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  1. EightyD

    EightyD Member

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    Panic attacks

    Discussion in 'Research' started by EightyD, Mar 24, 2019.

    I'm writing a character who experiences extreme anxiety and I am looking for examples of well written panic attacks. Both with and without someone intervening and helping through it.

    I don't have much personal experience with this level of anxiety, so anything helps.
     
  2. paperbackwriter

    paperbackwriter Banned Contributor

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    im high anxiety and do experience the odd panic attack. if i am suddenly put in a new situation of reponsibility i will almost certainly go into meltdown. Become paralysed where i cant even communicate effectively. Dry mouth and racing thoughts.
    maybe that is fairly common.
    you might be wanting examples of extreme cases of agoraphobia. where the person is afraid to leave the house. im not there yet.
     
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  3. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned

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  4. Lucian Hodoboc

    Lucian Hodoboc New Member

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    The scene in the third book from The Hunger Games, MockingJay, when Katniss
    wakes up from the coma and realizes that Prim died in the explosion
    , comes to mind.
     
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  5. Reece

    Reece Senior Member

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  6. Foxxx

    Foxxx Knight of Faith Contributor

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    I've had panic attacks since the night I thought one of my best friend overdosed on cocaine right in front of me, little over half a year ago.

    Very infrequent though; maybe only three times.

    I become very self-conscious about my heart, as if I can't trust it. I feel really hot and on-edge. My mind is frantic and all over the place, to the point that it becomes practically impossible to focus on anything or function. I have to sit down in a chair, fidget a lot, and grip the arms of the chair or squeeze a stress ball until my knuckles are practically white.

    Remind myself to breathe some more.

    Try standing up. Nope. Definitely not done.

    Sit back down. Have some water. Go back to focusing on breathing. Drink more water now. Notice shaking in the hands, and can feel my core shaking. My chest is tight like a knot.

    Am I going to die?

    I think I'm dying.

    Please stop. I don't like it when my body feels so out of my control, like I'm just along for the ride.

    What even caused this?

    I don't know. I don't get it. I don't know.

    Try to lay down and close my eyes, but I'm scared that I won't wake up.

    Get up off the couch.

    Pace. Pace, back and forth.

    Almost over. I can feel it. You've been through these before. Every time you've ever gotten high. That's why you don't get high anymore, remember?

    Yeah, but I didn't get high this time. I was just sitting at home and suddenly it hit, for seemingly no reason.

    I know. Just keep it together.

    Chest loosens. Stomach is still tied-up, but not as bad. Upon this realization I suddenly take a deep breath. For the past 10 minutes it felt like air wasn't getting all the way down into my lungs. Not a single breath was satisfying.

    Emotional agitation subsides.

    My knees are weak; I'm so exhausted I lay down and take a nap.

    ---

    That's been my experience, anyway. Mine is primarily related to being a hypochondriac. Unless I smoke marijuana, in which case I am guaranteed to have a panic attack. Which is why I haven't even touched it in a couple years now.

    I also forgot to mention that I NEED to get away from people, with the exception of a few friends who can comfort me, and won't be freaked out by my episode. The latter is the important part. I'm comfortable around all my friends, but only a few know how to act when I'm like this. Even when I'm in the middle of an episode, I'm still worried about other people, what they're going to think of me, and how I'm making them feel. I don't want to scare them.

    Reminding myself that I've been through worse (the panic episode I had that night with the cocaine lasted for almost two hours) helps a little bit. This comparison is one of the few thoughts that seems real to my brain when I'm having an attack.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2019
  7. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    I've talked people through them. Usually they have difficulty controlling their breath (so my function is mainly to guide them in breathing more slowly and to try to comfort them), there's a pounding heart aspect to it, sometimes they get dizzy. There's also a cold sweat. (They had a history of panic attacks, so we knew it wasn't a heart attack.)Thoughts sort of collide in their brain, they tell me they can't think clearly, and they're really hyper.

    I've had two PTSD attacks, but they're relatively new to me and I don't know if that officially classifies as a "panic attack". I broke out into a sweat, had rapid breathing, started shivering uncontrollably, and vomited to the point of dry heaves.
     
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  8. EightyD

    EightyD Member

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    Thank you, each of you. I can't imagine it being easy to explain that experience to a complete stranger.
     
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  9. Woodstock Writer

    Woodstock Writer Senior Member

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    The one I had many years ago, I wasn’t aware at the time that I was having a panic attack. But I also didn’t feel like I was dying. I remember thinking there was something wrong with my stomach. That’s the main thing I can recall about it, that my stomach felt really odd.
     
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  10. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

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    When I have panic attacks I usually don't have trouble breathing - but it feels like the air isn't doing it's thing. I breath like normal, but it's like I still don't get the air I need, or like it doesn't reach my lungs even though I just filled them. It's usually accompanied with a pain in my chest bone and despite knowing better I sometimes get the feeling that the pain would go away if I just cut into the bone (I've got a not so sexy scar because I couldn't keep that feeling at bay when I was younger). I can get dizzy and sometimes I've got that stingy/pricky feeling in my hands, sort of when they've been asleep.

    With all this my rational thinking usually fly out the window and all I can think is "Jag vet inte vad jag ska ta vägen"* over and over again until I calm down.

    I'm an anxious person and can get stressed out over things that people see as "nothing". Now a days I don't really get proper panic attacks, but I sometimes get a watered down version which. I still recognize it as a version of what I had a few years ago, though, when I got bad attacks on the regular. I used to be the sort of person who could barley leave my apartment - and I still try to stay away from crowds when I feel it coming on, even if it's better now a days.

    *Literally I suppose it means more "I don't know where I'm going" but I'd translate it more like "I don't know what I should do" in the context because it's not that I'm looking for somewhere to go, but I'm trying to process what to do or where to go from here. Usually in the context of what to do with my life (to get away from the panic) rather than getting rid of the panic.
     
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  11. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    The number one sign I have that a panic attack is looming around the corner is that the bottoms of my feet start to tingle/prickle. I've never met anyone with that same symptom before!
     
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  12. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I just had to help a friend through an episode just like this. He was experiencing a high level of anxiety because his wife is very unwell and is needing constant care. He suddenly thought he was having a heart attack. He phoned me, then (at my insistence) also phoned for an ambulance. The ambulance got to his house just before me, and the crew were applying the heart monitors, etc. He was gasping for breath, dizzy, and definitely sweating. And weeping too, which is very unlike him, and saying over and over how worried he was about his wife, if something happened to him.

    The ambulance crew were fantastic. (Yay, NHS! No charge for the service at all.) They stayed for nearly two hours, getting him settled down. Once they assured him that there was nothing wrong with his heart, and told him he was having a panic attack, he started to calm down. They helped him regulate his breathing, arranged a visit to his GP for the next day, etc. It took a while, but he regained equilibrium, and admitted things had been getting on top of him and he needed to ask for help caring for his wife. It was an education for me, as I would have immediately assumed 'heart attack' just from looking at him. By the time the ambulance crew left, he was back to himself, although very tired. I stayed with him for another couple of hours, but he just went to sleep and that was that.
     
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  13. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Me neither, but given the number of sensitive nerve endings in the bottoms of the feet, it makes perfect sense.

    Interestingly, this thread is the first time I’d heard of the tingling/prickly hands as well. I thought mine was a just a pinched nerve from neck/shoulder tension from anxiety. Next time it kicks in I’ll pay attention to see if there’s more of a pattern.

    Not sure about anyone else, but I’m finding this thread extremely helpful.

    ETA: @jannert I can absolutely see how it could be mistaken for a heart attack. I’m glad you were there for him. Given what you’ve shared in other posts the poor couple are clearly in a majorly stressful situation with her illness. They’re fortunate to have you as a kind and caring friend.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2019
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  14. Maggie May

    Maggie May Active Member

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    I think that we are seeing a lot of different types of panic/anxiety attacks. Mine were being someplace where I knew/felt was bad/evil. I felt jittery, I felt hunted yet I was alone. I felt a strong feeling of get myself the heck out of there. Another time where there were a lot of people I had a feeling of being overwhelmed, too much. Again the strong desire to get away/run or escape.
     
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  15. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    @Foxxx I have them along the same lines. Starting a new job was always dealt with by self medication.
    In some crowded areas I feel like someone injected poison in me that spread as my heartbeat increased.
    Reading this thread makes me realize it may be a sign of the times. I'm just saying.
     
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  16. EightyD

    EightyD Member

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    For those of you whohave experienced panic attacks with someone there, does having someone there saying "you're having a panic attack" help? Just having someone there to verify what it is you're feeling?
     
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  17. paperbackwriter

    paperbackwriter Banned Contributor

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    i used to be a teacher believe it or not.
    i was attending a field trip when these students told me that another teacher was impersonating my anxious teaching style in front of the class . It was humiliating to hear that. I never confronted him about it because i didnt want him to harass the students who told me.
     
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  18. paperbackwriter

    paperbackwriter Banned Contributor

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    ive only recently realised how much anxiety and panic attacks affected my life and career. In some ways i envy younger generations who have that awareness and try to do something about it when they are young.
    Monitoring journaling and really trying to nail what is actually going on. That is the key I suspect. Self awareness. My problem was I either tried to supress it or just ignore it. I might have able to avoid addictions like alcohol.
     
  19. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    No one's ever been with me when I've had them. I was raised in an environment where being mentally "tough" was a must, so I kept it under wraps. None of my IRL friends even know I have anxiety, and I only told my sister this past December even though I've had it since I was a kid.

    I'm that person who's extremely cool in an emergency, and then it hits me later. Mine are always after a stressful something, long after everyone's gone home and they're onto something else and I'm finally alone. No one knew I had anxiety at all until this past July, when I was talking online with a friend after a stressful, triggering thing and I started shivering. My hands were shaking so badly I knew my slow responses and typos would be noticeable, so I told him what was going on and he was kind enough to stay online with me for a couple more hours until after it passed. I think telling him made it pass faster, because it removed the additional stress of trying to hide it.

    When I finally told my sister, she was shocked. I think a lot of people you'd never imagine have anxiety keep it behind closed doors and have panic attacks alone.
     
  20. flawed personality

    flawed personality Contributor Contributor

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    Mine vary in intensity. I remember one was when I was walking home. I felt out of breath, and my breathing was erratic. I was only taking shallow breaths, and because I couldn't get enough air into my lungs, it made me panic more and feel light headed. I stopped walking and held onto a stone wall above a bridge. I just tried to focus on regulating my breathing, trying to get it back to normal. Holding the wall I found to be helpful somehow. I guess having something that was sturdy, supportive and solid was beneficial when my body felt so turbulent.
    I have others when I get overwhelmed and bail on whatever I'm doing, or the place I'm in. I had one in a supermarket before. I abandoned my shopping, and went to the toilet. I broke down in the cubicle and had a good cry. When I got it out, I splashed water on my face and returned to the supermarket. Fortunately, my shopping was still there, so I could finish up and leave.
    On a separate occasion, I went into a shopping centre, and just said "Nope." turned round and went back home. I had been feeling off since I got the bus into town, but was too stubborn to call it off. Going into the shopping centre was just too much. There was a choir and a crowd inside, and I just wasn't capable at that point.
     
  21. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    I use to blame it on the Muzak before I really knew what was happening. To answer the OP about the written words I think there is plenty of info here to fill any blanks. I use the anxiety issue in all of my writing. At least one character has a hint of what I went/going through.
     
  22. paperbackwriter

    paperbackwriter Banned Contributor

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    How much are anxiety and panic attacks self esteem related? i think low self esteem is the root cause in my case . I just dont see myself doing certain things with confidence and ease.
     
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  23. flawed personality

    flawed personality Contributor Contributor

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    Writing this has actually made me realise just how frequent my anxiety is on some level or other. I hadn't been aware it was so pervasive in my life.
     
  24. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Not sure, but I imagine there are probably different root causes, just as there are different symptoms. It also might vary between introverts and extroverts. I like the adrenaline rush of crowds, for example, and I don't have anxiety about talking to people I don't know, but those are terrible triggers for others. PTSD panic attacks seem to have a different root cause, although it certainly takes something related to confidence to push through avoidance. Some common medications can also cause cause anxiety or bring it to the forefront, as was the case with mine. (ETA for clarity: Until this past summer, mine was mostly simmering in the background and would only "pop out" after a stressful or triggering event. Medication I take for an unrelated condition made it go off the charts.)

    Knowing the root is a good observation to have, though.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2019
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  25. paperbackwriter

    paperbackwriter Banned Contributor

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    Yeah yours seem quite different to mine.
     
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