But What Does it *Feel* Like - Panic Attacks

Disclaimer: This thread discusses the symptoms of a panic attack in detail. Please do not read if that is triggering for you.

Ok hi again! I wanted to continue this ‘series’ of sorts, so here we have a panic attack, something that I experience quite regularly, unfortunately.
When I see people writing about panic attacks, it’s usually the same ol’ “breath quickened and I began to panic”, or something along those lines. As always though, it’s a lot more complex than that

So, here is an in depth explanation of what my personal experience has been with how panic attacks feel - I say personal because this is different for everyone, and I’m not really going to brush over things I have never experienced before, you know?

It’s sudden.

While you may get a warning - sudden spikes in anxiety is a pretty universal one - a panic attack, for me, has always been sudden and unexpected.
At one point - this was actually my first ever panic attack other than the ones I got while exercising, I was just making tea when it happened. The trigger was intrusive thoughts, and one moment I was putting sugar in my tea, the next I was on the ground, shaking and crying and terrified.
The lack of warning is quite scary, needless to say. you never know when it’s going to happen, you can only hope that it doesn’t happen in front of someone else.

It can be incredibly humiliating

Depending on where I am, I always get really embarrassed about my panic attacks. Who wouldn’t? People stare at you, people give you funny looks and ask if you’re ok. It’s humiliating and it’s extremely stressful. Don’t underestimate the pain someone can be in, simply trying to hide the fact that they are panicking in public. It’s like autistic masking, but so much more difficult.

The stress can trigger physical reactions

Ok this is a little vague, let me expand.
At one point, during one of my more intense panic attacks, I got a nose bleed. I was calming myself down in the bathrooms at school, accompanied by a friend who knew what I was going through and doing her best to help, when she pointed it out. Things like that can happen, and like I said, they’re scary. Not only do you feel like you’re dying inside, but suddenly you get a nose bleed? Or a really bad headache? It’s freaky, and it feels like you’re in a horror movie. Your mind instantly switches to the worst possible scenario, and sometimes you go right back into the panic attack you had been winding down from.

You can’t breath

This one is the one people tend to focus on, but they often fail to realise just how scary that sensation is.
It feels like, all of a sudden, you can’t bring enough oxygen into your lungs. Your breath grows shallow, and you breath faster in the hopes that it makes it easier. But, no matter what you do, you just can’t bring enough air in. Your lungs have been ripped out of your control. They spasm and it’s like hundred of ripples cascading through your lungs, disrupting your breathing and forcing you to cut your breaths in half and gasp for air in every moment that you can.
If you’ve ever tried to run to fast and been forced to stop or pass out, it’s like those first seconds after stopping, with the breaths constricted by multiple tight bands, over a period from an hour to six hours.
You get scared that you’ll pass out because of the lack of oxygen. I usually get quite dizzy. I can’t walk properly because I’m so close to passing out that my vision is blurry and I don’t know what to do. Like I’ve said before. It’s more than just short breath.

You begin catastrophically thinking.

As your mind is freaking out, it begins to list every possible worst case scenario. You wonder if you’re going to die, if you’ll never breath normally again, if your heart will just stop from all the adrenaline rushing around your body. You become self conscious. You feel like everyone knows what’s happening to you and now hates you or thinks you’re mad. You just want to be alone forever because everyone hates you now.
It’s very difficult to stop this mindset, needless to say.

Everything hurts

All those little aches and pains you are normally able to ignore flare up and occupy your attention. Your legs hurt, your hands hurt, your face aches and your back is in utter agony. Because of the stress, you tense them even more, which just makes it worse in the end

You feel out of control

It’s like your body has been ripped out of your control. Your heart rate goes up and up and up and you can’t bring it down. Try as you might, your breathing won’t return to normal. You physically can’t take a proper breath. Your hands are shaking and your legs won’t do what you tell them to.
A reason a lot of people curl up when having a panic attack is because they feel that if they do that, they are more in control. They are smaller and curling away from the danger, and they can try to calm themselves from there. the problem is, the more your symptoms scare you, the worse they become. It’s a viscous cycle that rarely ends before you’ve completely exhausted yourself. Which brings me to my next point.

It’s exhausting.

After it’s over, I am always exhausted. It usually triggers a dissociative episode, actually, which I explain here. I am affected for the rest of the day, and sometimes the rest of the week, as a panic attack is emotionally and physically taxing to the extreme, especially if you are prone to long ones.

The anxiety is overwhelming.

I plan to explain anxiety in a future post, but it is an extremely overwhelming sensation during a panic attack.
All you can do is worry and fret and fear. You get cold sweats and you can’t breath properly. The anxiety usually lasts long after the panic attack ends, for days or weeks afterwards.

Oki, I might add to this in the future, but I hope it was informative.
Lmk if you want me to add anything :].
You can also comment on anything in particular you’d like me to make a thread like this on. Whether or not I do it is dependent on whether I have experienced it before and whether or not it is a triggering subject for me

Links to other "But what does it *feel* like" posts

Going non verbal
Sensory Overload
Ticcing and Stimming


Yeah, panic attacks are the worst. I don’t get them all the time but yeah I do get them. The one thing I haven’t ever gotten is the breath thing. Usually, when I’m having a panic attack I can get short of breath and it feels like I can’t take a full breath, but I’ve never hyper-ventilated or anything like that… like ever. But that would suck tho and I’m sorry to those who experience it.
One time I was having a panic attack at a restaurant and it was taking a while for the food to get there so I was just staring at this bread. My anxiety caused me to lose my appetite and start feeling nauseous and because of my fear and anxiety I convinced myself I was going to throw up.
That was horrible to experience in the restaurant so I can totally relate to you on the embarrassment part of it. I needed to get out of there but I didn’t want to tell my family because I cry when I feel vulnerable and in that moment I did… I did end up crying tho in front of my whole family… that was fun.
that was the first time i recognized I was having a panic attack and was like : I need to leave I’m having a panic attack.


Yea, I’ve had a few situations like that, especially with the parents side of it. They want to know what’s happening but idk how to tell them without completely losing control :sweat_smile:


Moved to #general-chat:health-and-beauty ~


ah thank u (I thought I had placed it there but ig not :joy:)

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Yeah I’ve had that problem before but anyways no worries :wink:

Also I really like these series of threads you’ve been doing, they’re really insightful!

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thank uuuu :blush::heart:

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All these threads you’ve made are really great!

Once again, added tags

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thank uu :joy::heart:

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also this moved to #general-chat:health-and-beauty yes


thank youuu

Sometimes I really can’t talk when I’m anxious. Like, usually I’m very talkative.

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Had one in math class in high school. I thought I was having a heart attack.

Closed due to inactivity