What does it feel like
to have a Panic Attack?
At seven years old, Jon would run around his
neighborhood. Mrs. Elaine had a horse property that extended 10 acres lining
half the block of Jon’s street. The fencing was simple wire. Jon older brothers
told him, if he touched it, death would be certain. Jon would feel terror each
time he set eyes on the wire. One night as he was running home in the dark,
cutting through Mrs. Elaine’s property, he felt a large gut punching jerk to
his body. He was not sure what was happening. Jon felt another jolt after a few
moments. Every few seconds the jolt coursed through his body. His body had
wrapped around the wire and he was stuck. Jon felt the situation was out of
control and did not feel he had the power to escape. Terror set in between jolts
knowing it was going to occur again. Hope diminished with each jolt. After a
few minutes, the pain started to decrease and Jon was able to come to his
senses. He wiggled his way out of the wire. The power to the battery charging
the fence exhausted, making escape possible. Walking away, Jon felt overwhelmed
with fatigue. It was as though he had run a marathon.
After that, all Jon had to do was look in the
direction of the fence and fear followed. His heart would drop to the floor.
Then came the panic attacks. Jon would not even need to see the wire before the
feeling of dread flooded his little body. Jon would start hyperventilating, his
heart pounding and body sweating. Jon would feel a complete loss of control,
feeling like he could die. Each panic attack would last a few minutes and then
stop. The intensity of the situation would linger for hours. Jon started
avoiding anything that might give him a chance to look at the fence. He stopped
leaving his home preventing another panic attack. Jon’s panic attacks would
happen one or two times a week and he constantly limited his life.
Panic attacks have a
tendency to last 5 to 10 minutes, but for some a panic attack can last several
hours. Sweating, loss of control, hyperventilating and heart pounding are
experienced. Other symptoms of a panic attack are shortness of breath, choking,
dizziness, nausea, shaking or even trembling. A common feature of panic attacks
becoming panic disorder is the fear of having a panic attack before the onset
of one. Those suffering with panic attacks will make accommodations to avoid
situations that trigger panic attacks. One may become vigilant of the changes
in their body to avoid the feeling happening. A panic attack can consist of all
symptoms or one.
The origin of panic
attacks is still somewhat of a mystery, but we do know that panic attacks can
run in families. Even if one understood why panic attacks happen, it does not
change the protocol for treatment. Even if Jon could be reassured that the
fence would never shock him again, it would not change his panic attacks. Panic
attacks can come and go in a person’s life. They can go weeks and even months
to years without an attack, only to experience them again.