What Does a Panic Attack Feel Like

What Does a Panic Attack Feel Like

We have all been in situations that make us anxious – perhaps going to the dentist or getting interviewed by a panel of CEOs for a top job or preparing to make a speech in front of a huge crowd. These feelings of unease or nervousness are usually normal when you are facing a threatening situation or when you are dealing with something that is likely to have a huge impact in your life. Such anxiety can affect your normal functioning for a brief period of time and when the situation has passed, you’ll be your old self again. Most of us already know what does a panic attack feel like.

However, when your feelings of anxiety become grossly over exaggerated it can lead to panic attack symptoms. During a panic attack, your anxiety is so powerful that it completely takes control over your whole body. For instance, you may be at the bus stop waiting for your ride when you suddenly start sweating profusely, feel your heart pounding in your chest, and start hyperventilating. You may feel like you’re getting a heart attack, but then in a few minutes the feelings disappear and you return back to your normal self, feeling confused and frightened about what happened.

What Does a Panic Attack Feel Like?

Here are some real life experiences from people who have experienced a panic attack, courtesy Twitter.

When you go to eat your favorite cereal but it’s really snakes? – Kathryn Rose

Already panicking about what to wear when I go out. I haven’t looked in a full length mirror in about a month. – Gina Unsworth

I’m on my 3rd panic attack of the day. Hoping this subsides soon then bed. – Missy

My heart was racing & I felt powerless to stop it. It became harder to breath & I had pain in my chest. – IamtheHoneyMonkey

I’ve had 8 panic attacks in 3 days worrying about moving and the one I’ve had this morning made me almost vomit on the pavement. – Ash

Common Panic Attack Symptoms

Some common symptoms people experience when having a panic attack include, but are not limited to:

  • Heavy pounding of your heart
  • Profuse sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness and light-headedness as if you’re about to faint
  • Fear about losing control of yourself
  • Feel like you’re going crazy
  • Hot flashes and cold chills; numbness/tingly feeling in your fingers/toes
  • Feel as if you’re about to get a heart attack or die

When and Where Do Panic Attacks Happen?

Panic attacks happen in different situations for different people. It can happen at a very stressful time or it may hit you out of the blue when everything is perfectly normal. It can even happen at night when you’re asleep, leaving you sweaty and shaking when you wake up. The peak times that the first panic attack strikes is usually between the ages of 15 and 30 although it can hit kids and adults at any age. People who have experienced panic attacks usually find the incidents occur in specific situations such as when in a crowded place, when anticipating a major activity or event such as the birth of a baby, or when placed in a situation where they have to deal with their phobias such as when forced to enter closed spaces.

How Long Do Panic Attacks Last?

Most symptoms of panic attack last between 5 to 20 minutes and they usually peak within 10 minutes. In extreme cases, it can even last up to an hour. There’s no saying when panic attacks will repeat. While some people have never experienced it after the first attack, others have had recurring attacks several times a week.

What Can You Do About Panic Attacks

Having a panic attack can be a truly frightful experience. You may feel helpless and fearful never knowing if it will recur again and constantly staying in a state or worry over it. Thankfully, once you become aware of what is happening to you and why, you can find plenty of help at hand to deal with it. Panic attacks and anxiety related disorders are totally treatable and people can experience relief within a short time.

Cognitive/behavioral therapy is one successful way to treat the problem, but there are also other self-help techniques that you can try to cope with it. Talking to someone you trust or someone who has previously experienced panic attacks goes a long way in understanding and accepting the problem. You can try various breathing exercises to relax yourself and manage your anxiety. You can listen to peaceful music, distract yourself by thinking about pleasant thing or take your dog out for a walk. Avoiding stimulants and eating a healthy diet can also make a difference. Keep a diary and note down specifics of where and when these incidents occur so you can identify patterns and find ways to deal with them. Above everything else, tell yourself that you’re just having a panic attack, its not dangerous and you’re going to be okay.

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16 comments

  1. Thank you for this helpful article. Whenever i start getting a panic attack i just stop what i’m doing and analyze what’s going on inside. Sometimes it lasts 5 minutes, sometimes up to 20 minutes but freaking out makes me feel worse so i try my best just to sit calmly and wait for it to finish.

  2. Wonderful post! That is pretty much the same thing I’ve learned to do to stop panic attacks also. I still get the anxiety but nothing like the PAs. Thanks for sharing, it is right on!

  3. I had panic attacks from a very early age. At 16 it got so bad I was having up to maybe 6 a day it became exhausting. Things like goin to the shop, getting on the bus, sitting in large classes, being on my own and the big one..night time. The symptoms are scary especially being short of breath. Everytime u think to yourself, okay this time I feel different so it’s not a panic attack there’s something wrong with me. These things are pure hell, it’s great to see more articles on this as many people don’t understand how these things can control a person’s life.

  4. I found that reading your posts helps me alot. They are so exhausting it’s horrible. It’s always worse at night aswell. I find that coffee, fags and beer brings mine one.

  5. I’m getting them again and now my left arm stays numb. Plus i get a bad headache afterwards…i was able to control them but they are stronger now…this article was helpful tho….

    1. Left arm numbness can be a sign of a heart attack. You should probably have yourself checked by a dr if you haven’t already.

  6. I thought I am the only suffering from fear.Since my early twenties I have been scared of cars and buses.When the rain is raining i think of floods and think of it my last day.

  7. My panic attacks have come back out of the blue and they last nearly an hr. I’ve tried a lot of these things but still can’t seem to cope with them. I hate not being in control.

  8. Does anyone else have high blood pressure while having a panic attack? My left arm goes completely numb, BP reaches 190 over 100. I’m scared of having a stroke while having a panic attack.

  9. I am 25 and just had my first panic attack of my life. I couldn’t catch my breath. I was sweating profusely. Luckily I had a friend with me who fanned me and talked me through it. When I was finally able to catch my breath my eye was twitching and the right side of my face was numb as well as my lips. I thought I was having a severe allergic reaction to something and almost went to the ER. After about 10 minutes i was able to open my eyes and talk normally again. It was so scary. I hope something like this never happens again..

    1. Im 36 and experienced the same thing . I thought I was having a sezier with rapid eye movements perticually my rt eye . lips and tongue went numb but an ambo was called and I went to the er where they did an ECG that was fine and I was told it was a severe panic attack on top of withdraws from missed meds and anxiety, never experienced it before and never want to again… yes I also had elevated blood pressure and still 4 days later my body is shaking….. dr put me on Alapam.. makes u reevaluate your life that’s for sure

  10. When I get panic attacks I get dirirrah and vomiting real bad too .plus short of breath and real scared that I’m getting a heart attack and scared that what if I die here by my self and I start reading the bible and I starts wearing off and when i”s passes I feel real weak for the whole day.I notice When i started anxiety/panic attacks was when I started taking depression pills.

  11. Breathing is key. If you can, just sit and breath deep and let it out, do it until the attack subsides. Works for me.

  12. During my mid twenties I started having panic attacks which led me to become hyper sensitive to things going on in my body. It was a bad time in my life. The first relief I got from these attacks was from a doctor who specialized in biofeedback. After one session I was able to sleep at night. Not sure if anyone still practices this method but it was the only thing that aloud me to regain control.

  13. I have had panic attacks since 1986 I use to have them at least 6 or 7 times a day they make my body feel funny my heart races I get clammy now my doctor gave me medicine to help calm it down when I know I am having one it is a scary feeling still

  14. I have always had anxiety, but yesterday I had my first panick attack, that’s what the emergency room said. My arms and legs felt like lead, and I’m not seeing these symptoms here with anyone else. I was hyperventilating and my voice changed drastically. I thought I was having a stroke. Do these sound like a panic attack?

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