What a panic attack feels like….

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I’m not a medical professional so the following post is purely based on my experience of panic attacks. If you recognise any of the symptoms, please see your GP ASAP and tell them you think you are having panic attacks and need help.

The main reason why I am writing about is that I sufferered horrendous, life changing panic attacks without knowing what they were. Countless visits to my GP and the hospital were entirely fruitless. I didn’t know what was going on with me and all my blood tests etc were normal. All I was told was to go home and rest. I’m not going to go into the triggers as they are different for everyone.

This is a definitive list – I have CFS so I forget a lot! Listed below are the symptoms that particularly affect me.

Physical feelings:

Changes in breathing so that you feel like you can’t catch your breath. Sometimes it can feel like you are suffocating and that is very scary.

Awareness of heartbeat. May seem like it is racing or going to push it’s way out of your chest.

Sweating, shaking and/or shivering. The three Ss!

Dizziness – this is the most distressing one for me. Makes you feel like you need to lie down on the floor but even when you do, it doesn’t help. It was this symptom that caused my panic attacks to spiral out of control and contributed to me trying to commit suicide.

Odd feelings in your limbs, tingling hands and feet. I understand that this is due to changes in oxygen levels due to hyperventilation.

Pains in your chest (obviously this can be the sign of a heart attack so always get it checked out).

Feeling sick, being sick and diarrhoea. I lost an awful lot of weight because of this.

Mental/emotional feelings:

Like you are going to ‘freak out’ at any moment.

Inability to do anything or struggle to do stuff that you can normally do like cooking dinner or having a shower.

The dizziness caused me to react by curling up in a ball on the floor. At my worst, it caused so much mental distress that I spent several hours in bed screaming (and I mean screaming) for someone to help me. This was actually a couple of weeks after my suicide attempt as my panic attacks still hadn’t been addressed.

Feelings of utter despair and I’ll say it again – distress. This is a word that I used over and over again to my GP. The emotions made me want to claw off my skin and I felt like running into traffic. I wanted to die.

A racing mind full of negative and unhelpful thoughts that you can’t control.

From what I have learnt, panic attacks stem from our primitive ‘flight or fight’ response. Our bodies release adrenaline and cause the symptoms above. I suggest you look this up on (reputable) anxiety websites as they will do a much better job at explaining the whys and the wherefores 🙂

There are lots of natural methods out there that people use to control and eliminate their panic attack. I have to be honest and say if it wasn’t for lorazepam, I’m not sure I would be here now. I did have a mild UTI that had gone untreated and antibiotics did relieve some of the dizziness (but it came back). I’m also on anti depressants although I’m not sure how much they are helping.

Health professionals do not like prescribing lorazepam for long periods of time as it is habit forming. I have been on it for almost a year ……. I will need to be weaned off and that terrifies me!

Breathing techniques seem to be the most popular of treatments you will be offered. The trick is to breathe out more than you breathe in eg breathe in for a count of two and breathe out for a count of three. Mindfulness, meditation and visualisations can also help. It is about distracting your mind and body from the feelings of panic. Panic attacks can be prevented from escalating by using the above techniques however ….. They didn’t work for me as my panic attacks could last all day. It’s unbelievably exhausting and takes over your life.

This isn’t me telling you that meds are the only way! Just how it had been for me. Breathing techniques do help me now as does moving about – vacuuming is something that helps, no idea why! Sitting down or lying down is one of the worst things that you can do…..says me who does this quite often….

So please, please, please don’t suffer in silence. By all means chat to me about it but go and pester you GP. Unfortunately, you will probably have to make a nuisance of yourself before anyone listens…. Don’t be fobbed off. Ask for blood tests, get your B12 and iron levels checked and have a urine test done. There may be underlying health issues causing your symptoms so it’s good to rule these out first.

I’m still living a day to day existence but it used to be an hour by hour existence so I see that as progress. In many respects, I have come a long way since these attacks started.

Love, tea and massive hugs.
You’re not alone
Exxx

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