The Worst Panic Attack Ever and What It Felt Like
A few days ago, I had a panic attack and I can safely say it is the worst one I have ever had. Panic attacks and anxiety, in general, are nothing new. A couple times a month, I will succumb to the anxiety that builds inside me. There are also anxiety triggers that hang over my head and surprise me from time-to-time. But the room spinning, fight or flight, lose consciousness type of panic attacks I thought were long in the rearview mirror. It's good to know, even after all these years, anxiety can still surprise me.
When I agreed to write this blog, I decided pretty early on I wasn’t going to write the “what does a panic attack feel like” article. It has been years since I have had an incredibly serious panic attack and many bloggers all over the Internet have covered this topic. I truly felt as though I had nothing to add. This panic attack (Panic Attacks Explained Simply), however, gave me fresh insight and I decided to join the proverbial club.
What Leads Up to a Panic Attack?
When I woke up that morning, nothing was amiss. I had slept well the night before and the previous evening. I had received my second-ever standing ovation at an event. I even managed to win the 50-50 raffle. My morning routine was normal and I even had the added benefit of working from home that day.
The morning’s activities were boring, but productive. I did a lot of research, sent a ton of emails, and got things together for my afternoon meeting. This meeting was with a woman I have worked with for years and is one of my best friends. I didn’t even bother to find a decent shirt; the crumpled up and stained hoodie would do. We are comfortable around each other. I had even gone out earlier for my morning soda pop and was receiving kind emails from the people at the event the night before.
She arrived and we started working. We were sitting there going over various things when she noticed I was repeating myself and having trouble putting together sentences. These are telltale warning signs of panic attack. I began sweating and my heart began to race and finally she said, “You’re having a panic attack, aren’t you?”
What Does a Panic Attack Feel Like?
I acknowledged that I was and we agreed to take a break until it passed. In my world, racing thoughts, profuse sweating, and rapid heartbeat are a minor glitch on the radar. Worthy of taking a break, yes, but nothing to be concerned about. So we just went to the living room, she got me some "anxiety reducing pretzels," and we started watching mindless television to pass the time.
Once the first pretzel hit my lips, I honestly thought it was almost over. It always has been before. My mind, however, started to fill up faster-and-faster. I could “see” thoughts and even process them, but not in any way that could be communicated. I was having, without exaggeration, at least 10 competing thoughts at the same time.
My heart rate continued to accelerate, the sweat was now pouring through my hoodie and jeans – literally soaking them through. My heart was racing so fast that it felt like one constant push, instead of a series of beats. My vision began to blur and my body felt so heavy that I was unable to move.
The last thing I remember thinking was that maybe I wasn’t having a panic attack at all. I may literally have been having a heart attack.
The next thing I remember was my wife waking me up. I was confused. I was in bed, sticky from being soaked in sweat, but my heart was beating normally and my thoughts were settled as they are supposed to be. I asked how I got to bed, where my friend was, and if I was okay.
I was filled in on the events that happened after I passed out. Evidently, I had come to rather quickly, although I was confused. I was asking questions about things that happened years ago, but it was obvious I thought they were happening today. I was led upstairs to my room and put to bed where I fell asleep quickly. My wife woke me up about two hours later to check on me.
This panic attack was so bad, it literally knocked me out.
I’m in Recovery But I Still Had a Panic Attack
After I got up, took a shower and changed my clothes, I thought about many things. More than anything, I was stunned this had happened. I am living well, relatively normal, and panic attacks this bad were supposed to be a thing of the past. I just couldn’t get over the fact that I’m in recovery, but I still had a panic attack.
I am doing very well and I have a lot to celebrate and be proud of. On any given day, I will experience symptoms and work through them with the precision of a diamond cutter. I have to keep in mind that some things are just out of my control. Setbacks are part of recovery.
It is important that I remember, and we all remember, we live in recovery with and not in recovery from panic and anxiety.
More Helpful Panic Attack Information
- Panic Attack Causes: What Causes Panic Attacks?
- Panic Attack Treatment: Panic Attack Therapy and Medication
- How to Deal with Panic Attacks: Panic Attack Self-Help
- How to Stop Panic Attacks and Prevent Panic Attacks
- How to Cure Panic Attacks: Is There a Panic Attack Cure?
Howard, G. (2014, November 19). The Worst Panic Attack Ever and What It Felt Like, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/11/the-worst-panic-attack-ever-and-what-it-felt-like
Author: Gabe Howard
Didn't want to use my name since I am very active online and on the Internet with many big biz and I fear they would be reading this.. I cannot explain the emotions and feelings I go through at times but I'm so glad that I read this post! What a comfort to know that I have not reached this level although I do get the outter body experience or just want to leave everything and run screaming help like a mad man. It always happens around the most responsible things like my kid and wife I have a fear that something will happen and so many say turn it off don't think about it? Is there a button because if there is plesse smash it right the F now :) I cannot as much as I want just not think about it. It's so crippiling that right now I'm on the bathroom floor sweating and typing this message. Somehow this has comforted me beyond my own control. Thanks so much for this share and please excuse the run on sentences I am currently in and on an active attack which has lasted beyond 1-2 hours!! Prayer is the only thing that has been helping me. Thanks again
Thank you SO much for writing this. I literally just woke up from a similar (but not exactly on the same level) experience. I've had bad panic attacks before, and I'm glad other people have gone through the same thing; it's much easier to deal with when you have people who can help you understand yourself. In the middle of class, I had to be taken out because I looked like I was just "pushed through a solid sheet of barbed wire", as my one friend pointed out. I was shaking, sweating, and crying so hard, they sent me home. Once I was safely in my room, I managed to cry myself unconscious. I woke up with a headache, and did some research to see what the hell happened to me, and I stumbled upon this. Hope you're feeling well, and thank you for helping me make sense of what just happened! :)
Gabe is no longer writing for HealthyPlace so can't reply to comments. I know he'd be pleased that this was helpful to you. Panic can be overcome, and seeking answers is an important first step. Don't give up!
It's funny how 99.9% of the anxiety we feel daily is directly paralleled to the thoughts at that specific time. You think about something hurtful that happened, your gut churns. Work tomorrow, your gut churns. Self esteem.... Gut churns. But you never get out-right scared in those moments. You don't get scared until you have a panic attack. Then you are reminded that those physical emotional feelings are still very much physical and can still very much so part themselves from your thoughts and confront you independently despite your thoughts at that particular moment. That's what I took a while to accept about panic attacks; that your mind isn't always your body, but your body is sometimes your mind and can initiate your thoughts before your thoughts initiate them. I was having a "stroke", a "seizure", a "blood sugar attack" and a "heart attack" before I was ever having a panic attack, and it took me countless times coming to the ER before coming to the conclusion that it was my anxiety. Can't count the number of "ologists" I saw before believing my own anxiety. I didn't believe that anxiety had a whole other physical side to it that can come to get you
Thanks for sharing your insight and experiences. Going to the ER and to "ologists" is common! There is a strong mind-body connection, and becoming fully aware of it truly is helpful. Your comments are likely to encourage many readers.
This is something that can be simply looked at as progression. Tuesday, my sister was driving me to high school and I ended up crying in the middle of the "Mean" song by Taylor Swift. We were just about there. We were having such a great time and then a thought crossed my mind in a split second and I cried. I cried because I was scared of myself to death. My thoughts. I saw it as progression, though because the last couple weeks of summer have been great for me. I realized that I should not be putting myself down about an outburst that needed to happen. It has made me stronger.
What a great perspective. When we can recognize our thoughts and step away from them, we are indeed making progress. Of course there is no instant cure for anxiety and panic, but they absolutely can be conquered, and what you describe is a very important and powerful start. Thank you for sharing your insight and strenght with readers here.
It is like everybody watching you,it is like evybody knowing you áre a disabled person. I feel like leaving the room immediately
it is hell My hands shake, My throat is dry, I cant speak, my heart is racing. I feel awful
Thank you for the post. I feel better knowing I'm not alone in recovery. I have complex PTSD. I was major symptom free for more than 6 years. Last year I witnessed a violent attack on a coworker. Over the following two weeks everything flooded back. I lost almost all mental functions. I could not work, let alone leave my house. Thank God my husband was able to be home with me. So I have been in treatment with weekly therapy and meds for a year. Panic attacks are few and far between now. I am going through a work hardening process through my disability insurance. Right now it consists of volunteering for three hours twice a week. The plan is to gradually increase the hours to 40 hours a week. I am volunteering at a local museum. Talk about low stress :-) I still have sitting in the back of my mind the fear of having a panic attack while I am there. That alone brings anxiety. I get mad about not being able to control how my mind makes my body react to triggers. I know some of the triggers and have tools to calm myself but the what ifs are scary. I also get mad that this stops me from working in the fields I have in the past. Who has heard of a low stress paralegal or non-stressed mental healthcare office manager?
Well, keep up the good work and getting the word out that we are not alone.
Gabe no longer writes for HealthyPlace so is unable to respond to comments. I know he'd be pleased that you connected with his article. I think that you are the one who should keep up the good work! What you describe is a powerful journey of recovery by a strong woman.
Sitting here on the bathroom floor after experincing my worst panic attack I have ever had. And after not having one in months.
I too thought it was the end and there was no way it was just a panic attack. It was terrifying.
The anxiety popped out of nowhere last night and kept waking me up when I was trying to sleep. The second time I woke up I felt strange. My mind was racing and I was very alert. Everything was more sensitive, hearing, smells, etc. Heart started racing as mu thoughts went on and I started to feel a loss of control and fear. Nausea took over and I went to the bathroom worried about waking the Boyfriend. Plus, maybe puking would knock the symptoms off.
It only escalated further into a more intense feeling of fear and physically I felt like things were shutting down in my body. I had both cold and hot sweats that actually made my neck, face, and body get damp amd hot, and my mind felt as if it were spinning out of controlling and I wasnt even the same person.
My body just felt weird! I could have sworn I was having an allergic reaction to who knows what or maybe even a heart attack or stroke. That or all the stress from lately was causing a nervous breakdown and I was totally losing it for good.
I came SO close to waking up my Boyfriend and making him take me to the E.R but I knew he would be frusterated and I did not want to deal with the embarrassment or his parents finding out. (We stay with them currently)
So my option was to just die if it was going to happen. I gave in, laid on the floor until I was trembling and faint.
Soon I was asking myself "What in the hell justhappened" and gathering myself.
My conclusion was that it was a panic attack on an entirely new and terrifying level.
I hope I can get some sleep at some point this morning. I am shaken up and I feel ashamed and in shock about this. I feel like a crazy dysfunctional human being and I dont know what I did to deserve such things.
What you describe is very common to panic attacks. Know you're not the only one who experiences these terrifying symptoms. Also, it is extremely important for you to know that you are most definitely not a "crazy dysfunctional human being" and that panic attacks are in no way a punishment for things you did or did not do. There are few guarantees in life, but this one is a guarantee -- I'll back it up myself. :) Sadly, that feeling of shame you mention is common, too. Panic attacks (as well as other anxiety disorders, mental health diagnoses, etc.) have both medical causes and environmental triggers. This means that there are things that can be done to ease them, things like medication and therapy, for example. (Not every treatment works for every person, but everybody can be helped.) An important first step is to see a doctor to rule out other medical conditions that could be contributing. He/she might prescribe anti-anxiety medication and refer you to a therapist to help you through this. You are a functioning human being like the rest of the world, and you don't have to live with anxiety and panic for your entire life.
I'm so sorry that you had that horrific panic attack. It sounded like such a terrifying incident that you had to deal with alone. Do you/are you able to seek care or treatment?
It is difficult to deal with mental health issues within themselves but even more so to go through it alone. It's so important to be surround with positive, helpful friends and family for health success. It sounds as if your boyfriend is aware of your panic attacks but possibly unsure of how to help you? I encourage you to communicate with your boyfriend about ways he may support you. If he is unable or unwilling, it may be time to think of your options. Surround yourself with positive people who are supportive, helpful, and willing to do all they can to make your life the best it can be! I wish all the best!
Thanks for this interesting article.
It just goes to show how unpredictable can attacks can be.
Fancy it happening just after a night when you have had a good performance as it were.!
And panic attacks are no respecter of a person's status or profession.!
My panic attacks happened many years ago. With many of the symptoms you describe (no passing out). Mostly I felt I was about to die and I should write a goodbye letter to my loved ones. Finally one time I told my wife to call 911 because I was having a heart attack. By phone I told the doctor my heart was racing. He asked how many beats per minute. I counted and it was 70. Crazy, right? When I learned it was panic attacks I never had them again. Initially I too Klonopin, and then just having a pill with me worked. I fight anxiety always. When I feel that panic fear coming I kind of say "bring it, I know I'm not going to die". I know I'm not in total control. Lord knows I don't want them back. It is so helpful that you people share. I wish you well.
Two things that you mention in your article worry me. that is that you had a soda pop for breakfast and then sat down to eat pretzels. You really need to check the ingredients of what you are eating. Some food, drinks and medication has a profound effect on us and everyone should ask themselves "What did I just have to eat or drink before this happened". You can cure yourself of most things if you do enough research and study the ingredients.
I couldn't agree more. Often we don't pay enough attention to our physical health because we are so wrapped up battling mental health. I have a bad diet -- and that does have a negative affect on my health. I cannot deny it.
Thank you for this viewpoint -- it is very valid and often missed.
Thank you! I'm glad I read this. Sometimes I get caught in the trap of not remembering that each day without a major attack is a big blessing. This reminded me to not take those days for granted!
Thank you again.
You are very welcome and thank you so much for reading and commenting. :) I really appreciate it. BIG HUGS - Gabe
Thank you for writing about this. I'm in treatment for Complex PTSD which has always included intense anxiety, and for some reason I found this post very comforting.
Lori - You are welcome and thank you for reading. I am glad that we could connect. I wish you the best in your wellness journey. ((hugs)) ~Gabe