What is a Panic Attack? Real Life Stories

What is a panic attack ?

You may have recently experienced an episode of extreme anxiety or fear and are wondering if it was a panic attack.

Sometimes the best way to understand something is to hear exactly what it was like for someone else. For those of us who have experienced panic attacks they are definitely experiences you find you will never forget!

Sharing some real life examples can be the best way to answer the question what is a panic attack?

Stop anxiety without medication!

Following are the stories of three people and their experiences with panic attacks.

Jessica's Story

Jessica was 25 years old and was walking her dog in the park when suddenly she felt dizzy and oddly disoriented.

Her heart began to pound inside her chest and she felt like it might burst out of her body. She could not seem to get enough air and she felt like she was choking on her own tongue.

"Am I dying?" The thought flashed through her mind and a cold hand of terror seemed to clutch at her chest. Her heart was racing and racing and her chest began to ache. "Is this a heart attack? I am only 25!"

A neighbour saw Jessica's obvious distress and called 911 for an ambulance. By the time she arrived at the hospital she felt better but the staff checked her out thoroughly.

"Nothing wrong" was the report "Must have just been anxiety".

Jessica found it hard to believe that this could be true.

"We think you may have had a panic attack" the doctor said.

" What is a panic attack ?" Jessica wondered.

Then she pleaded "Please, please tell me what is a panic attack ?"

Sam's Story

Sam is a 35 year old man who loves outdoor sports. Except for one thing. He has a fear of water and drowning. Not sure where this uneasiness came from, he has coped by remaining on shore for most of his life and does not know how to swim.

One day after a couple of beers Sam was talked into joining his friends on a fishing boat.

Unfortunately his first experience on a boat was not a good one.

A flash storm came up and capsized the small boat. Sam and his friends were tossed in the raging water.

They were rescued quickly by other fishermen but Sam experienced sheer terror during the episode. He was very embarrassed by his behavior in front of his friends.

Since then Sam has had repeated panic attacks at work that occur without warning.

He is beginnning to dread going to work and worries about having a panic episode in a meeting, or while making a presentation.

Brittany's Story

Britt had always been an anxious nervous child. She had her first panic attack as a teenager while watching a horror movie with friends.

It was a scary movie but her reaction was longer lasting and out of proportion to what others felt.

She was shaking, heart racing, and she felt like she was going to vomit. Her whole body was numb with a "pins and needles" feeling and she wondered if she was going to die of fear.

Since then she has had several intense panic events and says they just seem to happen out of nowhere and for no reason.

She is beginning to avoid shopping malls, restaurants, cars and movie theatres - all places where she has had panic attacks before.

So exactly what is a panic attack ?

A panic attack is a sudden rush of intense anxiety, panic or fear.

A person having a panic attack may have one due to an obviously fearful experience or for no obvious reason at all.

A person having a panic attack will exhibit several of the following symptoms:

  • racing or pounding heart
  • sweating
  • shaking or trembling
  • shortness of breath or feelings of being smothered
  • feeling of choking
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • chills or hot flashes
  • nausea or upset stomach
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • a sense of things being unreal
  • feeling of being detached from oneself
  • numbness and/or tingling sensations
  • fear of losing control
  • feeling of possibly "going crazy"
  • fear of dying

If you have had one or more panic attacks first go see your doctor and get checked out for any underlying health concerns. There are some physical conditions that may cause or mimic anxiety and panic.

See A Doctor You Trust

Explain in detail what symptoms you have experienced and ensure that you are tested for physical issues that may be contributing to your anxiety or even causing it.

Your doctor can also give you more information on exactly what is a panic attack from a medical perspective.

Don't Worry!

If you have had a panic attack or even several panic attacks don't worry!

Many people have events in their lives that cause them to feel intense fear. Many people have had at least one panic attack.

Most people will never have a second episode.

Others may have repeated panic attacks and even begin to fear repeated panic attacks. If you find yourself becoming fearful of having a panic attack to the extent that you begin to avoid activities or places you may have developed panic disorder.

If you have panic attacks there are many ways to treat this issue successfully. Stay with us and find out more!

You now know the answer to the question what is a panic attack ?

The links below will help you understand more about what is a panic attack and find out more facts about anxiety causes and strategies for treatment.

More Information


Why Do Panic Attacks Happen?


Panic Attack Symptoms

  • Chest Flutter
  • Chest Pain
  • Burning Sensations
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    Coping With Panic Attacks


    Getting Well


    Panic Attacks & Other Health Issues


    Famous Celebs Have It Too


    Don't worry - there is lots of help available and many excellent treatment options!

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