- when did you first start having panic attacks and why?
My panic attacks started late, around 24-25 when my parents were going through a really difficult divorce. I think they were mostly caused by stressed, just constant days and days of stress and worry about my mom and if she’d be okay. I realized later I had a lot of anxiety my whole life, but this event really kicked it into high gear and eventually lead to my diagnosis.
- what do they feel like and how long do they last?
I have a few different ‘attacks’. One I’d call more of a ‘anxiety attack’ where I start getting these spiraling thoughts and hyper worrying about past events and the future, my stomach hurts really bad, I get nauseous, I’ll have stomach “issues” hint hint, and I’ll have bad insomnia. This is more a symptom of my anxiety though, and happens pretty regularly, about once or twice a week. It can be triggered by literally anything that reminds me of something to be worried about.
I do have medication. But I have a lot of anxiety around getting it filled and often avoid it (I know, ironic), so I run out a lot. If I don’t have my medication, I usually treat it with Pepto, drinking soda water to settle my stomach, and taking a sleep aid just to get me to sleep, because I know I’ll feel better in the morning.
One of the big things people don’t talk about much with anxiety though is the stomach problems. Because of the nausea and stomach aches, I usually don’t eat when I have bad anxiety, which can be a problem for me long term when this goes on for a few days.
I didn’t have the “classic” panic attacks until a while after my anxiety got really bad. A panic attack for me is more like the I feel like I am drowning in the stress and anxiety instead of just treading water. I kind of get this wave of ‘dread’, I go clammy, my chest gets tight and its hard to breathe. I start crying for no reason. I usually feel like throwing up and sometimes I do. The worst one I was like hyper ventilating in between throwing up and almost passed out cause I literally couldn’t breathe. That was fun…
In those moments I really just shut down. Its so hard to function and it feels like wading through peanut butter trying to form thoughts other than the crushing stress of whats going on around you. I usually get really bad migraines afterwards.
do you have any triggers that causes them?
Usually its triggered by a lot of stress where I realize I can not handle the situation. There is no way to handle it correctly or well. There is no way to fix it. There is no way to do it. I start just spiral spiral spiral until I realize I am crying and not breathing. But, this doesn’t have to be just a stressful situation. Sometimes its just getting a little overwhelmed and my brain decides to react that way. Thats usually when I get a low level panic attack where I shut down and kind of disassociate.
how often do you get them?
Panic attacks I only get on occasion. I think I’ve had two or three major ones in the last year, with a few mini ones I can stave off with lots of deep breathing and a good distraction. And lots of the lesser ‘anxiety attacks’ in between.
As for how you could relate this to your character, while my situation wasn’t losing my parent, it kind of was at the same time. Its this realization that nothing will ever be the same. The situation will never be okay. You can’t fix it, its too late. You feel helpless, guilty for no reason. You so desperately want it to go back to normal and it will never be normal. It all comes crushing down until your brain just spazzes out. Then, once your body learns to react that way, it starts to happens more often and be triggered by other moments of feeling out of control.
Another thing I’ve noticed has changed is I am unhealthily attached to other things in my life I don’t think I could face loosing. Your character could go through something similar since he lost his dad and couldn’t do anything to save him.
For me, its my cat. I get hyper worried about her health and her safety and thinking about something happening to her is almost enough to give me a panic attack in itself. I know logically she is just a cat, but the idea of having her taken away is just so crushing. For example, I’ll get super worried about her and then get unrationally angry when my husband doesn’t share the same ridiculous level of concern about her. I’ll start to relate that back to me and how he must not love if he doesn’t care about my feelings about the cat and how he will leave me just like my dad left my mom and then BOOM I am spiraling in a full blown panic attack triggered by my cat not eating all of her food or something.
Sorry if that is like, super personal, but its just an example of how my brain spirals based off that really important attachment, despite the path there being pretty illogical.
So maybe your character could easily latch onto someone else in his life and have a panic attack triggered by the idea of loosing them too. Maybe his mom comes home late and he starts to imagine how she got into an accident and how he will be alone for the rest of his life and have no idea how to fix the situation, etc, et.
Those are just some ideas! Hopefully you can pull some inspiration from this. Sorry this is so long! I think my experience is a good one to share, since I didn’t realize I had really bad anxiety for a long time, since it didn’t match up the symptoms I thought anxiety entailed.
I was having really bad stomach problems around when my parents were going through their divorce and my doctor was insistent it was anxiety, but I rejected the idea since I am a very outgoing person and definitely not what you’d imagine when think ‘anxiety’. I went through months of tests until eventually, he gave me some anxiety medication and it literally solved all my problems. xD So yeah… Your character doesn’t have to act ‘anxious’ or be worried or shy to have anxiety. Most people I tell I have anxiety roll their eyes at me since I am very outgoing and adventurous. I learned anxiety isn’t just about being shy or being socially anxious, for me its more about over thinking every situation until I make myself literally sick with worry.
Anyways, feel free to ask me questions if you have any. I am pretty open to talking about it and probably oversharing with strangers on the internet. xD