since my first attack things a re finally improving. I have had 6 CBT sessions which were fab and has helped to change the way I think and also taught me some great coping techniques. In August last year I couldn’t leave the house for fear of fainting with the constant lightheadedness, this week I have just got back from Spain….a huge achievement. The light headedness which was always present is nowhere near as bad and I hardly ever think about how I’m breathing now (which was the cause of the lightheadedness). Slowly coming off the meds and feeling really positive. Think positive thoughts and push yourself to do things outside your comfort zone (I could easily have given in and was at risk of being agoraphobic!). I still get waves of the burning sensations in my stomach but I tell myself it’s just adrenaline working overtime and nothing to be scred of and it fades….I know how you are all feeling and send you all love n hugs xx

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Jacob Lawyer June 7, 2013 at 10:36 pm

The other night I had a feeling with my chest that felt like
My heart stopped beating and had a odd numbing/ squeezing heat sensation in my chest, freaked the mess out of me! I am 14 and am pretty positive this was anxiety!

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Fearlesslyhappy June 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I suffer(ed) from severe social anxiety and depression. I remember my panic attacks would be so severe that, even when it had already passed, I would still be getting horrible muscle spasms for at least 20 minutes from all the adrenaline that was released during the panic attack. It was horrible and even worse that I would see people I cared about being worried about the spasms, while the panic attack before was way worse for me. Indeed, it feels like you are dying.
Fearlesslyhappy´s last blog post ..Mindfulness for anxiety

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Ash June 10, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Reading everyone’s experiences has actually made me feel a lot better…I feel less crazy than I did when I got to this website. I’m 24 and my panic attacks have been pretty bad for the past 6 or 7 months. I think stress brings on my panic attacks, but I’m not sure. They come out of nowhere and it’s the worst. I feel like my heart is pounding out of my chest and I will grind my teeth together to the point of pain…I feel dizzy and exhausted, but the worst part is that I don’t just have one single attack. I’ll have the first one, and then a handful more. I have found that sitting in front of a fan helps me gain control. I also try to find someone who makes me laugh, and eventually I’ll start to feel better. It just getting my mind off of it that is the hardest for me.

Thanks for sharing your stories… They made my current attack almost go away. :) I hope all of you find some relief… These things suck.

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Char June 11, 2013 at 11:10 am

Hi, just wanted all to know another way to help….My daughter began walking just a little bit each day and now she jogs a mile every other day….it helps get the adrenaline out…..

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Matthew June 15, 2013 at 11:28 am

I have suffered Panic Attacks for most of my life, my worst attacks where waking up in the middle of the night not being able to breath. I am 22 now and have been able to control them, however I am currently on my first holiday on my own and just felt like one was coming on for the moment I have been able to control it. It felt like as the article posted my entire body dying/shutting down. Horrible feeling as you are trying to get to sleep!. As I have other medical conditions you’re mind likes to play tricks on you, very frustrating.

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Belinda edmonds June 23, 2013 at 8:02 am

I have experienced almost of the above symptoms including short term deafness and the feeling of there bring almost like an invisible dome separating myself from the rest of the world. I’m trying to find out what triggers my attacks as now I have so much fear of another attack that sometimes I feel if I think about one it can actually bring one on….crystals and meditation do wonders!!!!

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Diane June 24, 2013 at 7:52 am

Belinda – The feeling of “unreality” and separation was the one of the most frightening symptoms for me….it took a long time to really believe in my gut that it was a symptom of anxiety and to lose the fear of it…..that’s what helped the most…losing the fear of it….good luck and hang in there

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Luna June 24, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I totally inderstand the unreality part. I’m soo tired of dealing with this on a daily bases. I feel Im trying so hard to be normal and feel normal. I’m so numb. i have been dealing with this for the past 20 years…I have learned to handle it but its still there. When I use to get an attack i would FREAK OUT! Now I just talk to myself and show no outward signs. I find it funny that I get attack when I feel happy about something. I never know when they will come and even though I don’t show them on the outside, I still go through all the emotional and physical feelings and traits….

Anyways just rambling…I feel for and bless anyone out there dealing with this…its so hard don’t let others tell you its not…God bless all of you :)

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Scarlett June 30, 2013 at 12:23 am

Mine recently started when I moved. When it starts, I start taking very deep breaths through my chest, feeling like the breathing is getting more difficult. Then, I try to move to the floor to calm myself but it doesn’t always work. I start feeling constrictions in my chest then the dizziness and I see stars in front of my eyes and feel numb. After that I just collapse on the floor, feeling like can’t control my body anymore and I feel like I’m about 200 degrees. Afterwards, I just feel tired and shaky. I’m not afraid of being out in the world or anything. Surprisingly this mostly happens in my own home. Maybe once or twice in public but luckily my friends and bf were there and it helped a little.

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chris June 30, 2013 at 5:03 am

Hi all
I have panic attacks almost everyday and sometimes i can have more than one day. They all consist of chest pains and fear of death/dying but the rest of the symptoms i have are kind of random, one day i could get a warm feeling all over my body during an attack and feel like i cant breath but then the next day i might have a headache and feel really weak as if i am going to pass out. As for a cure there isn’t one, but to ease the trick is to stop doing anything that stresses you out and if you cant stop doing them try to find something that reduces your stress levels, for example i listen to music alot as well as weight training and though i have attacks still they seem less intense and sometimes i almost talk myself out of an attack. Try it out if you wish
Chris

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http://howtorelieveanxietyadvice.com/panic-away-review-page/ June 30, 2013 at 11:18 pm

I hated (feared) hospitals a bit too much so my hatred (fear)
for doctors kept me from turning to them for help. During counseling you can also adopt a few relaxation
techniques that will become beneficial if and when another
attack occurs. After researching so many other supposed cures it was hard for
me to give in a try this one too. Having said this, stress and panic attack can not
generally be concluded as always directly related because if
your stress is caused by internal factors, it does
not always cause panic attacks.
http://howtorelieveanxietyadvice.com/panic-away-review-page/´s last blog post ..http://howtorelieveanxietyadvice.com/panic-away-review-page/

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Luna July 1, 2013 at 1:34 am

Did anyone use Xanax ? What is it like? I afraid to get addict to it. Any info would benefit. Thank you.

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Jacki July 14, 2013 at 9:20 am

I have severe panic attacks my dr put me on the lowest dosage of Xanax there is and every time i feel a panic attack coming I can take one and it immediately stops it! Xanax is a wonderful medicine for panic attacks but your body can also get wry addicted to it so u have to be careful! I would recommend Xanax if you find yourself having uncontrollable panic attacks

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Jacki July 14, 2013 at 9:26 am

I had a panic attack last night unlike any I have had before- it scared me! I have suffered from panic attacks since I was 12 and I am 23 now- it’s a constant fear of mostly when te next one will happen- so anyway about last night let me know if anyone else has felt this- It started while laying in bed I couldn’t breath then my body started tingling in my mouth and my lip was king of twitching then I had this feeling all over I got really cold an felt “minty” like! Then my heart started pounding and I got a burning sensation in my chest! I thought for sure it was a heart problem but I took a Xanax and it when away and all I was left with was a few minutes of trembling :( let me add I am also JUST starting lexapro and I am weening off Xanax

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Annie Curtis July 2, 2013 at 11:11 pm

I am 23 and just started having them I think I’m gonna die, my body tighens up and I get real heavy headed and dizzy like I feel like I’m gonna have a ceizer or something. I have been eating Benadryl like candy. And it helps I went to the doc and have been out on Paxil and its kinda giving me hope but I think I’m gonna die from Them. I hope they stop soon. It is scary and I freak out and am mean when they happen. If anyone wants to chat back and forth with things that help them txt me at 816-294-7979 my name is Annie :)

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carl July 7, 2013 at 11:53 pm

I have had them my whole life ….I have not operated a car in 14 yrs because of them …..not sure why being in a vehicle triggers them. I cant even get into a vehicle unless my wife is driving. I have been going to a therapist for about six mos. and it didnt help just by talking with him. He just could not convince me that i could coach myself to not have them…..He put me on Paxil and at first they got worse …now they are controllable…but he said he was going to take me off it in a couple mos…..worried that this is not gonna work out ….Im in the process of trying to get my license back to start driving again but if he takes me off the meds I know the attacks will start again….Anyone have any techniques they use to beat panic attacks? Pls share them ….they suck

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Joyce August 9, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Hi to all of you who suffer with anxiety and panic attacks. I was on Paxil for about 16 years. Those were the best years of my life. It stopped the panic attacks and depression. For some reason the Paxil stopped working and now for about the last two years I have had severe depression and awful panic attacks. I am currently on Celexa. It is not working. I have Xanax but am scared to take it and that triggers my crying spells and anxiety. I have tried every thing I know to do and nothing seems to help. My arms shake, I do the shallow breathing thing all the time. Thank God I am able to sleep. My appetite comes and goes. If one more person tells me to “Put my big girl panties on and deal with it” I think I will just scream. They don’t know how bad Panic Attacks are. I will go back to my doctor this Thursday and I think he is going to put me on Prozac. I sure hope it calms me down. I am currently in a group therapy but can’t seem to sit still long enough to get anything out of it. I usually leave crying. Does anyone out there cry a lot and how do you make it stop. I am so frustrated. Nothing seems to help.

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Dave July 8, 2013 at 12:41 am

Hi Carl,

I was able to overcome and control by panic attacks through CBT. Once I got through the last stage, I haven’t had any attacks since and that was many years ago. I wrote about it here:

http://anxietypanichealth.com/2009/01/08/conquering-your-panic-daves-success-story/

This doesn’t work for everyone, but is definitely worth looking into and perhaps trying.

I would definitely try it or other things and get your life back…

Take care,
Dave

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Chrissie July 16, 2013 at 10:57 pm

HI..I am a 35 yr old female and have been experiencing panic attacks for almost 2 years now. AT first of run to the ER every time,but then my doc gave me .5 mg of xanex and they work..sometimes..when it’s extremely bad I double up. My symptoms vary,bit mostly feel like someone is pushing down on ny head from the inside,tingly legs or hands,shaking,chest tightness,jaw gets sore and mouth tastes metalish..I have panic attacks daily and more than 2-3 per day,I feel hopeless,I’m happy to say I’m not agoraphobic,but I am afraid to go out alone. I want to seek counseling asap,hope it helps,I refuse any meds but xanex because the side effects seem far more worse than the panic..I keep thinking I’m having a stroke or brain cancer or tumors..I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. :,(

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Jack July 16, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I have the same thoughts your not alone!

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Joyce August 9, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Hi Chrissie, I take Xanax but only when I can’t take the anxiety any longer. I am worried about getting addicted. I know that worry just makes my anxiety worse.

Do you take it on a regular basis?

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tntee July 16, 2013 at 11:19 pm

I don’t know if this will help someone, but I had weird feeling at 19 years of age thinking that if I didn’t live life at the moment that I was going to die. The feeling soon passed until was 28 when I had my first blown panic attack on a plane going to south America. before I landed I felt like the plane was going vertically down. l did not understand why everyone was so calm.

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candi July 21, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Hi everyone, I’m 33 and have had panic attacks for a what feels like forever. I’ve become almost obsessed with reading up and informing myself about anxiety and panic disorders. It’s seems though that no mater how much I read it how much knowledge I gain I still can’t remember any orbit when I’m in the throws of an attack. For me it starts without warning.. usually with a slight dizziness that immediately sends fear and adrenaline through my body from head to foot. I feel completely out of touch with reality.. as if I know what is going on around me yet can’t seem to make my brain feel “grounded” I feel high. And I become terrifed because I don’t take drugs or anything. I fight and struggle to make myself feel normal and the harder I fight it, the more the dissociation I feel and it’s scary. I feel all the other symptoms.. pounding heart, sweating, can’t breathe, tingling, numbness, nausea.. but it’s the “high”feeling that scares me the most. Nobody understands and I feel like it’s more to it than anxiety. Like I actually am dying. I’m in the worst of one now as I write this.. anyone else know what I mean by my description?

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Dave July 21, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Hi Candi,

Yep, I can relate to that. Those are the typical symptoms and there isn’t anything you can really do to stop them once the PA starts. The fight-or-flight mode that your brain just turned on (for no good reason) alters your physiological makeup, releasing various chemicals into your body, changing your heart rate, breathing, digestive system, etc., which is all great if you’re trying to escape something, but in this case it’s just pumped in with no outlet.

For me, definitely the more I knew about what was really taking place in my body, the less scary they were. At some points, all I could do is take one step and tell myself “see I’m not dead”, another step “see, nothing happened”, another “yep, still here”…

Take care,
Dave

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candi July 22, 2013 at 7:18 am

It’s beginning to feel as if the symptoms are getting worse and the attacks more severe. I dont know anyone in my life who can relate.. when someone tells me they get panic attacks I always grill them about how it feels for them and never feel as if they can satisfy me in explaining their symptoms.. like mine are worse and they can’t understand.. or they are right and I’m the one who is wrong in diagnosing myself with anxiety. I have seen my Dr but i refuse meds and he referred me for cbt but the timing for my local group did not work with my job schedule. I feel like I’m fighting a war with my brain everyday and I’m exhausted!
Thank you Dave.. for your quick reply

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Diane July 22, 2013 at 7:32 am

Candi,

Please try some medication…..you need to get yourself relaxed and have less panic for a while so you can start using coping mechanisms. I refused meds for YEARS and suffered needlessly….I am currently taking an antidepressant (depression and anxiety go hand in hand) and I can honestly say it was the best decision I ever made. I had my first panic attack at 19; I am now 50. I’ve had every horrible, terrifying symptom you can imagine…thought I was dying/brain tumor/stroke, etc…..It’s amazing was too much adrenaline can do to your body. Feel free to write me!

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Sarah November 11, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Hey Candi!

I know this reply might be a bit late, but I’ve come to tell you that I know exactly what you are talking about. You are definitely not alone! I suffer from severe anxiety and depression, and sometimes it gets to the point where I don’t have to be in a panicked state to feel like I’m not really here. It’s terrifying, but it passes. I also know how it feels to be too scared to try drugs. My therapist says that drugs are not needed, but sometimes I truly wonder if this isn’t true. I have some pretty bizarre symptoms myself… some of them I have convinced myself that nobody else has.

Hold on, Candi, it’ll get easier!

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candi July 22, 2013 at 8:28 am

Hi Diane, I’m terrifed to take meds.. of how they will make me feel in the end. I take Advil and nothing stronger and anything else makes me panic. I know what you mean about how it’s amazing what the adrenaline can do.. I constantly worry how bad this is for me.. like even if the attack doesn’t kill me.. which surely it feels like it will.. the constant emotional, physical and chemical extreme changes in my body willl take a toll over time. I’ve had a stressful life but all in all I’m not depressed and have very little stress in my life right now.. so im puzzled why I’m getting them so intensely and frequently now. Its so awful. So hopeless.

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Nicola July 22, 2013 at 9:39 am

Candi, it’s quite common to be mystified as to why you are having panic attacks at a time when there is little stress going on in your life but this is something that has accumulated over time from when you were having a lot of stress. Think how illnesses occur in your body, no one just has a heart attack out of the blue, even flu needs an incubation period of a week, so see it as the result of stress.

As Dave said it’s true that when they occur there’s little you can do except go with the feelings, knowing they will not hurt you and will stop, a bit like when you crack your shin hard, the pain is unbearable but you know it will soon ease. What you can do though is take action by breathing really deeply into your abdomen when you feel the first signs coming on, that will instantly stop the adrenaline pumping and it only takes 3 minutes for it to be dispersed from the system so if you can catch it before you start spiralling into fear of how you are feeling it will be just one song on your iPod before it’s all over. Just deep breaths from your tummy, really push your tummy out as you breath in and as slowly as you can.

And know that every time you relax and breath you are building a firm foundation for your healing as what you practise today will begin making you better longterm, no matter how rubbish you are feeling today, like staying in bed when you have flu and not overdoing it, you know you will eventually get better, have faith that practising relaxation now will do that for you.

Hope this helps, good luck!

Nicola
Nicola´s last blog post ..Reduce Anxiety Quickly With One-Moment Meditation

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candi July 23, 2013 at 9:30 pm

It is absolutely mystifying. It’s terrifying and unbelievable what our natual body chemicals ate capable of doing to us. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.. as I said earlier, one of the hardest things about thus disorder is the feeling of being alone in it and that nobody quite understands exactly what you’re going through. I’m happy to have found thia forum. It always helps to feel not so alone in this struggle. Thank you.

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shawn August 1, 2013 at 9:41 am

I just had a panic attack last night. They usually happen in the middle of the night without warming. I feel an uneasy calm, then it’s as if
I’m hearing the sound of a train coming in the distance and it gets louder and louder! My body begins to feel like it’s on fire! I feel an overwhelming feeling as though I’m going to lose control and look for a place to hide! Eventually it passes. There is no rhyme or reason it
just seem to happen now and again.
However, after experiencing this the first couple of times I’m not caught off guard so much! One of the ways I deal with this is to get close to my wife because I’m already in bed. I use her as a kind of anchor. Lately she has begun to pray for me and I literally feel the
sensation begin to disperse, as if someone hit the rewind button!
Thank’s for this site. It’s helpful to read everyone’s experiences.

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Mal87 August 1, 2013 at 11:54 pm

I had a really bad panic attack last weekend, my arm got very numb but also swollen, has that ever happened to anyone? I know the numbness is normal for a attack but what about the swelling?

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time August 2, 2013 at 10:39 pm

I knew someone that died of cancer and since then, I’m scared of death. Everytime I check to c if I’m breathing well, I check my arm, hand and foot every second Incase of discoloration. I had my last panic a sec ago, I heard a bird screaming at my window, and I just panic I cldnt breath all of sudden I was shaking at thesame time sweating, and I thought if my heart will exposed. Could this be anxiety or panic attack? P.s I’m scared of dying every sec

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Chrissie Cookie Austin Email August 3, 2013 at 12:41 am

i feel like this daily.i also am obsessed with reading about paniv attacks and also feel nobody i know personally can relate because we have different symptoms.I am so sick of this,i have refused all meds but xanex and now they arent working for quick relief either..i just read up on fybromyalgia and seems same symptoms,so monday i am going to see or get that ruled out.My friend takes birth control pills and jasnt hadana ttack since. weird huh..

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time August 3, 2013 at 12:47 am

Gd luck with that!!

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Sidney August 4, 2013 at 6:26 pm

I have been having panic attacks for a couple of days now. My mom passed on mothers day and she had real bad anxiety. Im wondering if I picked up her anxiety and I have all of her symptoms. I read all of these and they match what im feeling. Is there anything I can take that isnt addicting to help me? Right now benadryl seems to work for me. I am 13 years old. I have a pounding heart and it hurts. I am here to see if im okay. So if anybody could reply that would be nice. Thank you for reading.

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Chrissie Cookie Austin August 5, 2013 at 2:47 am

u are ok sweetie,yes you have anxiety,i also started my symptoms when my mom passed away also.Benadryl probably isnt safe tobtake on a daily basis,you should see of your dr can give u some anxiety meds to take the edge off,and also seek grief counseling..when a loved one passes,especially our moms,we think our death is coming soon,and we know of we were having panic attks and our moms were still here, she would make us all better..talk to your dr and try to find a grief support group!! we r here for u..

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time August 4, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Sidney did your mom died or what? Or she passed out? I’m sorry to dear this, just know you’re not alone

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Leanne August 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I am on cymbalta now for 2 years for feeling anxious but this morning when I got up I felt a strange sensation in my chest and like a tingling sensation all through my body I never felt as scared in my life it was like I was still dreaming. I tried to calm myself down when I thought I was alright it happened again and then I had another one following half an hour later is this a panic attack! I’ve been so tearful the rest of the day. Please help I feel I’m going crazy

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candi August 6, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Often my panic attacks feel like that. I try to keep it from becoming that all over body sensation you are describing because it is terrifying.. I completely understand! Sometimes it is impossible to keep it at bay though and the only choice is to ride it out and know that it’s happened before and it’s no different or worse than any other time, even though it feels that way every time. I recently bought a baby ball python.. my son already has an older one whom I’m in live with.. and crazy as it sounds to moat people.. my snake is my therapy. When I’m having an attack I hold him and the movement eventually relaxes me completely. And when I’m not home I think about how he feels through my fingers and I’m working on that as my relaxation technique. I’m sharing this because it works for me, though I realize the thought of holding a snake may cause some anxiety in people, it is true that if you find something that works.. stick with it. If not a reptile then somehing that can take your full focus and concentration away from the attacks.

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chloe August 8, 2013 at 11:03 am

i am getting pins and needles in my face head and scalp. some times get sharp shooting pain lasting seconds on the back left of my head. feel dizzy, sick, floating. got a choking sensation like im going to swollow my tongue. iv had 3 panic attacks, i got a fear of death and fear of going out into public or doing daily day to day things i used to. been doctors and they told me its anxiety, im thinking its something more worse than anxiety such as brain tumour i am constantly worrying and do not believe wat doctors are telling me. is it true? anxiety??

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chloe August 8, 2013 at 11:09 am

i constantly worrying the slightest thing thats wrong with me i think its something serious. i cant do anything this is wrecking my life currently waiting for cr scan and see councilor. ANXIETY??

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barb August 9, 2013 at 7:56 am

to the lady who thought she had a brain tumor,i thought that myself,13yrs ago,you do not,NOT, have a tumor,its a panic attack,i now get them very rare,but I do still get them,you have to learn to shake it off before its a full blown attack,I have come along way to getting this far,but it works

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Johnny Murphy August 10, 2013 at 9:27 am

Had a panic attack after running, cut short my normal run of 2.5 miles after 1 mile, felt a bit hot. Then had to stop walking. Started to feel I could not breathe and realised I was in the middle of nowhere with no phone. This made me afraid because I felt I had no control over my body, the feeling got worse I couldn’t move. I thought I was literally going to DIE! Right there on a farm track! Praying for someone to come by, over and over again. Just so I could give them my daughters name. It was the absolute scariest, horrible thing that I can’t equate to anything because its a million times worse than when I lost my parents a few years ago. This first attack lessened after around 10 minutes so I set off walking back to my flat, very slowly, and suddenly it was back again….. Not being able to take a lungful of air and bizzarly not wanting to in case it made me feel worse, crazy I know. Felt like I had no control over my body….my only mission now was to get back to my flat and call my daughter and tell her I love her. Again felt like I was going to die. So scared so absolutely frightened that I wouln not make it and was worse now because this second attack came when I wasn’t running so what was the reason? I asked myself, obviously a heart attack then! That’s what you think at the time because this was my first time and had no idea what was going on. I’m now 500 meters from my flat, still not met anyone, it took me 20-30 minutes to make it home because every step felt I was going too fast and would make me choke again. Horrible, horrible experience. When I got back I literally cried with relief. Hasn’t happened again but then again I haven’t been running since. Does anyone know why this happened to me? Any suggestions? Thanks.

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Brian August 11, 2013 at 7:23 am

I know what you are talking about with this type of panic!..I am a male who has had panic disorder since in early teens..I experienced out of many panic attacks one similar to yours..I cringed reading what you wrote about being on that Farm with no help no phone!!..Mercy!! I was on my motor scooter one night late taking a ride down a hill going from my house to a business that is about 10 miles away…i started feeling anxious halfway there and kept telling myself that I know what this is, Ive had it many times before, and convinced myself to keep going…While I was getting worse as I went on..I kept looking for relief..Then as I remembered that I did not have my phone on me!, and there wasnt any cars out for help, I felt out of control! like I wasnt able to keep driving the scooter!.even the wind i was feeling hitting me felt scary and bad! ,I suddenly stopped at a gas station that was NOT open..only one on that lonely road! I sat there feeling that I was going to loose m mind the rest of it…..I managed to get back on the road and move slowly until I got closer back to home!…I was so thankful I made it back..But it left me scarred! I have not been back on this new scooter to ride it on the road since!..I hate the way it made me feel so bad!!..I feel almost like a out of body, scared, numbness, and not being able to breath, feel, senses are messed up, DOOM, Dying fear, No help fear, Who would understand this bizzare feeling??? any help is appreciated! I hope this helps you know that youre not alone anyway…thanks for any encouragement for me as I am going through alot here lately!… thanks, Brian Drumbeats2@aol.com )

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time August 10, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Johnny, this could be a panick attack, but I think you should check with the doctor to see how you are doing. Many test will be carried out for diagnosed. It’s better to know what is wrong than to assume. Good luck and I hope u get better.

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Chrissie August 11, 2013 at 12:41 am

i too always assume i am having a heart attack or brain tumor or cancer….my problem is i think the worst in all situations,i wont even let my 13 yr old cross the streetwithout me watching..i have to seek help because i dont want this to happen to my kids

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Jerah September 4, 2013 at 12:24 pm

It happened last night. I was outside with my friend watching a video and all of a sudden I had this tingly sensation hit my body and I felt like I was going to faint. I layed down and that’s when I started to sweat really bad. I could also feel bowel movements happening. The majority of it last 10 minutes or less. I had a solid stool at night but woke up at 5 am and had diarrhoea and some stomach pains. It’s 1230 pm now and I still feel a little weird. No dizzy spells or sweating, just weakness I guess. I also took my temperature last night and this morning and no fever. A tiny bit low last night and normal this morning

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Mary September 5, 2013 at 3:07 am

My trigger for panic attacks is palpitations, that is when my heart starts ‘fluttering’ or putting in extra/missed beats. It is such a horrible feeling and always, always makes me feel very panicky and anxious. I have a condition that causes my heart to race, for which I am on beta blockers, so I am especially sensitive and anxious of anything to do with heart symptoms.

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Kelly November 12, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I can’t tell you all how happy I am that I found this place. I am 39 years old and have been dealing with panic attacks (and what I think is GAD) for the last 5-6 years or so. I have always been an “uptight” person (just high strung I guess), but my first major PA sent me straight to the ER over 5 years ago, not knowing what was going on. I had had many smaller/minor PAs before this one, but I didn’t know what was going on. The major one had me with horrible chest pains, shortness of breath, tingling down my left side, and horrible shaking and the fear that I was having a major heart attack. After having a follow up with my general Dr., he prescribed me 20 mg of Celexa daily (I take the generic) and it defintely does help level me out most days. I still have a random PA about once a year, but the more minor ones I was having before the big one hit me 5-6 years ago are pretty much gone. My trigger, without a doubt, is stress. I have never been good at controlling my stress; it got so bad a year ago that I gave myself an ulcer from all of the worrying I do… worrying about my children, my job, and life in general. I have started taking 30 mg of Lansoprazole (Rx strength Prevacid) and that has helped my stomach/chest pains in more ways than I can describe. I also try to have a little bit of alone time daily, even if it’s just 5-10 minutes for me to clear my thoughts, do some relaxed breathing and to help ease any tension build up. I can’t tell you all how comforting it is to know that there are others out there who really are just like me.

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Karen January 27, 2014 at 9:46 am

First of all, thank you so much for this very informative and helpful article. I have suffered with anxiety/panic attacks for 30+ years and so know very well that this information is accurate. I think for me the most difficult thing is, every single time I have a panic attack, it feels like it happens constantly, when in reality it could have been months since my last one. I also have an arrythmia which I think makes panic attack happen more often, or maybe the panic attacks make the arrythmia happen more often. All I know is it seems like a vicious cycle. Thanks again for this info.

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Sonja February 15, 2014 at 2:43 pm

I feel like i need to break a wind, and have to lean forward to do so.
My throat feels dry but the thought of drinking water, and choking is too scary.

I drive leaning forward all the time untill i can feel the attack is over, it is scary when you are alone, but even worse in Public.

I feel extremely afraid to travell in speedy Cabs, or Speed trains, I get clausterphobic and really faint, at times I think i will choke and die.

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Mr. Bruch March 2, 2014 at 4:18 am

A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart pounds and you can’t breathe. You may even feel like you’re dying or going crazy. Left untreated, panic attacks can lead to panic disorder and other problems. They may even cause you to withdraw from normal activities. But panic attacks can be cured and the sooner you seek help, the better. With treatment, you can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of panic and regain control of your life.

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ANDY March 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm

I’m retired and have had panic/anxiety problems since I was 18. Mostly dizziness, headaches every day, all day, for several months, then they would go away for several months, and then come back. I’ve had spinal taps, CAT scans, MRI scans of the brain. Once or twice I had heart attack symptoms, tingling, hot flashes (though I’m a man). Before modern medication I would drink a 12 pack of beer a day to help relieve the symptoms. This was before Xanax, Prozac, Etc. Then one day I was given Halcion for sleep. I ended up taking it in the daytime because my symptoms VANISHED! I ended up on Xanax since Halcion was not approved for my problems even though it worked the best. I’ve been on Xanax since 1987, dosages from 1 mg a day to 4.5 mg a day, up and down over the years, currently on 1 mg a day. Some DR’s hated the stuff and wanted me off of it, but I quit those and hired others who were more reasonable with me. Xanax works for me. I have not had to go to higher and higher dosages, but have gone up and down with the amounts according to my symptoms. I do not care one whit if one can become dependent on it. IT WORKS and allows me to function normally. It beats being miserable. My profound sympathy and prayers for all who suffer from this malady. I read about one guy who went through the D-Day invasion and later on had panic attacks. He said he would rather go through the invasion again rather than suffer from the panic attacks. Peace.

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