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3 Things Panic Attacks Don’t Want You To Know

“Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists.” ~Eckhart Tolle 

Sunday started out with a panic attack.

It wasn’t little butterflies in the stomach like right before a first kiss. It wasn’t the feeling of anticipation as a roller coaster slowly climbs the big hill before the drop.

This panic attack felt like I was about to jump off a cliff while being chased by clowns. Not cute clowns—scary ones. The kind of clowns that were in the paintings at my pediatrician’s office when I was a kid. The clowns that smiled at me smugly when I was getting emergency asthma shots, unable to breathe.

Panic attacks are my suffering at its most profound. Over the years, I’ve become an expert on them.

I was 29 when I had my first major panic attack. I was sitting in a hotel room in Sunnyvale, California, getting ready to drive to the beach, and I couldn’t decide whether to eat at a local restaurant or wait until I got to Santa Cruz.

Bang! It hit me out of nowhere.

That’s how it happens for me. I can handle a major crisis like a medical emergency or aiding in a car accident with unthinking grace. It’s the day-to-day living that sometimes gets me.

Suffering the breakup of a romantic relationship a few months ago brought the panic attacks back out of hiding. Instead of going through a depression, I felt riddled by anxiety.

A lot of the anxiety had to do with the fact that I was going to have to deal with my ex in a working situation. It was compounded with the awful things I was telling myself over and over again in my head. It was extremely painful and maddening.

At least I have some skills and resources for dealing with panic and anxiety, and I’ve gotten a lot better at using them.

I’ve found meditation and present moment awareness to be effective in dealing with panic attacks.

I know that some people reading this will think that they can’t meditate. However, there are lots of different kinds of meditation and lots of different techniques we can utilize.

If we think of a panic attack as a villain who steals away pieces of our soul, these are the three techniques that he wouldn’t want us to know about.

1. Acceptance

One of the most powerful things that you can do in the midst of a panic attack is to accept it. I know that seems to go against all rational thought.

Don’t I want the panic attack to go away? Sure I do. But noticing the panic and accepting that it’s visiting me is the first step. Realizing that I’m having a panic attack instead of being lost in the dream of panic creates some space to work with it.

One way to work with it is to lie down on the floor and feel the anxiety and panic flowing through the body. Accept that it’s there. Feel it completely.

I notice my chest feeling tight and my heart pounding, notice the sweating or feeling of being light-headed or dizzy. I let the anxiety develop completely, inviting it to overcome me like a wave of uncomfortableness.

Yes, it can get pretty nasty. But usually at the point when I feel like my whole being is going to explode from so much anxiety, something almost unimaginable happens: a release.

The panic begins to fade, moving away from me like the tide slowly going back out to sea. I’m left a little tired, a little drained, but also relieved.

It’s important to know that a panic attack won’t last.

Nothing lasts forever—not pleasant things, not unpleasant things, not panic attacks.

It’s not necessary to lie on the floor.

Sometimes I find myself in certain social situations where being stretched out on the floor would look just plain nutty. This technique works just as well sitting in my truck, behind a desk, or hiding in a bathroom stall. We do what we must.

2. Breathing

A lot of people say to take deep breaths when you’re having a panic attack. I think this is sound advice, but I like to put a slightly different spin on it.

Take a walk.

That’s right. Go walking.

Walking is awesome because it gets the blood flowing, the heart pumping, and if it’s a brisk walk, it forces you to breathe more deeply.

Sometimes I feel like my anxieties and fears are chasing me, but I’m walking away from them. Other times, I just feeling like I’m burning off some built-up energy that has nowhere to go.

Running would probably also be helpful, but I will only run in the event of The Zombie Apocalypse.

3. Naming

Another really effective technique that I practice is to name the feelings and thoughts as I’m having a panic attack. I learned this technique from listening to Tara Brach’s podcasts on iTunes. It’s super effective and very simple to learn. (*Note: Tara Brach’s podcasts are free on iTunes.)

In the midst of the panic attack, I focus on any feelings or thoughts that are arising and name them either out loud or silently to myself. I sometimes even grab a notebook and write them. For instance:

I feel tightness in my chest

I feel my racing heartbeat.

My mouth is dry, my head aches, and I’m a little dizzy.

I feel like I’m going to fall off of a cliff.

I’m feeling bad about feeling bad because this anxiety destroys relationships.

I feel like no one is ever going to love me again.

My jaw is clenching.

There’s a knot in my stomach.

I feel like a loser.

I feel like I don’t belong here. 

I feel like I suck.

I’m afraid I’m going to fail.

I hear a pounding in my ears.

I feel unqualified, unworthy, unnecessary. 

Once again, it’s helpful to remind myself that this is a panic attack, that it will pass, but it needs to be allowed to.

I remind myself that this awful time in my life will pass like all the others. How do I know this? If I look back over the course of my life, I can see it.

I’ve had some great times. They’ve passed. I’ve had some awful times. They’ve passed, too. I can see that everything before this has passed.

This also will pass. It has to.

These simple techniques can work, but you have to put them into practice.

It’s like learning to play a musical instrument or a sport; the more you practice, the better you get at it. If one of the techniques isn’t working, I switch to another one.

I believe that, in the moment, we always pick the right one.

Photo by Fovea Centralis

Avatar of James Gummer

About James Gummer

James Gummer has no idea what's going on and is learning to be okay with that. He writes in Baltimore, Maryland where he also teaches drumming, qigong, and meditation. His collection of essays will be available soon. Visit him at james-writes.com.

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  • Noa

    Thank you for this post. I really like your refreshing and inspiring view, especially the part about acceptation. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about buddhism, and especially simply accepting everything that occurs, without clinging to it or fighting it, seems to be an returning subject. I also found Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance to be very inspiring when it comes to dealing with difficult situations:) ps please excuse me for my bad grammar, English isn’t my native language.

  • Minh

    Thank you so much for your post, even though I know hard time shall pass, I still having trouble while losing the one I love. It is great to have someone like you to remind and strengthen me. After a certain years, I can now accept difficult things in life easier.
    We fall a lot, but we get used to the pain, and we became calmer after each fall.

  • Karolina

    I used to get panic attacks often when things were stressful and I realized they were just my body’s natural flight response. It was my chance to get “out” of the situation and forgo any responsibility for what was going on around me because hey all of a sudden it doesn’t matter you messed something up if you’re lost in a state of anxiety. That becomes what people are focusing on. I learned that that’s not how I want to approach life and learned some better coping skills for how I perceive stressful situations and how to deal with them.

  • Lorena de la Barrera

    Beautiful and totally relatable. Big hug!

  • healthynutritionhealthylife

    loved it

  • Irving Podolsky

    James, you’ve written an intriguing article.

    In my own past I’ve been overwhelmed with gagging and coughing when contemplating a day of failure and scarcity, all job related. Brushing my teeth was impossible. My throat tightened, I could barely swallow. And while all that was happening, I knew my physical constriction was being managed by THOUGHTS, and one master thought at that: that my jobless state, my inability to monetarily survive, would NOT change. The fear of not enough coupled with loss of control, was literally strangling me.

    And yet the power that was taking me down in front of the bathroom mirror was simply and IDEA, an idea I couldn’t wrestle out of my head.

    So when you describe your techniques of overriding a panic attack, it seems to me you are talking about DISTRACTION away from the paralyzing ideas, whatever those crippling thoughts may be.

    FEAR OF FAILURE is a big one. You listed it. How about NOT WORTH LOVING? You listed that too.

    If we change those ideas, beliefs about loss of control and feeling unworthy, will those debilitating thoughts lose their effect? I think so.

    But how do we change CORE BELIEFS, beyond distracting ourselves when we’re filled with anxiety?

    The answer would make an excellent subject for another post. Probably six posts! James, do you have anything more you can tell us about that?

    Irv

  • MichelleB

    I can relate to this on so many levels! My panic attacks have the same symptoms as yours. My biggest issue is convincing my brain that it is in fact a panic attack (and not heart attack/stroke/something bad). Also, I was once told that anxiety is a cover-up for depression – you don’t want to deal with what is depressing you, so the anxiety occurs. Best of luck to you.

  • Jarl

    Great advice! I had several panic attacks where I thought I was surely
    going to die. The last one I had, I looked it straight in the face,
    surrendered to dying if that was what was happening, committed to not
    moving a muscle until it was over and stayed with the feelings until it
    past. It did, and they’ve never come again. In my experience, it seems
    panic attacks are feelings that need to be felt and when you give them
    your total being and surrender into them, they leave forever. It’s not
    easy to do, but so worth the effort. Give into them and don’t run.

  • KateH

    I’ve struggled with a panic disorder for about 4 years now. This week has been a huge test on all I’ve come to learn and try to control, so this couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Thank you for making this so relatable and reminding me that this rough patch too shall pass.

  • Kiki Dunigan

    I have a severe phobia of snakes. Even the suggestion of a snake causes the same reactions you are describing, right down to feeling like a worthless loser because a small garter snake can do this to me. Then after a few minutes, I faint. One thing that helps – and this is going to sound weird – is if my husband or children or a friend, holds me tight during the attack and whispers “Ice Cream and Unicorns” over and over again. My daughter came up with this idea, because she says no one can be scared when thinking about ice cream and unicorns. It sounds stupid, I know, but it actually helps. Now, if I am alone and I see a snake (which I seem to see more often than anyone else; I think the snakes stalk me!) I use one of your suggestions of walking away briskly, and I repeat “Ice Cream and Unicorns” out load until I can start to breathe again. It works for me.

  • Brenda

    I like the naming – I’ll try that next time. As for acceptance, I sometimes have panic attacks when I’m having a conversation or driving, so lying down or even excusing myself from a conversation to take a walk would not work or at least be very awkward. And for breathing, there is actually research being done that is finding that deep breathing is actually the problem, in the form of hyperventilation. I’ve been trying to hold my breath for 8 seconds, breathe for 8 seconds, hold my breath 8, breathe 8, etc. and it has been working well for me.

  • Roger

    I feel like I could have written this! Thank you so much for making me feel better about my own panic and anxiety as I also work to solve it. I know I’m not alone! Your tips will go a long way I’m sure to getting me there.

  • JJ

    I am 26. Two years ago my panic attacks reached such a scale that sometimes for a week I wasn’t able to sleep, I felt I am going crazy and that the only way to stop it is literally jumping out of the window. I felt trapped imagining that my whole life will be like this and I will never even attempt to make my dreams come true. Luckily my will to have a life that I want was stronger and after figuring out that pills and psychiatrists are not for me I made some research and found the Linden method on the web. I followed Linden’s tips for a while and…long story short- two years have passed, I went through some huge changes and problems in my life but I am doing things I haven’t even dreamed about because panic attacks that used to control my life are just a history. What did the trick? Realising that you and only you are doing this to yourself and that only you can stop it. Acceptance method described above is a part of it….when you have a panic attack make it as bad as you can, start adding more symptoms and notice how they appear. You see? You are doing this to yourself. And you are not sick, your heart will not explode, you will not have a heart attack, you don;t need to visit a doctor, you don;t need to stay at home and you don’t need to forget about your life. Do not talk about your panic attacks when you have them. telling everybody around how bad you feel makes your mind only more focused on this. IGNORE them. Ignore panic attacks, do not give them any special place in your life and realise that you have an amazing and powerful mind that can make your body experience real symptoms- imagine what you could do if you started using this power in a positive way!

  • woodstockdc

    Naming is a huge one. Also for me is counter-talking. The panic attack says “Doom, gloom, death, destruction” while counter-talking says “Look, the worst thing that can realistically happen is X. You can handle X. You *know* you can. You’ve done it before. So tell Mr. Panic to shove off.”

  • Rich

    Helpful thanks

  • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.humphries Lisa Jane Humphries

    Thank you so much for this, I am not sure I can explain how helpful this sharing was as I actually began to feel panic about a current situation the Tiny Buddha emailed arrived and your post saved me xx

  • Miggz

    I cant agree with going for a walk. I get incredibly dizzy when I get panic attacks and the last thing i need is to risk taking a tumble. Everyone is a bit different but for me, (and those of us that tend to get a bit wobbly) I definitely need to stay safe during an attack, and wandering about is not safe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/layli Layli Ericks

    Thank you so much for this article…. I was asking God to please help me and found this. Yesterday I had an extremely strong panic attack seemingly out of nowhere… Have not had one for years and I thought my life was fine. I ended up in the emergency room because I couldn’t make it stop and I thought I was dying. I have two young children and all I could think about was that I was going to leave them without a mom. I have a heart murmur and I thought I was dying from that. They sent me something to calm me down and A lot of tests and today I feel the anxiety want yo rise. This has truly felt loke the most frightening experience in my life. Thank you for your words of encouragement and for the naming technique… I have been crying all morning.

  • http://twitter.com/1doterralady Eva Suzuki

    Gawd, I can totally relate to this. I had my first major panic attack in the dentist office and nearly killed the dentist, I’m not kidding……… I don’t try to explain to anyone what’s going on because people just can’t get it unless they’ve been in your shoes. I’ve had some very interesting and successful ways for dealing with them and I pray that anyone who has ever had this horrible experience finds relief.

    ~ Eva

  • nabihah

    Well I’m 26 too. Living on my own in another country without my family has left me feeling overwhelmed all the time. It’s been 3 years now but I feel like I’m going nowhere. But now I’m trying to live in the present and enjoy every moment. — Another new beginning!
    Thanks for sharing your stories! :)

  • Roving E

    I have never suffered from a panic attack but had always been a very anxious person, still am in some ways. Recently, saw 3 podcast from Oprah’s Spirit channel (16/11/2008) with Byron Katy. Each podcast is only 20 mins long ( one of the audios is not complete however the videos are). It will help with the thoughts in a big way, how would one feels without those thoughts which is what Byron Katie tackles – you only need ask yourself 4 questions to turn your thoughts around. How this would work with a panic attack I do not know, just thought this could be helpful. I’m still trying to come from the heart and not the head and being in allowance is another helpful technique as is trusting in the universe, then I can go with the flow.

  • Built2spill505

    Ice cream and unicorns, I love it! That’s awesome! How cute :)

  • jj

    Well then we have even more in common. I also left my country to follow my dream. It is hard but think of all those hardships as signs on the road. If you don’t feel good it means you need to change something. it seems impossible I know but that is why you can’t think how will the change happen but what change you need now. follow your feelings and know exactly what you want and you will get to the road you need. Enjoy the ride:)

  • KatyD

    Thank you so much for this. I will definitely put these methods into practice the next time I have a panic attack, and yes, I know there will be a next time. It is just a matter of when and where. I have had panic attacks on and off since my teens, and I am now in my 40s. My most recent one lasted for over a week. I became absolutely convinced that something was wrong with my heart. The feelings of dizziness and lightheadedness and my racing heartbeat were so intense, and came and went with absolutely no pattern or regularity. I finally took myself to the doctor, where I had a complete emotional meltdown when my MD, a very kind man, walked into the examining room and asked: “What’s wrong?” I think I startled him a bit with my intense response, I know I scared myself. He went so far as to ask me if I would consider going to the hospital, presumably for a 72-hour psych evaluation. I was able to talk him (and myself) out of that. He ordered an EKG and a cardiac stress test, both of which showed my heart was normal. He advised me to exercise more, and find ways to relax, and consider talking to a counselor. He also offered to write me a prescription for Xanax, which I declined. (I have tried Xanax in the past, and it left me feeling like a zombie. I would rather feel the anxiety than feel completely emotionally numb.) I went home, went to bed and woke up feeling normal the next day. I have been fine since, but I know that somewhere out there is the unknown trigger for my next attack, just lying in wait to strike….

    So now I am back in therapy – again – maybe it will take this time. And I am taking long walks every day and trying to learn meditation. I am also seeking methods like these to manage my anxiety without drugs. The roots of my anxiety problems are deep and complicated, and I won’t go into them here. I am fortunate to have a wonderful husband and friends who are trying to help me, one of whom told me about Tiny Buddha. Again, thank you for your helpful suggestions. They are appreciated.

  • Lela

    These are great tips, it’s crazy because when I have my panic attacks I pretty much do all of these things. I had panic attacks for a few years before I knew what they were until I had one while I was with my sister and she told me what was happening. Thank you for these helpful instructions!! ;)

  • James Gummer

    Thanks so much for your comment. Best wishes for your therapy experience. It’s helped me a lot.

  • wski

    Awesome writing! You are absolutely right, this too shall pass, it always does. I was taught a technique that works for me. I can usually catch anxiety at the very beginning now, and get over it pretty quickly. I just deep breathe and then walk. With the first deep breath I am aware of my anxiety, the second breath i am breathing through my anxiety and the last breath I am releasing my anxiety. I repeat this process until the attack subsides. Then I go for a walk.
    Thank you for this article!

  • panicsucks

    This was fantastic! Thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenzie.pearce.3 Kenzie Pearce

    This has to be the most helpful post I have read on the topic. And I’ve read a lot. :D I love the walking tip especially. Thank you

  • http://www.myanxietydefinition.com/ Jessica

    Very good advice James. I used to suffer from very bad anxiety for panic attacks for years, but fortunately I was able to stop my symptoms about 7 years ago using many of the techniques you mentioned here. Acknowledging that it is a panic attack, that it will not hurt you and that it will soon pass are very powerful steps. The more you learn to disempower your panic attacks and symptoms of anxiety and realize you have the power and full control to send them on their way, the sooner you’ll be able to kick them to the curb for good! Thanks for sharing.

  • Bill Swithens

    Hi James, I love your article on acceptance. This is on of the things I do when I feel an attack coming on. I just say ‘Ah! Hello Mr Panic Attack, are you back to say hello?’ and then just allow it to be there. Sometimes it works sometimes not, but always takes the sting out of it! I also like to spend time listening to these talks at:

    http://www.audiodharma.org

    Cheers

    Bill

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  • Hannah the depressed gal

    Thank u so much I’ve been so depressed about m friends having sleepovers without me and I’ll try this, pray it works!

  • Amber

    Just discovered your blog after researching anxiety tips and wellness for far too long. Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom!

  • Scarlet

    Hi.
    This is the first time ever posting in anything i have randomly found online…

    Lately i have been having the worst panic attacks. . . They are nothing to do where i am.

    Its of dying.

    I understand that everyone Dies. that when its my time.. its my time. I know why this is Happening. My mother passed away 2 years ago.. just after that i got pregnant. So now i have this Terrible fear of leaving my daughter behind…

    Anyway. Sometimes the Panic attacks are that bad that i can’t move. . . Its like the deepest feeling of despair. i have had health problems on and off for a few years now. nothing horrible.. but stuff that makes you feel bad most of the time.

    Anyway… I just wanted to share my story.. And that things like breathing and distraction are what i use to try and move away from it..

    lol. not even sure why i wrote this here.

  • Geogina

    Good Day Every One on This Sites, I have a testimony to
    share, My Name is Georgina lee am from the United
    State of America
    am now 54years old Am a Medical doctor in Canada, I married for about 24years
    ago without any child then me and my husband go for an adoption of 2kids
    male/female. Last years something wonderful and gracious happened to me i came
    across this witch doctor in the internet that promise to help me get pregnant
    which i totally disagree,,, How can i be pregnant looking my age he ask me not
    to worry that he only specialize on pregnancy no other. That after the job has
    been completed there is no any side effect, that was how he told me what to do
    which i did, could you believe i miss my periodical time that same Month and i
    was pregnant. Today am now the happiest woman on Earth,, While am i testify to
    this site i know there are a lot of people that are in this kind of trouble
    some will decide to commit suicide. Please just do and contact him for help
    make him to understand that Georgina lee from USA directed you, his email
    gbojorotemple1@yahoo.com

  • http://www.travelncampinginfo.com/ Victoria Armstrong

    The panic attacks are not easy to handle.But the meditation,naming and breathing are very tough one to do in panic situation.Our mind doesn’t support because of fear .I will try naming one next time to control my panic attacks..Thank you for sharing your feelings to all your website visitors..

  • kamrom dechu

    My panic attacks started similarly suddenly. I went t check my pulse one day, and had my finger on my collar bone instead of my neck. I adjusted it in less than a second, but it was too late. I immediately, horribly panicked. Ive been doing better overall lately, but right now im having one of THOSE weeks. You know the ones, where it just keeps triggering day after day.

    I know itll stop soon, it always does. And these chain attacks are getting ever rarer. But man are they terrifying.

  • matta

    Thanks for making my family happy again, my father came back home and he can even take

    us out, something he never think of before! i wonder Dr egbenakheu are you god or

    what? amazing you make things happen! i will .Thank you very much. from Holland if you

    need his help contact email address Dr egbenakhuespelltimple@gmail.com

  • B

    I am currently having anxiety, and found this site just by googling tips on anxiety. Reading your story has made my anxiety so much better :) I said “Ice cream and unicorns” out loud to myself and cracked up! I will definitely have to remember this for the future. Thank you so much!

  • Cara

    Just wanted to say good luck and I hope you are doing well :)

    I have similar fears of death, either of myself of people around me. I think if you try to concentrate on other things that make you happy, eventually your fear will go away. Mine was much much worse about a year ago and now I am learning to not dwell on it. If you let it consume your mind, it just gets worse. Try to find other things to concentrate on like your beautiful daughter and whatever makes you the happiest in life :)

  • fgr

    I find these techniques hard because when I am panicking all I want to do is stop it, not accept it. I some times just want to jump from a window to stop it. I find it hard to do normal things. my panic attacks only started 3 weeks ago after I moved out my parents house and into to a flat myself. I have just started a new job in the city and bought a new flat. I have never been a lover of change but I have had so much change in my life and I cant go back. I am stuck in this world full of darkness. My mind and body is saying run but everyone else is saying fight. too me its like they are saying accept the darkness. its like waking up in a nightmare that I can’t get out of. To others it would seem like a great life to me I feel alone.

  • kayleigh bodenham

    y do Buddhas have long eras need to know asap

  • Cpheroes

    This is a fantastic article. I began experiencing anxiety attacks after developing chronic fatigue. The steps you outlined will definitely help me and many others. I also appreciated the humor you brought to a very touchy subject (note the crazy clowns ;-)

  • andrea

    I like it I just bursted into tears after reading it I just want to sleep im so tired but everytime I try lately I wake up I feel like im gonna die its scary my heart starts pounding after it feels like its been squeezed and I jump up I really wanted to sleep tonight

  • Francis Butler

    Thank I read it it is good to know that it will go away like you said that helped Alot and being mad will Bring them on.

  • aguid

    Thank you so much for this article

    http://panicattacks1.blogspot.com/

  • EUnity

    I had my first panic attack in February 1997, and it sent me to the hospital for 48 hours. One moment my blood pressure spiked and I thought I was dying, and after being administered a potent tranquilizer I thought nothing of it. Several attacks occurred over the following 7 years, during which I gained as much understanding of the processes taking place as I could.I noticed that the more I learned, the less violent the crises were getting. But ultimately, the single most effective way of dealing with panic attacks that I would recommend is as follows: challenge those panic attacks to come and bother me. In other words, to adopt a mindset that actually looks forward to them. “Come get some!” I believe doing this sends a powerful signal to the brain: we understand what it is trying to do, we are not afraid, and that whatever the message is, it will have to find another to deliver it to our attention. That may seem largely counter-intuitive as well, but it has really done the trick for me and my daily life. I no longer carry tranquilizers at all times or fear leaving home without my phone. The only noticeable side-effect was an isolated case of night terror after a couple of years, which I had never experienced before. Honestly, if a daily panic attack is pretty frightening, a night terror is much worse because it strikes at a moment where the conscious mind has already begun slipping into sleep, and it jerks you out of it with a series of abnormal physical responses you cannot quickly make sense of. But again, knowledge is power. As soon as the analytical mind is allowed to do its job, things promptly get back to normal. Now that I know of night terrors and how they manifest, they no longer are of concern to me either.

  • Jonathan Keeney

    I had my first major panic attack hit me when I was 26 years old. I am still struggling with panic but it always comes down to me fighting it and trying so hard to make it go away that, that is what my life consists of 90% of the time. I just wanted to thank you for taking the time out to give this advice and know that it helped a great deal. I know there are alot of sites that may say similar things or give ideas but when its worded by someone that understands I feel like it is so much more helpful. Thanks again

  • Veronica

    Enjoyed reading the article.. not sure how I came across it since I was reading on another topic (missing persons). Well I’m glad I read it… I had my first ever big panic attack almost 4 yrs ago… I was27. My brother suffers from them but he takes medication. I’m just wondering if they are somehow hereditary.. due to mental health history in your family. I’ve had smaller ones but have been able to control them without meds. Your tips do help I guess if you are accepting that you are having one does help so u won’t start diagnosing yourself with crazy illnesses. Thank you best wishes for everyone!

  • JMO

    Dear God, I remember my first panic attack, and anxiety attack. Two different things. I’ll start with the anxiety attack. I was 24 years old. Although I suffered from severe depression for many , many years before then, I never experienced an actual anxiety attack. I have heard people speak of them but never actually had one. I even questioned if anxiety attacks were real or not. I also wondered if people who said they were suffering from anxiety, were just suffering from depression and racing thoughts and calling it anxiety. So I thought that could have been what was called anxiety for all I knew and if it was, then I suffered from anxiety all the time because I have depression an racing thoughts. Anyway I was wrong, dead wrong.

    My first anxiety attack happened one morning when I was 24 years old. I had some major changes happening in my life, but nothing too, too bad. I been through way , way worst. Anyway, one night I go to sleep. I wake up in the morning, and felt this fear clenching in my chest , like I was out of control and I was totally sucked into to any abyss of worry and fear. Like a monster came up from the gates of hell and grabbed me to bring me down with him. I had no idea that was my first anxiety attack. I experienced them almost daily for two years and honestly and truly didn’t know they were anxiety attacks. I mean I knew, I just didn’t want to believe it and frankly, too young to truly comprehend it. Any way, fast forward to my first panic attack. I was 31 (7 years after my first anxiety attack). I have been going through massive amounts of stress for years. Anyway, my first panic attack happened on a day that I was calm. I was sitting on my recliner, eating gold fish crackers, and all the sudden, BAM, my throat tightened up and I could NOT swallow. My heart started beating extremely FAST because I started choking. I had use my finger and scrap out all the crackers from the back of my throat and around my mouth because I couldn’t swallow. I literally could not swallow. I ran to the kitchen to grab a drink of water and I could swallow water, but I couldn’t swallow my saliva. I felt like I was choking and having a heart attack. My eye’s got super wide and panicked with fear, I could feel them. I called 911 and an ambulance came and took me to the hospital. I TRULY and SINCERELY felt like I was dying. Got released from the hospital after tests and they said I had a panic attack. I didn’t believe them. No freaking way. NO WAY can a panic attack (something psychological) feel that SERIOUS. NO WAY can a panic attack close up my throat, something else SURELY must be going on. I came home, and BOOM it happened AGAIN (an hour after i got out of the hospital). I COULDN’T SWALLOW. I FELT LIKE I COULDN’T BREATHE. I had my dad come get me and take me to the hospital AGAIN ( a different one of course). They did tests and they discharged me saying everything was fine. Me and my father left the hospital and soon as we pull onto my street, it HAPPENED AGAIN. Pure panic as my throat was closing and I couldn’t swallow. My dad said it was a panic attack and my home was the source of my stress which is why every time I came back home, I couldn’t swallow and my throat closed up. I said NO WAY. I don’t believe it! I must be allergic to something in my house or around my house! I was too scared to go back home because I thought I was deathly allergic to something in there. Any way, my dad said I HAVE to go back in and he will sit with me so if something does happen, he can take me to the hospital. So my throat started closing up again and he said YOU ARE NOT ALLERGIC TO ANYTHING, CALM THE HELL DOWN. I think that snapped me out of it. After I started to calm down I realized I had my very first panic attack. What a monster. I have had at least 3 or 4 since three years later. Just had one last night. They are vicious and I hate the fact that I can’t control them. I feel I should be able to control them since I know what’s happening to me, but I can’t. I have no control over them. The last three panic attacks didn’t involve choking or swallowing though. But it did have the other symptoms of pure and unadulterated fear, EXTREME pounding in my chest, feel like I’m about to pass out or have a heart attack. IT IS NOTHING to laugh about. Anxiety and Panic attacks are VERY serious. The difference from anxiety and panic is, at least my opinion, anxiety is when you are EXTREMELY worried and living in fear. Panic attacks is more physical and you feel like your going to DIE from a heart attack right then and there. Anxiety attacks, you don’t feel like your life is in danger. So for me that is the difference. Thanks for listening, I’m tired now. I need to stop writing.

  • JMO

    I’m going to try saying ice cream and unicorns too next time the monster rears it’s ugly head.

  • JMO

    I feel the same way. I am so glad that I am not the only one who gets that dizzy to the point where I’m afraid to walk.

  • JjJorgensen

    I’m not sure how you decided that Panic and Anxiety are different. Anxiety is for pansies. Panic is for the STRONGEST among us. Panic seizes me and I’m not afraid of dying, but of having to live with the fear of losing my mind for the rest of my life. When Panic takes over I simply want to die. It is too horrible. And absolutely unexplainable to anyone who has never experienced it. Swallowing is the hardest thing ever. I must also go to sleep now.

  • romasanta

    great article and surgical analysis regarding panic attacks!….ive been getting violent panic attacks for years….the first time I got one I thought I was having a heart attack… I mean it was extremely scary because I had never felt anything like that up until that point and the fact that I had no knowledge what was going on only made it more intense, because these things create very real physical symptoms i.e. the pounding heart, dizziness, sweating, and ive even had limbs feel like they were going numb almost like an outer body experience…its utterly terrifying!…but after I was diagnosed and learned more about them they’ve become much more easy to deal with. the one thing people need to remember is that your not going to die from these….knowing this relieves a lot of the fear that would normally make them ramp up in intensity. I can also completely verify the advice the writer gave when he said accept it fully and let it do its thing, and once it gets to its most seemingly unbearable you will literally feel the exact moment it subsides…just when you think your heart is going to explode or your gonna keel over and die or pass out, that’s when they always depart for me. they leave just as quikly as they come. something ive found that helps me short circuit panic attacks is simply engage myself in a project….concentrate on completing a task even if it doesn’t seem like your capable. eventually you will get immersed in it and the panic attack will subside. identifying this affliction aswell as excepting it is half the battle….once you do this you will find they become far less frequent and severe. articles like this are great for even people like me in the know because they galvanize what ive learned over the years…which is extremely comforting in and of its self.

  • JMO

    Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but yes panic attacks and anxiety attacks are very different. If they were the same, they wouldn’t have two different names. One is not less than the other, just different.

  • Ryan

    I recently overcame by DAILY panic attacks by implementing ONE change to my lifestyle… My diet! I cut out gluten completely from my diet, and immediately my panic attacks ceased. I dont know if this willl be the case for all of you, but hey, its worth a shot for sure.

  • JjJorgensen

    Dear JMO, aka: Mr. Unreplyable, Mr. Anonymous:
    There is something just SO despicable about people sensing weakness in other humans and exploiting it for their own financial gain. And THAT is JustMYOpinion.

  • JMO

    HUH?????? I don’t have a clue what you are talking about. Please elaborate?

  • JjJorgensen

    VERY obscure post at best! So sorry. I went to try to message you and I couldn’t. I’m not familiar with this site but my post meant to say: I get SOOOO annoyed at the ads on TV and elsewhere promising to “cure” panic with whatever nonsense they’re selling for a low phenomenal fee. My experience is very similar to yours and if I had discovered ANYTHING that would make it stop, I’d be screaming it out for free to anyone who needed it. On another note, I personally find that if I have some stupid thing to worry about or focus on or ponder over in my brain ~ you know, like some weird post that some stranger left for me ~ my panic DOES seem to take a backseat. YEP! It’s official! My screwed up brain has decided that I have done your screwed up brain a favor by giving your panic a day off. And since THIS post has been so confounding, you’re welcome for tomorrow, too! :)))))))))))))))

  • JMO

    I get it now, now your post makes sense.

    “My panic DOES seem to take a backseat. YEP! It’s official! My screwed up brain has decided that I have done your screwed up brain a favor by giving your panic a day off.”

    I love this ^^^ because I think the same crazy way! I think I’m in love with you :)))

  • Vincent

    I’ve had extreme general and (more so) social anxiety since I was 15. It’s being dealt with, and for the most part I’m alright aside from some bad days, and the occasional out of the blue full blown panic attack – Still far better than before. But the past few weeks, I’ve been waking due to panic every morning without fail, feeling like a rabbit getting chased by a fox. It’s gotten so bad that I avoid going to sleep for as long as I can. Is my life stressful? Yes. Money is tight, etc. etc. etc. – But things have started to get better, situation wise, yet the morning panic attacks are getting worse. I have no nightmares, and no fear of change, I welcome change, it makes me happy, and it isn’t a source of my anxiety. Like the author of this article, big things are no problem, but the little things cause me to go into full blown panic. (Might not make rent? – “We’ll figure it out” as opposed to; I didn’t do the dishes – *PANIC*)

    I’m 100% certain someone will say the fact that I take medication is wrong, but it works for me. What doesn’t work is trying to logic my way out of it (Logically I know there’s nothing to be panicking about in many cases, but logic and panic do not mix with me), and.. unfortunately, everything in this list. So I guess my question would be.. wtf? (Not the best way to put it I guess, but it’s how I feel. W..T.. F.) Why now? Why when things are starting to get better would they get worse, especially when this has never been a problem before?

    I know I may not find answers here, but it never hurts to try.. and hope.

  • Kitty Kat 123

    I have a severe phobia of going to a doctor to the point I just can’t go and when I do see one, I start freaking out so bad.
    I try to explain this to my mother, but she tells me it’s all in my head, but she doesn’t understand the way I feel.
    I don’t know what to do about this at all and calming myself doesn’t work either it just scares me so bad, but I can’t tell anyone because they won’t understand, I know it’s not a normal kind of fear either.
    So you have any suggestions?

  • Not Helpful

    This post should be called ’3 Things Anxiety Don’t Want You To Know’

    Because Panic Attacks are totally different to what you describe.

    Most panic attacks cause nausea, tingling sensations, weakness in limbs, a need to urgently go to the bathroom, feelings of impending death, and often light headedness and or fainting. The list goes on.

    I doubt anyone having a Panic Attack would feel like writing, walking, or even be thinking straight enough to name things.

  • Kerri Webster

    I’ve been suffering with panic disorder and agoraphobia for a while now. Some lovely tips in here, it’s such a debilitating condition. It’s good to see somebody who has so much control over it. Gives me hope. Only problem for me is that I can’t seem to collect my thoughts or sometimes can’t stand because my legs stop working, next time I go ‘funny’ I will try and remember to speak about every sensation/thought I am having. Thanks James.

  • Kaja Knudsen

    Does lying in a dark room in the bed listeing to the sound of rain calm you down? That seems to be like the only thing that works for me. (I have CFS in addition to depression, pain and anxiety/phobias) I also hate going/talking to doctors, because they have not been treating me good in the past, when I really needed to be taked seriously. You can tell me. I understand how it is to be trapped in hell.

  • Kaja Knudsen

    My problem is that I have CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) so when I panic, my whole body freezes and is locked. I wish I could go for a walk or drain out the anxiety but my whole body gets numb. I get paralyzed, so bad that I cannot move. This makes me even more afraid. Most of my panic/depression comes from SSRI-detox which has been a huge problem for me.

    I have panic the whole day, and then I fall dead asleep, and wake up with panic and the feeling of being in hell. It’s really unbearable. I’m unable to feel happiness and love, because there’s a wall inside me which won’t let such feelings get in. It really feels that I have lost my life. Facebook might trigger anxiety for me, because it’s all about how wonderful life is, for those kind of people. I don’t even know why I’m writing this. Perhaps it’s just to get this out to the universe, a cry for help perhaps. The interesting thing, though, is that I always get nightmares two or three nights before I get these unbearable days. In the nightmares I walk around very scared not being able to find my home, and sometimes I even walk in circles. It’s so scary. I don’t tolerate sun, rain calms my CNS and I often listen to hours of rain on my ipod to calm myself down. I once took xanax, made it so much worse. I take Alepam now. All my anxiety is caused by neurotoxins (old SSRI/medicine, Lyme, Mercury and post-traumatic stress/traumatic experiences)

  • Kaja Knudsen

    Nightmares sometimes appear after a hard struggle. It’s the minds way to put stuff back in order again. The problem is often that people seem to think that panic always appears in regard to stressful situations. Panic can also occur when being poisoned (mercury, fluoride, medication etc etc). F.ex xanax can cause extreme panic when in detox. It’ can also appear from post-traumatic stress, but you would know if that was your case.
    Be sure to nest up other things that can cause your anxiety.

  • Kaja Knudsen

    I’m so exhausted I have no chance to go for a walk. I usually stay home and in my bed in a dark room listening to rain sounds. I can’t walk because my whole body freezes, my CNS won’t let me move. I can’t even grap my phone to call anyone, because my whole system is “frozen”.

  • Darian

    That’s how mine is I get really lightheaded, I feel my face flush, and I’m frozen in fear and can’t move or even talk. It’s really terrifying.

  • Kaja Knudsen

    Same here. I got it because of Mercury/Amalgam poisoning which caused social anxiety, and was forced to stay in school even though I was very sick. Consider poisonings if it continues. I also started to have these sezures which made my head shiver, almost like Parkinsons disease.

  • chnovak
  • chnovak

    I never tried it although they said it will help me. When I “wake up”
    and can start thinking again, I do try to exhale like if i was blowing
    candles that are very far. I don’t know if it’s a good technique, but I
    just do it without thinking.

  • Mike

    I had something similar to this happen to me an hour ago. I was laying in bed thinking about being in a relationship again and being a loyal man. All of a sudden it felt like a freight train hit me. My body was spinning, more like rolling, i was seeing partial blurred imaged zooming through my brain. I first decided to figure out the root of this. What could be causing this at the same time i started breathing heavier and heavier. I learned to control my breathing at the same time i was attempting to decypher these images. “Did something happen to me while i was younger? Are these hidden memories?” Then all of a sudden i said, “im done with this rolling and rolling down to where ever. Im going to fight this. Its time to burry my fingers into the dirt to slow me down i am going to stand up.” And i stood up. In my mind i stood up and overcame whatever overcame me. I fought it and when i did my panic attack subsided and i felt strong. I felt like a winged soldier who faught his demons. -mike

  • Rachael

    Thank you so much for writing this. I really needed this right now. Namaste

  • JMO

    Wow Kaja, that sounds serious. I’m so sorry. Just know that you are not alone. I am just terribly sorry about the poisoning. I might not be as bad as you, but I am seriously, SERIOUSLY, close behind. So please do not feel like you are the only one.

  • JMO

    Kaja, you’re not alone. I feel the way you feel too. Please respond to this message if you want to exchange email addresses so we can talk and maybe become friends. I understand you and you will understand me. Probably for the first time in my life , someone who understands me. We can get better. I just know it.

  • Kaja Knudsen

    Thanks for the support, Jmo. I tried to use medication but after a while it just made everything much worse. I guess it got stored up in the body as well as the mercury. Made me suicidal.
    I wish you all the best.

  • JMO

    Kaja, can i email you? Keep in touch?

  • Kaja Knudsen

    Sure. rakettfua at Gmail. Let me know when you got it so I can remove the mail from here.

  • Jared

    Mine strike so suddenly and so violently that I feel like I’m dying. I literally almost pass out and feel like my life is coming to an end. It is terrifying. They never hit when I’m actually stressed. They hit after I’ve calmed down. So, I never really know when they’re coming.

  • JMO

    got it.

  • Ozyres

    Right now that I’m reading it I’m having a real bad panic attack

  • Ozyres

    Sorry to hear that..

  • Ozyres

    I have been like this for 10 years I’m taking Zoloft and I’m still the same everyday I get panic attacks..

  • Coco

    That’s exactly how mine come. You’re not alone

  • Coco

    I just got home from the er. Even as we got close I started choking up and once we got inside had another attack. I fully understand you and I wish I could just end this cycle it’s been 14 years for me

  • Shona Saunders

    Thanks James. I just had a panic attack because I read something scary. I am wondering why my mind and body is so sensitive. I needed this reminder that im not alone. I try to fight it. I shouldn’t but I do. Especially when im supposed be being mom. ..

  • 2cents

    Your daughter’s intuitive advice was smart. Repeating a phrase like Ice Cream and Unicorns is just another form of meditation by continuously focusing on the same positive images!

  • 2cents

    If your panic isn’t improving something obviously needs to change in your lifestyle. I’m sure you’ve heard exercise is helpful before but I would like to reiterate it. Walking, running, playing basketball,or any sports with friends, hiking improve my anxiety and mood immensely. Caffeine may be contributing to your anxiety if you drink it so cutting that out may help. Avoiding stimulants of any sort can also help as such as alcohol and marijuana. But a beer a day may be fine. These are just my two cents I hope this simple advice can help you or anyone reading this. These are things I have learned and have helped me.

  • 2cents

    I’d also like to point out that when I said cutting out alcohol to improve anxiety, I mentioned a beer a day may be fine considering that is a common consensus and I believe Dr. Oz mentioned it. However I believe alcohol can be a hidden source of anxiety for many people.

    “Beer is for grown-ups – and a little goes a long way

    The
    scientists at the conference all repeatedly highlighted a single key
    point: the key to healthy alcohol consumption is moderation.

    Too
    much alcohol is harmful, and leads to a considerable increase in the
    risk of developing diseases such as cancer, especially if consumed in a
    short space of time.

    And even though beer has certain health
    benefits, this does not mean that young people can run to the pub every
    weekend and wash down pint after pint. In fact, young people should not
    be drinking at all.

    The scientists point out that drinking beer
    for the sake of good health is only advisable at a later age, when an
    increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and high blood
    pressure occurs naturally.”

    I just wanted to add this detail so young people don’t take my advice as to drink for health.

  • www.panicreleased.com

    Hi. I think naming your thoughts and possibly writing them down is a great idea when having a panic attack. This will allow you to acknowledge how irrational your behaviour is resulting in a change in this behaviour.

  • ann

    i have had anxiety/panic attacks for the past six years i got rid of them for 3 years when i got pregnant and had my babies and now there back and seem worse then ever and I’m claustrophobic and everyone is telling me i need to take meds or get put into a hospital for help i got rid of them for 3 years on my own without anything and faced my fears and got to where i wasnt scared anymore and got to where i didnt have them anymore but now i seem like im more scared and feel like sometimes its going to kill me and i cant stop them like im going crazy and not going to have a normal life with my family anymore so can you please tell me what i should do to stop being scared and thinking im going to die and get brave agian to fight them off how do you except it and let it happen and not be scared for your life and let it run its course and then know its going to go away please help me thank you