(Living With Anxiety) What A Panic Attack Feels Like

(Please note that anxiety affects everybody differently. I'm purely writing this from my own experience with it.)

I decided to write this since I've been dealing with severe anxiety for a long while now, and people in my life don't exactly understand what it's like to deal with every day, they just tell me to stop worrying and causing myself extra anxiety.

Much easier said than done

Anxiety is unpredictable, it doesn't make sense, and it's not something you can just stop. It's something that always tends to linger in the back of my mind no matter what I'm doing. Grocery shopping, going on a walk, or even just sitting down at the table to eat dinner with my family. All very simple and seemingly safe things, yet I've gotten panic attacks during every single one of them. It's such a horrible feeling, and I'm going to describe it the best I can.

You're doing a usual activity, nothing out of the ordinary when it begins. You start by feeling a little bit weird, kinda like an out of body sensation. Your hands get a bit clammy and you feel a weird pit-like feeling in your stomach. You try to brush it off and continue on, taking a few breaths to calm your body down.

The pit-like feeling gets more intense, and your chest feels tighter than usual, causing you to breathe a bit faster to get enough oxygen. Your fingers and legs begin to tingle, and this particular sign is when I know I'm past the point of no return. I'm about to have a full-blown panic attack.

You sit down, putting your head into your hands as you try to get a deep, satisfying breath, but you can't. It gets harder to take a breath, sending your body into a bigger panic and you begin to hyperventilate. The world around you starts spinning and you feel like you're about to vomit as your vision starts to tunnel and go out.

The mental symptoms then begin intensifying, you feel such a deep pit of fear in your stomach. Towards what exactly, you don't know. But it keeps getting worse, the panic building, the breathing getting faster, you're both freezing cold and sweating at the same time. The world around you is tuned out, you can't hear anything except for your own rapid heartbeat in your ears.

You are completely terrified

You can't stop shaking, you lose muscle control, your body is completely exhausted by now, but the panic attack has just reached its peak. You can't stop yourself from crying, feeling like your body is about to completely give out and shut down on you.

You can stay like this for any amount of time, whether it's five minutes or an hour or two. Slowly, it'll begin to back off. You'll be able to take a few deep breaths as your heart rate goes back to normal, signaling it's finally ending.

At least for now, that is. You can hope and pray that it'll be a while before your next one, but you can never know exactly when it'll strike again. And that, is the real scary part in my opinion. You could have one somewhere you can't get away from, such as an airplane, and you'll have to deal with having a breakdown in front of everyone.

In front of their judgmental eyes.

(Living With Anxiety) What A Panic Attack Feels Like

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Most Helpful Girls

  • Panic attacks are horrible...

    I have three levels of anxiety;
    - The normal, day-to-day, voice in the back of my head. Uncomfortable in busy places, but able to cope.
    - The I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE level; My chest is tight, I think I can't breathe, heart is thumping so fast, I feel like I'm going to pass out, there's no space, I need to escape. Usually I am able to counter this anxiety by leaving the area and going outside, counting breaths or steps as I walk.
    The final stage, if escape was not possible,
    - The room is suddenly incredibly loud, my ears are ringing, I CANNOT BREATHE, it's too late to leave, my body is tense, my heart is racing so fast, WHY can't I BREATHE?
    Then once it has passed I'm so incredibly tired and sore. And embarrassed.

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    • I feel you, lately been waking up to this feeling every single day 😔

  • Thanks for sharing. I can relate, I’ve been suffer from anxiety and depression ever since I remember myself. There were better times but It literally ruined my life, I quit college and currently unemployed because of that. Every time I go outside I get panic attack and can’t hold
    Myself from crying. Feeling hopeless. Reading this made me feel less alone.

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    • Awwe don't feel hope less! One day things will get a lot easier. I also struggle from anxiety and depression and I definitely can relate to you. I started doing really horrible in my college classes because of anxiety and its so hard to explain it to teachers or the school. They just don't understand. I have literally dropped out of so many classes because of my anxiety and depression and dropping classes only makes me feel worse. But i am hoping that in the upcoming months I can start to regain my focus and lessen my anxiety with therapy.

Most Helpful Guy

  • In the end, it's all about the will.

    It's not about having no fear, it's about not letting fear dictates you.

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    • That depends a lot on what effects our will, and sometimes the power of will isn't enough , you just can't stop the feeling from continuing, and in a way you gotta get through it to release what you're feeling...
      Sometimes we want it to stop but people don't let us, by saying something like "calm down" and even after you tell em' to stop they don't...
      Sometimes you can't even control it.
      Sometimes you flow with it, but not 'cause you like it but cause you feel helpless...

      Maybe she even possibly has some sort of physical disorder that that co-involves a trigger which she isn't aware of or isn't in control of since the brain can be more complicated than a 100 gate proxy (computers) and thus it could be something that isn't even connected or hasn't even happened at the same time...

      Dude I totally get where you're coming from, and understand what you mean by that...
      But just understand that the power of will isn't always that magical... that's life tho ain't it...

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    • @oddwaffle You know what ill give you an up vote on this.

      As someone who has lived with anxiety and drepression of various levels over the years in the end dealing with it is simple but difficult.

      Its like anger management you just need to learn your "count to 10" method.

      @latinabutterfly96 What you are talking about is chemical imbalances in the brain. But there's things you can do to counteract that. I think thats what the OP is referencing is you are in control, not always complete control but enough to guide you in the right direction

    • @Edanurus Yes. I only wanted to point that out, since a lot of people forget that a panic attack is not always due to stress or perception first. Sometimes it comes from a random biological change, and from that, one may suffer a panic attack

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What Girls & Guys Said

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  • Anxiety and depression are like being stuck in quicksand... the harder you fight them, the deeper you sink. The key to healing is acceptance. You have to let go of the fear of them. Fear is the gas that keeps the fire burning. If fighting them worked, you'd be healed by now. Try the opposite, do nothing... you will then stop adding fear to the fear. If you want to get better, stop trying to get better. Let the symotoms come, let them have their place and they will eventually fade out.

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  • I’m surprised I don’t get panic attacks after reading about it. I have social anxiety. It can turn my brain off in public and people think I’m literally retarded because I lose the ability to speak or act or think.

    Typically, my brain is just running a loop of evil thoughts. Those thoughts increase in intensity and speed depending on how many people are around or what I’m doing.

    I never even knew I had social anxiety until I read a psychology article detailing it in words exactly what it was I was feeling. Basically my brain automatically playing this loop of horrible emotions and thoughts that I literally cannot control. I can consciously repeat a phrase in my head and that will alleviate it to an extent but if I stop it goes back to full blown evil running through my head.

    At the same time, I have great emotional control. The way I grew up, I had to be real good at ignoring bad things. So I think I ignored my social anxiety for a long time. But apparently it just kept building up and I had no idea. It started getting really bad and I didn’t know wtf was going on. It had simply out grew my power to suppress it.

    So now these days even though I’ve vastly improved my social skills, my social anxiety is worse than ever. Which is why I’m surprised I never had a panic attack. It sounds like it’s right up my alley but hey I’m glad I don’t get that shit it sounds shitty.

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  • I think a lot of this people manufacture up for themselves - it's attention mechanism, or simply lack of social skills.
    Next it's depression, or bipolar disease. Lots of self-induced and self-diagnosed mental handicaps.
    I understand some 40% of women over 40 are on some kind of anti-depressants. Coincidence?

    I hope you have professional help. This is no way to live.

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    • I wish mine was just for attention, then I could easily turn it off and live a normal life, but it's not, and I can't. That's a problem nowadays, so many people self-diagnosing and pretending to have an illness that they actually don't, it makes those of us with actual illnesses not be taken as seriously.

      I'm seeking help currently.

    • And a VERY coherent response - thank you.
      Frankly I think you'll beat this. If you can observe objectively and get to the root of the cause, you'll find relief and happiness.

      I could easily have mental issues, I'm hypoglycemic which means my blood sugar crashes - and that's what your brain runs on, so if I get close to comatose levels I can get pretty darn irrational. Some would call me crazy. And I have some OCD from time to time, and can never sit still.
      So I get it, and I think you can overcome it. The nearest thing I can relate it to is what I feel from acrophobia. The adrenaline rush is staggering, and there's nothing I can do about it.

  • Mine was comorbid with depression and anger issues. It was this generic feeling that doom was around the corner. That no matter how often I try to resolve disputes peacefully, the day would come that I'd have to resort to violence. It became a sort of OCD-like affliction.

    The girl that I used to know who got radicalized into BLM ideology and unfriended me after losing an argument? She's gonna find me, and come back with a bazooka!

    That one coworker I don't get along with? Just you wait: the Battle of the Boxcutters is coming!

    That one gal that blew you off when you waved hello? She's gonna go full Christine Ford on you! Just wait!

    The boss talks to you like you're a piece of gum on his shoe? Just wait! He's gonna murder you.

    In college, I saw many times that no one could handle anything reasonably. The first resort of many was to blow everything out of proportion, and escalate small situations into patent absurdity. It seemed you gained brownie points for how far you could escalate a nothing burger, and how soon you could do so.

    Therefore, I came to see such risk of escalation everywhere, in everything. Moral of the story: don't live in Big Rapids. They will make you crazy, and they suck.

    Oh yeah. I got a job in 2011. Required some security clearance. They found out I had a crush on a Filipina. Didn't tell her about my work though. They didn't care. They uprooted her family. Her step-dad died, and she blamed me for it. They also wanted to know every international tie my parents had; when I had nothing to do with it.

    I fought it on my own until January of 2018, when I got submitted to the ER due to extreme insomnia and irregular heart rhythms. Even in the ER, I could hear every problem within a 100-foot radius, and was ready to spring out of bed and come to the rescue of any nurse if another patient or patients' relative got too belligerent.

    I guess you could call it a doom complex. That I'd have to be a martyr somehow one way or another; and I was only delaying the inevitable. At the time, I thought of it as I was simply too worked up and had forgotten how to relax. But I now realize that what I was at back then was one step away from being textbook suicidal.

    "Be prepared at all times to go down swinging; because you will," is pretty close to passive ideation. It's "I'm gonna go down in flames, I just know it. Or, they're gonna take me away. Let them come. Let them try." Despondent paranoia.

    Can't say I'd wish that on anyone.

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  • I have a friend that has this...
    I have a question for you, perhaps everyone is different in what they feel helps them...

    But in your particular case, while you’re having these attacks, what is something someone near you can do while it’s Hooke I get, to help you feel better? Do something? If so, what exactly... or do you prefer to just leave you alone and not even talk to you until it passes?

    What I’ve been doing is simply in quiet soft but assuring voice say to take a deep breath slowly and relaxingly release it slowly a few times... but I don't know if I’m being annoying or if it’s helping at all, some people just want to be left alone when feeling sick.. what do you think is best from your experience?

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    • I also tell him to try his best to clear his mind from any5ing at all.. and I out relaxing music.,, but he prefers other music and changes it... I feel that music he puts could possibly nit help as much as a softer leading tune but I don’t change it back because maybe he feels it helps him I don't know... it’s just scary.., like a heart attack. And don’t know the difference which is even scarier.

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    • Soft music actually stresses me out more. I instead put on louder instrumental mixes. In the midst of a panic attack, it's nearly impossible to clear your mind no matter how hard you try. It is really scary, I've almost called 911 multiple times since I thought I was actually going to die.

    • Oh wow, the music thing is interesting.., I would’ve never thought a relaxing time could cause more anxiety or more bad stuff at all... it’s good to know... perhaps he is like you.
      And his mom did call emergency last week it was so scary.. but as soon as he feels better he doesn’t want to consider any help at all..

      Thank you for the information!!
      And hopefully your attacks go away forever.

  • I am living with PTSD for a long time now. It's hard, but I have learned coping skills. You can too. It may never go away but you can teach yourself to control it. Mindfulness, therapy and drugs worked for me. Find your own tools. Don't give up. I'm living proof that you can do it.

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    • I have ptsd too. Never taken medicine for it, haven't been to therapy for years and when I did go, it was before I had ptsd.

      Grounding really helps my panic attacks. Find 5 things, something you can smell, touch, see, feel, hear

  • My heart goes out to you young lady, what an awful condition to live with. Are you on any medication for it?

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    • Thank you. I was on medication but I ended up having a severe allergic reaction to it and had to stop. I'm currently trying to find a different one that works for me. It's hard though since I'm a minor with parents who are very against anti-anxiety medications and whatnot.

    • Well, their concerns are valid because your brain doesn't stop developing until you are early mid 20's. I don't know if you like football or not, but there is a video that I think you should watch (it's inspirational) My very favorite player of all time was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018. He has battled major depression his whole life... and the speech he gave moved me a lot. If you are intersted let me know.

  • I have had them for years, dealing with them is something you cannot explain to others if they never had them. All of your description is right on. I have leaned towards taking Xanax to help keep them in check. But this creature is always there, in the back of your mind, waiting to come out and that is Scary. I feel for you and know exactly what you are dealing with.

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  • Very nicely explained. I used to have them at least daily. Now it's a lot less frequent. Hopefully you have reached out to a phychirst or therapist. There are skills such as grounding and medications that can be extremely helpful. I wish you the best.

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  • I suffer from low level anxiety but at one point in my life, about two years ago it was panic attacks like this too.

    Like wow it still scars me in my head. But I have managed to let go of my past.

    Go to a good therapist !!!

    You need to clear your chest

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  • YESSSSSSSSSS PANIC ATTACKS ARE LIKE UNWANTED YOUTUBE ADS THAT APPEAR OUT OF NOWHERE

    Great article! I loved it!

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  • I hear you, I wake up that way and I don't know why. I have to take a mental checklist to ensure that I'm "ok". I try to stay mindful and realize I can't change for anyone nor am I going to 2 be in a relationship. Tc

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  • You explained it very well. However for me, when I realize I'm going into a full blown attack, it's not tingling. It's the flashbacks.

    I used to have panic attacks every single day. For years in high school. It was bad. But you're probably still in school looking at your age, and if you had issues being in crowds like I did, maybe see if your school will let you leave 5 minutes early each class, or 5 minutes late, to avoid passing time and the busy hallways. Those were a trigger for me. I also stopped going to lunch around sophomore year. I ate in my favorite teachers room.

    It can get better. If you want, feel free to message me. I'm lucky enough now that I only get panic attacks every few months, I just had my first one in maybe 6 or 7 months now. Used to be daily.

    If you haven't, practice grounding. Find something you can smell, see, hear, touch, focus on a blank sheet of paper in your mind. It helped me some.

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  • Anxiety, as wide spread mental condition, comes from increasing desires and lack of the perceived possibility of their fulfilment. Also a change in the quality of the desire. Instead of wanting to be rich or famous, young people tent to wish more for positive relationships within their family, among friends and especially for women, with their partner.

    Due to the very different desires among the previous generation, young peiple feel pressured to seek out things they don't want, unnecessary things, things they lack a desire to obtain.

    This increasing pressure mounts and the desire for meaningful human conection stays unfulfilled. As a result we have young people suffering from things like anxiety.

    I feel there should be more positive examples of people cosciously choosing to forego striving for material excess and instead to focus on creating a positive psychological environment around themselves, try to be among people, who value human connection more than anything else.

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  • Yeah those things are horrible but it's still our responsibility to face our fears. If you're gonna be like "But I'm always like this. Nothing can cure it" Then nothing will because you believe so. You won't grow if you just let it be. Don't blame anyone, blame yourself but when I mean blaming yourself, doesn't really mean you suck and can't do anything about it. Don't wish for life to be easier. Wish for yourself to be better.

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    • I am facing my fears nor do I blame anyone. However, I have chemical imbalances in my brain and I accept that while yes, I will get better and be able to function, anxiety, accompanied by depression, will always be with me in some way.

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    • I got those advice from my dad. He even told me he almost commit suicide before I was born and before my mom was pregnant of me. Just what if he did. I wouldn't be born. Tho we were having lots of issues back then. Separated for 16 years. Raced by my overly protective grand parents making me anxious as hell. And now we're settled but still separated tho. Can't blame them for that. I'm just lucky I'm not in the poverty line like 25% of people in my country. But yeah I hope you're gonna feel better. No. I know you will and good luck.

  • I love the helpful opinions and suggestions from people that are definitely neurologists that always say shit like "relax" and "calm down" and "take deep breaths"

    Like thanks dude, never tried that one. What am I even on meds for?

    And a lot of self-diagnosing makes actual anxiety, which is fucking debilitating, look like a colorful way of saying "overwhelmed"

    My panic attacks have been going strong for 12 years, with little to no outside influence. I'll be sitting on my couch playing Kirby and suddenly my body is like "nah, we're gonna do this now"

    I don't know if people realize this but Kirby in Dreamland for the Gameboy is hardly a stressful experience that warrants a "Facebook panic attack"

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  • i had anxiety and panic attack and severe deppression.. to the extend i had to go to psychiatrist... and Thank God after i surrender all to Jesus, i am healed... i no more feel anxious.. like before.. no more anxiety and no more depression... people told me these all can't dissapear and i have to live with them my whole life and i have to embrace the feelings but its getting difficult each time...
    I know how it feels.. i almost kill myself as well because i can't stand the pain in my heart.. i cry many times out of nowhere...
    Just surrender all to Jesus and He will heal you.. I am His living testimony...

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    • I already am a Christian and have been for years. I've asked Jesus for help countless times to no avail.

    • talk to Him... thats what i did... soemtimes it doesn't happen now or fast because He wanna train you... one day that will be your testimony as well... i will be praying for you... im confident you will be healed in Jesus name... if He can do it for me He will do it for you... Never give up and keep praying , He will answer your prayer.. He is the Healer

    • Love your testimony. Thank you for sharing.

  • I used to get them everyday and still do but around once or twice a week. There has been many times I'd have to go home from school because of how bad my anxiety would get and I'd have to ignore the halls at school when it was crowded or I'd experience a panic attack. Just any area that I felt crowded. Especially when in classes I'd ask the teacher to go to the restroom so I wouldn't lose my shit in front of everyone which has happened before and it's embarrassing as hell. This mixed with other issues I have it's a terrible combination to have. For me I ended up doing a lot of things to help cope with my problems but I found meditation helpful. It didn't "cure" me but it helps.

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  • "they just tell me to stop worrying and causing myself extra anxiety." This is the worst thing to say to someone with anxiety/depression or anything on the lines with things will get better. We don't want to hear that. No, it won't get better. I don't have anxiety, but I hear where you are coming from. I have depression. I don't really talk about it unless its in a thread like this. Never seen a doctor or talked to anyone close to me. I only say something quite similar to this or makes comments. I'm stuck in a box wanting to scream out for help, but choose not to. Its only getting worse. I feeling detached, yet I seek no help. When I go out with friends or family. I throw a fake smile. Then, the dark void I built comes back when I go home. I lay there until work comes. Only to repeat the process.

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    • please try therapy i have been struggling with depression too and therapy really helps. Go to your local doctor and see if they can refer you to a therapist.

    • @Redemerald I don't really know any local doctors. I thought it was always so pricey to see one.

    • oh i see, Do you have any health insurance? Make a doctor's appointment at a adult clinic near your location.

      Google some clinics near your location

      Call in to see if they accept your health insurance

      Schedule a regular check up with a doctor

      Get blood work done to see if there are any chemical imbalances in your body causing the depressed moods

      Also express all your feelings to the doctor and let them know that you'd really like to be referred to a therapist.

      You can also Google therapy clinics near your location and see which ones accept you health insurance or search the name of your health insurance and then write therapy clinics with it to see which ones pop up.

      If you do not have health insurance, see if you could find a cheaper therapy clinic near you and maybe spend a couple extra bucks on the therapy because your health is very important

      Last option is to see if there are any free therapy offered online or anywhere near you but make sure to check out the website and company to make sure it is legit.

  • I liked this mytake it's very easy to read and interpret, my support to you ma'am ❤

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  • I appreciate this my take because it honestly makes me so angry when people falsely label themselves with mental problems like anxiety or depression just because they experience your average episode of teenage angst or uncertainty or whatever. I think it's important that people learn the massive difference so they don't contribute to the marginalisation of mental illness by falsely labelling themselves for every minor inconvenience they experience because apparently it's now too impossible to refrain from using labels even if you've never been diagnosed.
    I'm forever grateful that until now I've only ever had a proper anxiety attack once, where I deadass thought I was going to die. It really felt like my throat was just gonna close shut and was gonna suffocate. It was so bad that I ended up in the ER where they went on to give me a sedative.

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  • I am suffering from ocd and depression over a decade. I can relate and understand. Consult any better psychiatrist. Keep faith in God.

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  • I'm not sure what my panic attacks are considered actual panic attacks or not, but for mine it's more of a fight or flight kind of anxiety. As my anxiety is very specific to certain things. It's mostly just hallucinations, frequent nightmares, and bad anxiety, but all of this depends on my mood and usually if I'm tired it's more likely for me to experience anxiety especially hallucinations. Most of the time it's auditory or visual and rarely ever is it touch. Although for me I'm usually in mood to fight back while anxious and pissed where in others I simply do the opposite. Although, now at this point it's normal everyday for me to experience stuff like that nor do I tell my family about it. I just have no interest in telling someone about it who'll just unnecessarily treat me like a tragic case. Plus, the lazy way of them trying to me by offering a therapist or psychiatrist when I don't need either.

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  • I am just out of a relationship with a woman with strong anxieties. I feel for you

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  • I've felt anxiety before and that grabage is straight from hell. Totally energy draining for me.

    Thank God for my good health and prayer.

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  • To sum it up, anxiety attacks are like adrenaline rushes.

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    • As someone who suffers from panic attacks and loves adrenaline, that is an insult to adrenaline.

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    • Exactly ^ I live adrenaline before roller coasters, or just doing certain things. But during anxiety attacks, they're the worst. It feels like my body is sent into overdrive and I can't stop shaking. One of the worst feelings.

    • Yeah, I hate stress filled adrenaline rushes! They're such buzzkills!

  • Tnx for sharing. Was into anxiety issues it's great to learn something about it on the deeper level.

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  • i once had a panic attack being drunk as hell i couldn't stop vomiting after that

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  • I used to get anxiety attacks until I figured out what triggers them. For me it was all about being impatient.

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  • Good take

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  • I feel you.

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  • I have those too. It's like an annoying voice in the back of your head that won't let you relax. Even if everything seems well, this voice tells you something is wrong. It's like I can be reading a book and suddenly I have thoughts of my boyfriend leaving me or my boss firing me.
    I can't chase it away.
    It takes my whole willpower to stay calm and seem normal but inside I'm ready to explode. It takes my whole energy to sound calm and move like nothing is happening.
    I've learned how to control my body to appear normal but inside my head I can't fix.
    It's genetic. In my family so many of us have it. I won't take any meds because I need to be energetic for my work. I've tried pills before and it was even worse.

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  • Wait, so you have no particular reason to get panic like life and death situation or about to be attacked by animal?

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    • No, I can be laying in my bed about to sleep, and I'll get one. The situation doesn't matter.

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    • @MsMusic I have almost drown before, it was a surreal moment for me. I really thought I was gonna die and water kept coming in my stomach and filling my lungs. I did not panic. I was thinking more about my parents and how sad they will be once they received the news their daughter is dead. But before I could not breath any longer, someone saved my life and managed to untangle my foot. Another team took me out from the water into their boat and quickly took me to the medic. I was calm, I told myself to breathe slowly. The reacue crews were trembling and shaking to my surprise. They asked me if I was fine, I stared at all of them and nodded my head. I was scared of water for a week after that. The point is I know what its like but I don't panic.

      I'm sorry to know you have gone through a very traumatic experience. I'm sure it must be hard. Did you seek professional help?

    • I have not seeked help, no. I'm doing much better now. But I know what it's like. There's no controlling it unless you can avoid triggers. Her ability to stay calm in stressful situations is not correlated with her panic attacks.

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