Panic Attacks?

Can someone describe what a panic attack feels like? (I am not worried about having one – I am just curious!)

After I was in a bad car accident a while ago, I’d have panic attacks while other people were driving. I’ll give ya the run down of what happened:

First, I’ll start noticing that they aren’t driving right. Speeding, tailgating, whatever.
Next, my heart will start to beat really, really fast. I’ll take deep breaths to calm myself down.
But my chest will start to tighten up to where I can’t take deep breaths- causing me to try even harder to take deep breaths.
Then I start to get sort of dizzy.
Then I start shaking- sometimes I get goosebumps.
Then I do the weirdest thing: I’ll start uncontrollably scooting back in my seat as far as I can. It sounds silly, but it’s almost like I’m outside myself, as I’ll be saying in my head, “What the hell are you doing, stupid? Scooting back an inch isn’t going to do anything. Goddamnit, calm down, dumb ass!” But I still scoot, even though I want to stop.

After a bit of this, I’ll start to cry. Then I’m fine. It’s odd.

I should note that, other than the above, I’m fairly sane. I have no psychological problems that require therapy or medication. In fact, the above is the first time I’ve ever “freaked out.”

Off Yahoo health or the SSA disability listings, maybe both, can’t remember:

As a person who has been debilitated with these, I will describe my experiences with them.

Out of nowhere you start to feel a little anxious and edgy, then in a matter of a few seconds you start to feel panic-y, like someone is chasing after you with a .45 caliber and trying to kill you. You have absolutely no emotional control at all, your throat closes up, you think “Oh my god, I’m going to die, I can’t breath” which in turn makes you panic even more.

The best way to describe it is this: imagine being on a 747 plane 35,000 feet in the sky. The plane starts to bump, then it takes a dive like a roller coaster. Then you’re ok for a few seconds. Out of nowhere, it takes a nose dive at 600 mph directly toward earth and you realize…it’s all over.
That’s about how it feels. And the weirdest thing is, there’s no identifiable reason for it happening. It becomes so bad that you can’t even leave your house because you think you’re gonna crash your car if you get one while driving. That’s how unpredictable they are.
Terrible thing to deal with. I resorted to cognative therapy and have been ok the past few years though. Thank God.

To add: mine started from getting off heavy drug abuse. Mainly prescription painkillers.

mine are just like described above. Started while I used to smoke marijuana. Now I never get fullblown attacks just mini ones, but i haven’t smoked dope since '98. I only mention the marijuana because the first 2 fullblown attacks happened while smoking a joint.

Hey - I just wanted to remind all you panic attack sufferers that a medically significant percentage of you will turn out to have mitral prolapse. This means that your mitral valve, in your heart, is doing a certain amount of “billowing in the wind”. Though nobody knows why mitral valve prolapse brings on unsuspected panic attacks, it is some kind of signal the body is trying to give you to say there is a problem here.

And in a very small percentage of people, whose mitral prolapse is severe enough to cause really big changes to the mitral valve, it can cause sudden death.

The prolapse is diagnosed by echo (microphone pressed to your chest, no needles, no enclosing MRI type structures) and isn’t expensive compared to CT scans, so hie thee to a doctor, please.

Note: autoimmune diseases and thyroid problems also occur more commonly in both panic attack sufferers and mitral prolapse patients.

Decent artwork on a patient page

Severe mitral prolapse as I might see it at autopsy (not my picture)

Abstract on the topic

Page in plain English

Thyroid problems and mitral valve prolapse in plain English

Another interesting plain-English link on thyroid and mitral valve and panic

My panic attacks always began with a vague anxiety which got worse as I allowed myself to dwell on how bad I felt. I took a lot of deep breaths, because I felt that I couldn’t get enopugh air. Eventually I learned to control my breathing and breathe v-e-r-y slowly, no matter how much I wanted to gasp. There were evene times I thought I migh go blind while driving my car. Never happened, but thoughts like that can be pretty scary.

I was diagnosed years ago with mitral valve prolapse, but nothing was even suggested to be done about it. I had no insurance. The medical community seemed to lose interest in my case when they discovered this fact.

I never connected that condition with panic attacks, however. As nearly as I remember, the panics came mostly years earlier, and there were none around the time of that diagnosis. Maybe they aren’t always connected. I dealt with the panic attacks through self hypnosis and a kind of boot-strap psychology (heal thyself, as it were). I’ve been on a fairly even keel for a long time now, but I suppose new panic attacks are always possible. I found the most effective way of dealing with them was, when I felt the onset, just telling myself, "bring it on!"For some reason, if I just accept that it’s happening and challenge it to do its worst, it goes away.

Gabriela, that’s very interesting (I’ve had a few spontaneous panic attacks over the years and have several co-symptoms listed). Perhaps I’ll mention this the next time I’m in for a physical.

Gabriela, I heard the same after years of internet researching. Weird, huh? I just got checked out in April, echo, ecg and the works. Everything is fine, except for mild left ventricular hypertrophy. Which the doc explained that in-of-itself is not heart disease, but could be the symptom of something underlying. Well, after a thorough workup, they thankfully found nothing.

:slight_smile: Phew…

The minor (to me) symptoms are sweating, feeling hot or cold, dizzy, nauseated, and shakey.

The worst is feeling like I’m going to pass out. I feel dizzy and very hot… then my sight goes fuzzy and gray. I never actually passed out from a panic attack but it always feels like I was *almost *to that point.
Rooms feel like they shrink. People feel way too close or like they’re drifting further away. I never felt like I was going to die but I did deal with some of the derealisation symptoms listed here

Mine from that list:
-A feeling that you and/or your surroundings are not real
-And/or experience your surroundings through a diffused light, fog or mist [this is a creepy experience - I hate it.]
-Feeling as if you are “outside of your body”/ ‘detached from your body’, as though you are either standing alongside, above or behind it [so is this]
-Sensitivity to light and sound
-Tunnel vision
-Stationary objects may appear to move
-Listening to someone talk and realise you did not hear part or all of what was said
-Sometimes sit staring off into space, and not being aware of the passage of time
The attacks used to be much, much worse. I’ve learned to get out of the situation if I can (retreat to the bathroom or outside) to catch my breath and my thoughts. That seems to help. And Mr Johnson is very understanding. He can tell if I’m starting to freak out and he’s usually the first to suggest possibly leaving wherever we’re at. Meds help too.