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What a Panic Attack Feels Like

Understanding what a panic attack feels like when you've never experienced one can be a difficult task. The words “panic attack” are often watered down in everyday jargon. “I’m having a panic attack!” is code for “I’m freaking out about this test” or “I’m really stressed about a problem I don’t know how to solve.” Exaggerated panic attacks also make great comedy, it seems, as lovable but slightly anxious characters breathe into paper bags while giving the appearance of a complete loss of control over something fairly insignificant.

In reality, however, panic attacks are anything but funny. Anyone who has endured a panic attack knows that the symptoms are sudden, frightening, and difficult to manage. They can be so severe, that oftentimes, they are mistaken for heart attacks.


No Warning:

One of the most difficult parts of panic attacks is that they typically occur without warning. They can swoop in from out of nowhere, with no oncoming symptoms.


Common Symptoms:

  • Chest pain

  • A feeling of choking

  • Trembling

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Shortness of breath

  • Sweating

  • Feeling like your limbs are going numb or tingling

  • Fear of dying

  • Fear of losing control

  • Intrusive, highly anxious thoughts


Some Common Coping Strategies:

  • Deep breathing

  • Coping statements

  • Distraction


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