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Can you help me to understand Panic Attacks?

(16 Posts)
SPARKLER1 Mon 25-Apr-05 16:24:12

Just seen a mum at school and she looked really tired. I asked her if she was okay and she told me that she had been in hospital having had panic attacks.
I didn't realise they could be so bad to get someone hospitilsed.
Could someone please explain to me what happens and how they could get that bad.
I didn't really want to ask her too much.

Aero Mon 25-Apr-05 16:31:37

My mum suffered from panic attacks and they really are quite scary. They make you feel like you are dying - palpitations, sweating, and a huge feeling of panic (thus the name). They also look like a possible heart attack to others around possibly trying to help.
The key to getting through them is knowledge. Once you realise what is happening, then concentrate on breathing through it. They reach a peak and then pass.
My mum was also hospitalised at first with this condition before anyone knew what the problem was.
I'm sure I've not really explained that all very well and someone with more actual medical knowledge will probably be able to explain more clearly, but this might give you an idea of what they are.

almostanangel Mon 25-Apr-05 16:38:56

i used to get these and i agree they are scary for the people around the person having know you are getting one,,and that is scary because until you learn how to control them there is nothing you can do,,my worse one was when we had friends round for dinner i went up stairs to get something and it came on ,,i couldnt breathe and that is what panics you,,hubby came up and i screamed at him i cant brethe i cant was hell then i had to explain to friends who could dd learnt how to calm me down and she was only 13 at the time,,,if you ever are there when the mum has one stand in front of her look into her eyes and talk calmly about anything keeping eye contact,,this worked for me i dont know if it works for everyone ...

SPARKLER1 Mon 25-Apr-05 16:55:10

Thankyou. I'm starting to get an idea now and it doesn't sound very nice at all. How frightening. I have heard of panic attacks before but never really realised what they entailed.

SPARKLER1 Mon 25-Apr-05 17:35:37

It sounds a little bit like asthma - one thing that I am so grateful I don't suffer with. Must be so scary not being able to breath properly.

Aero Mon 25-Apr-05 18:38:07

I imagine it is horrible. I've never seen my Mum have one, but I know it frightened the life out of both her and my Dad. My sister suffers with asthma though and I witnessed her have an attack about a year or so ago and it was just awful. Just seeing her not be able to get the breath out and not being able to do anything (apart from stay with her and try to maintain some degree of composure for her) until the ambulance arrived was the most frightening experience I reckon I have encountered.

Twiglett Mon 25-Apr-05 18:40:49

there are a number of types

the kind I used to get made it difficult for me to breathe, it would feel like an iron clamp was attached to my chest and the more conscious I became of my inability to breathe the more difficult it became. This would then spiral into fear that brought with it palpitations, sweats

it is only by ruling out physical causes and understanding that it is panic that you can start to use some rescue routines (breathing exercises in my case) to stop them in their tracks


tigi Mon 25-Apr-05 19:20:39

i had one after the birth of ds2. I was really frightened. The nurses were telling me to concentrate on my breathing, and I really couldn't so the worse it gets. My blood pressure rocketed as well after that for days, but I've never had one since, thank God.

nikkisherri Mon 25-Apr-05 19:47:09

sparkler I am an expert on panic attacks suffered for years mine have been due to medical condition hyperthyroidism but still exactly the same as someone without medical condition.

I understand all to well how horrible they are.

Basically your body releases chemicals that it would release in a life threatening situation

So you feel clammy, sweaty hot & cold at same time, frightened, heart thumps in chest, find it hard to breath, just as you would if you were say being chased by a madman or something awful was about to happen you.

Its called fight or flight where your body naturally produces adrenalin to take on whats about to be thrown at it. In a life threatening situation this helps you to survive.

When those symptoms occur for no apparent reason the natural assumption is that you are about to die! Which of course makes you panic more and then it spirals out of control and can leave you on the floor a gibbering mess (been there)

Thats really how to sum it up.

You can control them by learning about what is happening and therefore talking yourself round when it happens by telling yourself what is happning which breaks the cycle and stops them.

Hope this helps your mum.

There is a great book by claire weekes called self help for your nerves.


fionagib Mon 25-Apr-05 21:26:59

I had one when I was driving on the motorway last summer, really horrible, and it still scares me to drive as it brings back the memory and the sweaty/shaky/surreal-type feelings (like a terror that am about to lose control) to a lesser degree - has really hampered my ability to get out and about in the car, and haven't been on a motorway since.

I assumed it was a panic attack, tho have not seen a doc about it. Don't mean to hijack thread, just really interested to read what people have to say about panic attacks in general, and ways of coping.

Nemo1977 Mon 25-Apr-05 21:36:59

when i have had panic attacks it can feel like i cant breath...feels like someone is strangling me while making my head spin and bouncing up n down on my chest.
Then on top of that u have the everybody is looking at me or whats xxxxxxx thinking..along with whatever triggers the attacks. It is a horrible thing to have. I have the attacks due to depression and anxiety and something like answering the phone can bring one on...i dont like going out although have made myself better at it for my son. It truly is dibilitating

morningpaper Mon 25-Apr-05 21:38:57

Sparkler: So sorry to hear about your poor mum.

I wanted to know more about this recently and I rang NHS Direct and asked for information. They sent me loads of leaflets and photocopied stuff - it was really helpful. I would give them a ring and see if they can send you some information.

I hope your mum is feeling better soon. xx

morningpaper Mon 25-Apr-05 21:39:47

oh sorry it's a mum.

Well I hope your mum's okay anyway.

expatinscotland Mon 25-Apr-05 21:42:59

I got them after DD's birth as well. Felt like a vice around my chest. That awful, squeezy feeling. It was terribly hard to breathe and it was painful to drawth breathe.

They started coming on with increasing regularity for me - in conjunction with severe PND - to the point where my sleep would be interrupted by them.

I did take anti-anxiety drugs for a while and they helped quite a bit.

SPARKLER1 Tue 26-Apr-05 21:21:17

Thankyou so much everyone. NO it's not my mum thankfully. It is a parent at school.

Newbarnsleygirl Tue 26-Apr-05 21:28:56

My mum had one recently whilst out with her in town.

Her crown fell out (of all things) you couldn't see where in her mouth but she had a big panic attack.
She started sweating, palpitations, she couldn't speak and at one point she nearly collapsed.
It was quite scary. I didn't know what to do with her as I've never seen her have one before.

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