Has anyone had or seen a person have a Panic/Anxiety Attack? Pretty Scary.

My sister in law has been staying with us for a week, she’s on vacation after a nasty layoff from her job. She is thinking about relocating out here. Anyway, we were eating lunch last monday and she all of a sudden got this look on her face, a look of fear… She said she was very lightheaded and was having difficulty breathing. She looked terrified! This has never happened to her before.

One thing led to another and we brought her to the emergency room. After about an hour the doc came in and said…your sis had a text book variety Anxiety Attack. She’s going to be fine.

Relieved we brought her home. Come to find out she had been under an extreme amount of stress and anxiety at her job, and apparently it all came to a head. On top of all of that, she stopped taking her ADD medication Ritalin, because she had been on it for 10 years and thought she would not need it anymore.
This struck me a particularly interesting…she mentioned a feeling of being tired all the time, some lightheadedness and a general feeling of Blah…

IMO she’s detoxing from a decade of being on a stimulant, that and the loss of her job, I don’t doubt she was having panic attacks.

She is seeing a psychiatrist friend of mine as we speak…hopefully she will find out some more insight into her dilema.

So does anyone have generalized anxiety disorder? Or anyone ever had a panic/anxiety attack? I really feel for my SIL, anyone out there have any good home remedies, or therapies they have used to manage the disorder? Any help would be much appreciated!

I have generalized anxiety and my mom has struggled with anxiety attacks all her life. My mom has found relief thanks to Paxil. I am trying out hypnotherapy - which seems to be working really well.
From what my mom has told me, Paxil works but it can turn you into a zombie. Hypnotherapy is oddly effective for me. I still do get anxious but it’s not a crushing burden of anxiety, with difficulty in thinking/breathing and crying like before. Therapy helps and I wish your SiL luck!

I had panic attacks for about two years. One struck as I was sitting down in my seat in an airplane on the way home from a business trip. I was in the middle seat and there were two large guys on both sides of me. The flight attendant closed the door and then it hit full blown. I could not breathe, I started getting tunnel vision, started to sweat and shake violently, my chest hurt, and my heart started racing. Keep in mind that I am not scared of flying at all, it was the idea that I was trapped there that did it.

It was during the winter so I had layers of clothes on. I started ripping off layers violently. The people next to me looked really disturbed but did not say anything. I got down to my undershirt and got an extreme urge to call the flight attendant to let me off of the plane. I knew that I would have to go home sometime that day anyway so I decided to stick it out. I put my head between my legs and it when away in about five minutes. Those five minutes were hell though. Luckily, I knew it was not a heart attack by that time. I went to the emergency room twice with two previous ones thing that it was a heart attack.

I had a total of about 10 full blown panic attacks and many other smaller anxiety attacks before I went to the doctor. The first drug that they put me on was Paxil. It was terrible in other ways but it did stop the attacks. Later, I went on Effexor and that worked too. These are well-known drugs for people with panic or anxiety disorder. You may want to ask her if she is interested in either of these drugs.

The terrible thing about panic attacks is that you become terrified of the attacks themselves so you tend to isolate and avoid public situations where you feel they are possible. Sometimes, they can occur when someone is just laying in bed.

I’ve had one or two panic attacks in my life, and they are not fun, as described.

I’ve only had one and it was triggered by medication. I was being treated for food posioning. Having expelled everything in my stomach, I was given a shot of something to help control the nausea. I had a reaction to whatever it was, my blood pressure shot up (I swear I could hear my heart pounding) and I had an almost overwhelming urge to flee. I had no clear plans on where I was going to flee to, mind you, just a general sense that I should take off running.

Yeah, that was a crappy day.

Panic attacks are pure hell. The worst thing about them is that they can strike at anytime without warning. I’ve even had a couple in the middle of the night when I was sitting on the couch relaxed and watching TV.
I can usually pinpoint a cause however–I had a nasty one a few days ago after an extremely stressful week. Still, knowing what triggers them doesn’t seem to help me much. I might know why but I still have them.

That feeling of impending doom is just awful. Like Blackclaw said, you have an overwhelming urge to run but where and from what you don’t know. It feels almost as if you want to jump out of your own skin and run away from yourself.

I had anxiety attacks quite a number of years ago, and I surely don’t enjoy them. I was surprised about 3 years ago by one, I hadn’t had one for almost 20 years before that… I immediately knew what it was and mentioned it to my mother and step-father (who I was visiting). She offered me a pill that was prescribed to her for attacks, but I refused. It took a while, but it passed and I haven’t had another one.

I don’t imagine that my attacks were as serious as most. I felt like I was going to die and wanted to crawl into a hole and drag the hole in afterwards… but I was still able to function for the most part.

I had panic attacks starting at the age of eighteen and ending at 23, when I finally went on Celexa. They weren’t all that frequent until I was twenty, at which time they became more and more frequent until I had them about every other day.

I couldn’t figure out what was triggering them. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night, feeling like I was having a heart attack – hyperventilation, light-headedness, losing the feeling in my hands and feet, tunnel vision, scared silly really. Just about everything seemed to trigger them, especially driving. It got to where I absolutely loathed driving.

These panic attacks could last anywhere from half an hour to five hours. I would usually breathe into a paper bag, try to lay down, take medicine, and then try to distract myself by reading or talking on the phone. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. But I didn’t really see them as stress-related, because they happened all the time, wherever and whenever.

Celexa is so wonderful. There is no side effects for me, except that it’s a lot easier to put on weight. I haven’t had a panic attack, a real panic attack, for a year or so. That’s so wonderful, I can’t even explain to you how wonderful.

I would generally feel very ashamed of myself as soon as I started having a panic attack. Every medical person I talked to would tell me that they were all in my head, in fact one of them said sharply, “Control yourself!” Very unsympathetic. I hope every one of them goes through what I went through, so they understand that shaming a person who cannot really control the panic attacks is perhaps the worst thing they can do, because then it causes more anxiety.

So anyway, be very kind to your sister if she has another one.

I don’t have panic attacks, but I have seizures(they initial symptoms can be similar). I mainly wanted to post to make sure your SIL tapered off her ritalin (or checked with her doctor) when she stopped. Being the pill hound that I am, I’ve changed medications a few times. It’s a pain in the ass. Here’s the nih page on Ritalin.



Thanks Lil - she actually did just stop the meds, no titration at all. She was only taking 10-15 mgs a day. She has gotten back from the docs and she will start a regimen of an antianxiety med…but not until she goes home next week. They want her regular doc to know about that first…I feel terrible for her, she is all lightheaded today…slightly dizzy…I do feel bad. We’ll keep her safe…sounds like a day for movies and some good soup! :slight_smile:

I had a client who had them back when I was a social worker, and she’d get absolutely totally claustrophobically

freaked out!!!

and start screaming and crying and babbling nonstop.

In contrast, my girlfriend is subject to them but knows them for what they are: the flooding of the body with adrenal epinephrine, sending the nervous system into major fight-or-flight overdrive.

It’s actually a very good example of a genuine physiological process causing symptoms that are still thought of as “psychiatric”. (The term “panic disorder” probably contributes to people continuing to think of it as a mood or emotional disorder)

Anyway, she just…copes. Says it’s excruciatingly unpleasant but it goes away. She likes me to hold her hand, she really doesn’t like the feeling that it is hard to breathe and the adrenalin makes her stomach roll like when you’re terrified, and she hates the sweating. But emotionally, aside from these dislikes for the sensations, she’s matter-of-fact about what’s going on.

Anyone who is subject to them needs to understand the process, what’s going on on a somatic level, so they can do the same.

I had many a long time ago. I would often feel strange and lightheaded, then feel as if I couldn’t breathe without reminding myself to, and then freak because, hey, what if I forgot to remind myself? They occurred through the fall of 1977(shortly after a pet guinea pig had died), stopped briefly, and then returned in the winter of 1978. They would happen mostly on Thursdays and Fridays, when I was most stressed out–not surprising because I was the class weirdo and got a lot of teasing at school. They usually stopped when my freak out stage reached the point where I started crying; after that my breathing would return to normal and I’d calm down.

I didn’t know what they were. I thought I had some weird disease that no one could diagnose and that I must be dying. My parents weren’t much help–we were a nice middle class family and they were sure kids from nice middle class families didn’t get any psychological disorders, so it must be just a stage.

In the end, it was. After months of this I decided I didn’t want to live anymore if this unrelenting anxiety was all there was to life. I didn’t try to kill myself, but I decided that if I was about to die, then that actually might be a relief from this madness.

And after that the attacks stopped. They had been based on a fear of death, and disappeared once I came to terms with this fear.

I still have them occaisionally, although now if I feel one coming on I can just close my eyes and breathe deeply and that generally wards it off.

I’ve had two. The first one was in high school and minor, I because lightheaded and nauseous and had to be excused from the test (I still got an A!). The second one was a complete collapse during a non-accessed seminar at university in front of 40 people. Apparently I was getting paler throughout my talk, and progressively turning green. The final straw was when someone asked a particularly curly question - that’s when I fainted and started mildly twitching.

Both were caused by a combination of stress and lack of sleep. The lack of sleep was also caused by stress.

Oh yes, I know what those attacks are! I had them until about 3 years ago. I was not aware of anything called panic disorder or anxiety attacks. So when it hit me the first time, I thought I was having a heart attack. My breathing became labored, my heart started pounding, my pulse rate shot up and I felt like I was going to die. I somehow managed to get myself to the ER where they checked my BP and it was, well way up enough to have the doc insist that I ride a wheelchair to the ICU. There they went on to get an ECG that turned out normal. In any case I had started feeling much better by then and was wondering what the hell had happened. After a while I forgot about it and then somedays later it hit me again when I was at work and in a meeting. I somehow managed to get myself out of the room, went into my office, cleared my table and just lay down, waiting for it to pass. I did not go to the ER this time because I thought they would consider me crazy. I just waited and it passed away. I still believed that it was because of some cardiac problem, especially because I was a smoker. Therefore I consulted a cardiologist and when he suggested that I see a psychiatrist, I started having doubts about his diagnostic abilities and requested him to take another look, maybe get me on the tread mill or something. I couldn’t make him look my way anyways. It was difficult to believe that there was something wrong with my head but when the attacks came on a couple of more times, I gave up. Feeling dumb and still inconvinced that I was going bonkers, I did meet the psychiatrist who told me that it was mere panic attacks that I was having. Reason - not necessary he said, and started me on Alprazolam. Later I switched to Paxil and have been on them for the last two years and thankfully no panic attacks since. They are bad. Really really awful.

Why do you say that? Any reliable source for that information AmericanMaid? I have been on Paxil for quite awhile and nothing has happened to me so far. And I don’t think my doctor has any ideas of taking me off them in the near future either.

Re. this post and the earlier one that said, “IMO she’s detoxing from a decade of being on a stimulant…”:

Ritalin is not toxic and not usually habit-forming at the dosage it is prescribed for ADHD (10 - 15mg is pretty low). As others said, meds other than Ritalin are generally prescribed to address anxiety attacks, though.

I think I finally pinpointed what triggers mine, which I have with some frequency but deal with fairly well (lots of practice). It seems that the sudden disappearance of a sound - particularly white noise or background noise - will trigger one. Sitting on the train, if the air con cuts out for a moment; having all conversation in a room stop abruptly; the radio in another room suddenly going dead, boom, panic attack. No idea why.

I had one recently when my plane took off; the pressure build up in my ears made everything seem suddenly quiet, and wham. It sucked because it was a rougher-than-usual one, and I honestly thought I was on the verge of just passing out from fear. Like I said though, I have a lot of practice, and I was able to work my way through it, and no one around me knew it was happening, so that’s good at least.

I grew up watching my mom have attacks.

It is not fun.

She refused to admit there was anything wrong and that it was what parents do, panic and worry and spaz.

I told her that it wasn’t. None of my friends parents would get that tight necked look, wide eyed manner about the most mundane things.

Do that for about 25 years.
Eventually she spazzed out in front of a neighbor and they called 911.
She went on meds at 72 and has a therapist now. When she does her meds, everything is so nice. When she is off, it’s like watching a rabbit or a deer get frightened and about to flee.
She ruined a huge portion of her life (and mine) because of her ability to grasp the situation or listen to those who know her best to Do Something About The Problem because Mental Issues are a Deep Dark Dirty Secret That We Must Be Ashamed Of. Yay for the baggage of previous generations.

As a public service for anyone who thinks they have something wrong with them but are ashamed because of the stigma of it all …get over it. Everyone everywhere is on some kind of med and if they are not, they know someone who is. Get help for yourself. Now.

She said that because it can happen. The reliable source is herself.

It happened to me too. That is why I said the general results that I had with Paxil were aweful but it did stop the panic attacks.

Psychiatry is not an exact science. A given antidepressant or antianxiety drug like Paxil will work for some people, won’t work at all for some others, and have a detrimental effect on still others. Psychiatrists and research scientists only have the roughest reasons why. There is usually no way to find out which group a patient falls into without trying the drug.

That is why the number of drugs that the psychiatrist has to choose from for a given disorder is large and growing all the time. This allows the patient to try the drug and switch to another one if it doesn’t help. Sometimes, it can take months or longer to find the right one.

I used to get them. Not as bad as some of you described. I would just get scared and then cry uncontrollably for no reason at all. The worst one was when I was sleeping at my boyfriend’s, he’d gone to work for a half day so he could come home and we could go to visit his grandparents for the first time. I woke up alone crying uncontrollably and unable to breathe.

Once I had one at my grandparents’ farm when I went down to visit during my step-grandmother’s family reunion, I had my puppy with me and she was so excited and I was so embarassed and I burst out in tears.

Stress is what triggers them in me. The stress related to relating to other people :slight_smile:

I have only had one since I quit eating sugar. I used to get nervous going to school every day, I was pretty touchy. But a few months ago after I got my braces I woke up in the middle of the night screaming my head off. Then I stopped.

It’s no fun that’s for sure. You feel seriously out of control. And it’s usually embarassing.

One time, during a desert race, I rode my bike off a “cliff” (it was a dried riverbed with eroded sides, maybe 9 foot high), and totally involuntarily, I screamed like a little girl! (I honestly don’t know how I got about 17 octaves higher than my normal voice) I can still hear it in my head from time to time and it makes me laugh.

Thats what I call a panic attack!