Whether you're alone in your room, surrounded by a crowd, or just going through your typical day, it can hit you like a sudden storm. Your mind starts to race, your heart begins to pound, and you feel dizzy, shaky, and numb all at once. You struggle through the fear, fighting away the dread as you try to keep your thoughts together. And all you want, all you long for, is to just… breathe.
What you've just gone through is a panic attack, and we here at Anxiety.org want to make sure that our visitors avoid, or at least are prepared for, debilitating situations like the one described above. We do this in several ways. First, we strive to deliver the most beneficial insights from renowned experts and specialists in the field of anxiety and mental health. Second, our staff works diligently to bring you information by combing the most up-to-date research materials and sharing their findings on noteworthy topics meant to aid you in finding your cure for anxiety. Lastly, we provide an outlet for our Anxiety.org community, meaning readers like you, to share their personal stories and offer their support. It's from this last resource that we offer some personal perspectives into understanding panic attacks and how to get through them.
The Basics of a Panic Attack
Let's start by getting to the very core of panic attacks: what do panic attacks feel like? We asked our Facebook followers that very question, and the majority described emotions similar to the description at the start of the article:
- "You lose complete control of your mind and body. Heart pounding, hands shaking, heart beating out of your chest. Scared! But, because most people do not understand. You have to continue to function. While you are in a fog, you function."
Others, however, experienced more dire and emotional events:
- "Instant fear of dying! Like you wanna run. Everything you are looking at looks like it's running together. Heart racing, short of breath. Feels like your in a bubble, you can see out but can't be seen."
There were also a few readers who couldn't put the experience into words, but wanted to offer their own viewpoint:
- "Hard to explain. Everyone's different. But I will tell you something truthfully. They cannot harm you and you are stronger than them!"
No matter how panic attacks were described though, there was one thing the majority of our community had in common: the belief that no matter what happens or how they felt, they eventually came to the realization that they would always get through it:
- "For me, not understanding what was happening created a more desperate panic in me. I really did research and did talk to a therapist and realized the more I learned about them, the less the servarity [sic]… When I feel one coming on I just don't panic, I just go with it and stay calm and it goes away."
The Effects of a Panic Attack
Experiencing such complex emotions so frequently had us wondering what kind of impact panic attacks had on the average person. With this in mind, we next asked our followers how panic attacks affected them. Their answers ranged in severity, but many mentioned how damaging it was to their personal, everyday lives:
- "Ummmm I don't have a social life. It's kind of hard to hang out with people when I never know how I'm going to feel from day to day and then feel incredibly awkward once I am around people"
For some, the fear of a possible attack coming on with no possible warning even had them avoiding normal activities:
- "Just the thought of going out in public gets me going sometimes. I wouldn't wish these feelings upon anyone. I have panic attacks out of no where, sitting at home reading a book or watching TV, "bam" it rears it's ugly face!"
To add to that, the emotional and mental impact panic attacks caused could be just as devastating:
- "I'm pretty much a hermit. I'm fine most of the time but on those days where I could really use a friend, it hurts deeply to be so alone."
Tips for Surviving a Panic Attack
After reading about the emotional rollercoaster panic attacks can cause, and learning about the significant effects they have on everyday life, we at Anxiety.org wondered how we could possibly help our readers through these difficult experiences. Although we knew extensive research on your behalf, or asking a knowledgeable expert for guidance, would offer a valuable amount of information, we felt that the best source for advice would come from first-hand experience. So, we again turned to the Anxiety.org community to share their stories and advice about what they do when experiencing a panic attack.
For the most part, many people believed that deep breaths and talking yourself through the attack really helps:
- "Isolate yourself from distracting surroundings/people and find a nice, quiet place to shut your eyes and focus on your breathing. I find this difficult to do right away after it begins, so I usually pace or go for a walk until I've tired myself out and then do this. Keep repeating to yourself that you've been through this before, survived and can do it again. And make yourself BELIEVE IT. Once you believe it, you start to realize that you can get through it like any other time. That you will survive. Other tips include shutting the lights off, lighting some candles and taking a warm bath once you feel yourself getting anxious. Drink lots of water and chamomile tea. And practice yoga regularly to help with the controlled breathing!"
- "I learned relaxation techniques from a CD given to me by a psychologist. I fortunately "grew out" of them after high school. By adulthood I found the right perscription for me for GAD. Xanax (.5mg) is great for anxious triggers like traveling."
Although there was some debate on whether certain treatments and therapies worked over others, the consensus was that the best thing to do for those who suffer panic attacks is to find a method that works for them. One reader gave a simple yet helpful way to look at it:
- "Once you know it won't kill you it makes it easier to deal with."
Help Us Help You
Hopefully these insights have given you a better understanding of the gravity of panic attacks and the methods that can be used to deal with them. If you are interested in learning more about what readers like you have to say, please follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
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Date of original publication: July 06, 2015
Updated: February 02, 2017