What a panic attack feels like

Imagine feeling the most wretched, the most poorly and in the most pain that you think you can bear… Top that off with sweating, vomiting and violent urges of needing to sit on the toilet and empty. Your heart is beating hard and fast and feels like it could explode out of your chest, it’s going faster than ever before. Your feet are buzzing with irritation and your legs feel restless like you want to kick something. Your eyesight is blurred and you feel as though you are having an almost out-of-body experience….  

The emptying and the vomiting just go on and on…. 

What could be wrong with me.. ? Is it my tummy? is it my heart? is it my bowel? …

It must be something really bad because I can’t breathe, I think I might be dying and to be honest, right now it would be a happy release because I would do anything at this point to escape feeling so dreadful.

Through experience, I know this is the onset of a panic attack… but it hit hard and fast this time, I know it’s a panic attack but that doesn’t make it any easier. This time is so much worse, it’s never been this bad!

Get my brain thinking… come on. I’m screaming out in pain as I try and take control of what’s happening… 

I know for me it’s distraction. I start with the classic.. 5,4,3,2,1 .. what can I hear, see, feel, smell, touch, taste…  I try to keep focused but it’s winding me up.. the pain is too much this time. 

I stare at the bath mat, it’s fluffy, the fibres are standing in different directions, the label is sticking out from underneath.. It’s still not enough, I need more distraction. I remember reading about water and putting hands under running water. I can just reach the cold tap from the loo and I stretch my arm out and let cold water run through my fingers.

Blimey, that’s cold, my hand is going numb, I’ve got a hot hand and an icy cold hand, that feels odd… 

I start to talk to myself, out loud so there is no getting confused.. thank you body, but I’ve got this, thank you, I know you are trying to protect me, but I will take care of this… 

My heart starts to slow down, the vomiting stops and the nausea subsides. Now I start the 5,4,3,2,1 again, still with my hand under the water. It feels frozen now.

The pain from my tummy starts to subside and I feel like I’m gaining back some control. I finish on the toilet, everything is slowly reverting back to normal.  I manage to stand and get myself to the window, I need some air. The breathing technique always helps to calm me.

I feel better, shattered but better. I have just experienced the most horrible 15 mins ever…. I need to sleep now and I will sleep. 

I’m happy that I survived. 

Further reading: What are panic attacks and what causes them?

A grounding/relaxation message to take you from Crisis 2 Calm in minutes


Living with panic attacks can be extremely challenging, however, you are not alone. Here at Trauma Research UK, our belief is, ‘it’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what happened to you’. With this philosophy, we believe that everyone can successfully overcome their mental health issues if given the right help and support. Read more…

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