Panic attacks SUCK. They are one of the worst things I’ve experienced. I’ve never completely opened up about my experience with them so I guess it’s time! To try to understand how a panic attack feels it’s good to learn what causes them. Well, the not so fun thing about this is that nothing causes them. Isn’t that just amazing?
I read that most people have one or two panic attacks in their lifetime. I’ve experienced three panic attacks in one week repeatedly for a couple of months. That is what a panic disorder is. More than likely if someone repeatedly has a panic attack there is a high amount of stress in their life and/or they have an anxiety disorder. Panic attacks can often be used to describe an anxiety attack, but they are two different things.
Anxiety attacks have a stressor that triggers a physical reaction with racing thoughts. It usually lasts a shorter amount of time, but can be scary for someone who is not used to it. If the cause of the anxiety attack goes away then it can be easier to go back to a normal state. This is where coping skills are extremely useful. I have found that coping skills 9/10 times will delay or ease an anxiety attack.
Panic attacks are a full-on nightmare. It can start with racing thoughts which usually make me believe I am just having an anxiety attack. Once I go through my coping skills and nothing helps I know to prepare. For some reason, it takes over my body, from what I’ve read this happens to most people as well.
I’ve driven to the hospital before, a couple of times. Debated if I should call an ambulance, make a doctor’s appointment, or call someone to take me. It has happened while I’ve driven and had to pull over. If I am in class then I go to the restroom. When I’m just in my bedroom I lay down and breathe steadily.
It feels like a heart attack. My chest hurts like nothing else I’ve ever felt before. Breathing becomes almost impossible to do and I get very dizzy. My body seems to be out of my control and there is nothing I can do except to wait for it to pass. Crying always happens.
One of the only things that keep me from getting medical help is the fact that I am twenty and it is extremely rare for my age group. Then I usually just have an anxiety attack wondering what will happen when I have a panic attack when I’m 50 or 60 and can’t tell the difference. That is what overthinking looks like, a bit of a shit show.
Sleeping doesn’t deter them either. It is entirely possible and not uncommon to wake up having a panic attack. Usually, when they happen at night I’ll wake up sweating and crying. I believe that is common for most people, but I am not entirely sure.
If you experience panic attacks do not be ashamed. I never wanted anyone to know because it seemed as if I was overreacting. Driving to the hospital? Who even does that? Well, I have before and I might again. As long as I don’t walk through the doors I consider that a victory. There is no shame in a panic attack and by speaking up about it you can explain to the people close to you how they can help.
At first, my boyfriend had no clue what to do and that is normal for a lot of people. If it is their first time seeing it happen then they have no idea what is happening. That mixed with symptoms of a panic attack, like the thought that you think you’re dying, don’t go so well together. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to explain what they can do if they see you experiencing a panic attack. This can improve your sense of safety and the person close to you can feel useful in helping you feel better.
Panic attacks may not be normal for everyone, but they are for some. This is a reminder to support those closest to you because you never truly know what they could be going through. Be kind to others and yourself.