You’re Frozen You Can’t Move You Think The End Is Coming
Corky Klein, 63, Laguna Beach, Calif.
Courtesy Corky Klein
Corky Klein knows she’s about to have an anxiety attack when her whole body breaks out in a sweat.
“I even get sweaty on the balls of my feet, she says.
She gets light-headed, and a little dizzy. Then the headache and the panic hit.
“You forget about everything around you, Klein says. Your heart is beating horribly, and that brings on more panic. You get this scared feeling and you want to run. But you’re frozen. You can’t move. You think the end is coming.”
Klein began having panic attacks after her mom died when she was 16. Over the years, she says her anxiety led her into dark bouts of alcoholism and addiction, into long periods of isolation, and on many trips to the emergency room.
Ten years ago, at age 53, she was still having frequent panic attacks, even though she had kicked her addictions. Concerned, her doctor persuaded her to try therapy, and she began seeing a cognitive behavior therapist who specialized in anxiety.
The therapist helped her process the trauma in her past and taught her how to cope with her anxiety before it escalated.
“I learned that I had never dealt with the stuff that had happened to me, Klein says.
Her panic attacks became less frequent, and she focused on exercising, enjoying her retirement and spending time with her son and other family members.
How she copes: She exercises every day , and she uses an app called Calm for meditation and deep-breathing exercises.
Panic Attacks I Turned My Mental Health Crisis Into A Mental Health Triumph
“Although it’s taken me a long time I have learned I am a strong person who has the potential to help others.”
You might find that you become scared of going out alone or to public places because you’re worried about having another panic attack. If this fear becomes very intense, it may be called agoraphobia. See our pages on types of phobia for more information.
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I just wanted to get out, to go somewhere else, but I couldn’t because I was on a train.”
How Are Panic Attacks Diagnosed
Serious health problems, such as heart disease, thyroid disease and respiratory problems, cause symptoms similar to panic attacks. Your healthcare provider may run tests to rule out a physical problem. If theres no physical cause, your provider may make a diagnosis based on your symptoms and risk factors.
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Family And Relationship Issues
Relationships, whether family, personal, or work-related, have their ups and downs. While relationships can be some of the best things in life, they can also be a source of stress and problems.
Working with a psychologist, either individually or in a group setting, can help iron out wrinkles that can form in even the strongest relationships.
What To Do During An Anxiety Attack And How To Overcome It
Everyone has different ways of overcoming their anxiety attacks, from breathing exercises to calming techniques to telling someone. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to manage an anxiety attack.
For myself, I incorporate calming breathing techniques, ground myself, use diversions, relax my muscles, having a mantra and so on.
One of the most important things to do during an anxiety attack is to try and regulate our breathing. When we are experiencing anxiety our breathing rate increases, causing such symptoms as chest pain and dizziness, which only makes our anxiety worse.
What we want to do is slow this down.
A while ago whilst on social media, I came across a GIF that had gone viral. It is a simple animation showing a small triangle expanding into growing shapes and results in a large octagon.
The GIF is meant to show the viewer that by syncing your breaths with the animation it will calm your breathing, and its brilliant.
2. Ground Yourself
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Anxiety Attack Symptoms Include:
- Feeling of losing control or going crazy.
- Heart palpitations or chest pain.
- Feeling like youre going to pass out.
- Trouble breathing or choking sensation.
- Nausea or stomach cramps.
- Feeling detached or unreal.
Its important to seek help if youre starting to avoid certain situations because youre afraid of having a panic attack. The truth is that panic attacks are highly treatable. In fact, many people are panic free within just 5 to 8 treatment sessions.
Your Panic Is Persistent
An anxious brain, like a non-anxious brain, is always learning. But the anxious brain sometimes learns the wrong things and has an awfully hard time unlearning them. Once youve decided that people at parties are probably judging you, your brain may lock that lesson in and pretty soon generalize it to any social encounter. Ditto an obsessive-compulsive fear of disease or a panic over separation or loss. Sometimes, especially in the case of OCD, it takes just a single traumatic event a genuinely embarrassing social moment, say, or a legitimate medical scare for the brain to establish a fixed fear. Left untreated, those anxieties can go on for months and years.
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Stress Anxiety And Then Panic: Neal’s Story
As Sideman says, his attack occurred in the early 1990s, and few people seriously considered the possibility of a panic attack in a 39-year-old man. So he went home thinking all would be fine, only to have another, more severe attack one week later.
Now, looking back, the situation seems clearer.
I was under a lot of stress starting a new business, working 16-hour days, a close friend was ill and dying, and on top of all that, I was doing a super heavy workout regimen at the gym with a trainer,” Sideman says. “So it was a lot of physical stress, emotional stress, and a lot of financial stresses.” He says he also can see roots of anxiety in his childhood and teen years as well as in other family members.
In the moment, he didnt know what to think because it can be tough to know what a panic attack is like until you have one. His second panic attack was really a full-blown panic attack, where I thought I was going to die,” Sideman says. “I thought I was going to pass out, not wake up, go crazy, have a heart attack.”
He recalled being terrified, and the response he chose was one that can actually make panic disorder worse: He started to avoid the situations where he had attacks.
You Can Help Guide Me Through A Panic Attack
The best thing you can do if you see me having a panic attack is to stay calm and talk me through it. When a panic attack strikes, I will feel a combination of overwhelming fear and some of the scary physical symptoms listed above. This is what helps:
- Deep breathing: I dont need the paper bag, but it helps if you count my breaths with me. Breathing in for four, holding for four, and releasing for four helps slow my heart rate and decrease the physical symptoms I experience.
- Coping statements: Talking back to my irrational thoughts with assertive coping statements helps me work through the attack. Saying, Im not dying, Im feeling anxious, disrupts the irrational thought process.
- Distraction: Once Im using my deep breathing, it helps to shift my focus.
Once the panic has passed, I need time to unwind and recover. Taking a walk or simply getting outside can help.
Your loved ones might never truly understand how you feel when you have a panic attack, but educating them helps them better understand what a panic attack is, symptoms to look for, and how they can help you when they see you in distress.
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Some People May Develop Panic Disorders
For many people, the feelings of panic occur only occasionally during periods of stress or illness. A person who experiences recurring panic attacks is said to have panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder. They generally have recurring and unexpected panic attacks and persistent fears of repeated attacks.
Cut Out Problematic Food And Substances
Drugs, medications, and even foods can lead to palpitations. If you identify a substance thats causing palpitations or sensitivities, remove it from your diet to stop palpitations.
For example, cigarette smoking can lead to palpitations. If you discover that you have more heart palpitations when you smoke, stop smoking for a period of time and see if the sensation ends. We reached out to readers for real and practical tips to stop smoking.
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I Thought I Was Having A Heart Attack
Nicholas Ruggiero, 42, Dumfries, Va.
Police Sgt. Nicholas Ruggiero was packing his lunch for work one morning in October 2018 when his heart started dancing in his chest.
He felt hot and sweaty, and he couldn’t catch his breath. Then the room began to spin. As he fell to the floor, his wife called 911.
“I actually thought I was having a heart attack, Ruggiero remembers.
An ambulance rushed him to the hospital, where we underwent a full workup. Afterward, the doctor gave Ruggiero an unexpected diagnosis: He was having a panic attack.
“At first, I just started laughing, Ruggiero says. As a police officer, I’d been in a lot of stressful situations shooting scenes, homicides and I had never panicked. How could I be having a panic attack?
It turned out that the stress of his job had built up over time and triggered the attack. In the two years since, Ruggiero estimates he has had another 100 panic attacks, but medication and lifestyle changes have helped make them less frequent.
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Ruggiero thought his attacks would further subside when he retired from police work last spring, but the arrival of coronavirus and trying to switch careers during a pandemic created a new kind of anxiety.
What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
If you have panic attacks, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- Why am I having panic attacks?
- What is the best treatment for panic attacks?
- How long will I need therapy?
- How long do I need to take medications?
- Should I look out for medication side effects?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Panic attacks can be extremely uncomfortable. Although theyre not physically harmful, they can take a toll on your mental health and stop you from doing the things you love. Dont be embarrassed to tell your healthcare provider that you have panic attacks. Your provider can help you overcome fears and anxieties that trigger attacks. You can get better with treatments like psychotherapy and medications.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/12/2020.
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Complementary And Alternative Therapies
Complementary and Alternative Therapies can be used in conjunction with conventional therapies to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. There is a growing interest in these types of alternative therapies since they are non-invasive and can be useful to patients. They are typically not intended to replace conventional therapies but rather can be an adjunct therapy that can improve the overall quality of life of patients.
A collection of activities focused in which an individual consciously produces the relaxation response in their body. This response consists of slower breathing, resulting in lower blood pressure and overall feeling of well-being. These activities include: progressive relaxation, guided imagery, biofeedback, and self-hypnosis and deep-breathing exercises.
A mind and body practice in which individuals are instructed to be mindful of thoughts, feelings and sensations in non-judgmental way. It has been shown to be useful in reducing the symptoms of psychological stress in patients with anxiety.
A mindfulness practice that combines meditation, physical postures, breathing exercises and a distinct philosophy. It has been shown to be useful in reducing some symptoms of anxiety and depression.
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Although an anxiety attack is not a clinically diagnosed condition, the term is often used to describe an episode of overwhelming anxiety that can be triggered by fear or apparent threat. The term anxiety attack is often confused with the term panic attack, which is a sudden episode of extreme fear that can result in physical reactions. They are uncontrollable and disabling. The feeling can be so intense that the person experiencing it may feel like they cant breathe or are going to die.
What some people may label as an anxiety attack may be the manifestation of an anxiety disorder or a reaction to a current or impending circumstance that causes anxiety. Knowing how to identify and manage anxiety can help treat the condition.
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Where Can I Go From Here
You can learn more about anxiety from these resources:
AnxietyBCVisit www.anxietybc.com for more information on anxiety and anxiety disorders. You can watch videos and learn self-help tools to help you cope with anxiety at home. You can also download how to documents and order DVDs on managing anxiety.
Bounce Back programVisit www.cmha.bc.ca/bounceback for information on the Bounce Back program. Bounce Back is for people dealing with low mood, stress or anxiety. Part of the program teaches you skills that help with anxiety. You learn skills from a DVD or you can talk to someone on the phone. The program is free. Talk to your doctor if you want to sign up for Bounce Back. Bounce back is run by the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Wellness ModulesVisit www.heretohelp.bc.ca for the Wellness Modules. They include worksheets that help build good mental health. See the ones on stress, problem-solving and healthy thinking. Here to Help is the website of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information.
A crisis line can help you when you are very upset. But they can help for a lot of other problems. They can help you find services in your community. You can also call if you just need to talk to someone. Call 310-6789. Do not put 604, 778 or 250 before the number. When you call 310-6789, you can talk to someone right away.
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