My first panic attack

Old 02-10-2010, 06:45 AM
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My first panic attack

So last night I had what I think must be a slight panic attack.

I went to sleep fine around 10, and then awoke suddenly maybe around midnight with my heart pounding and the feeling like I was about to die. I felt light headed and I honestly had this deep, soulful knowledge that I was in the first stages of dying! My heart was beating out of my chest.

I was so freaked out that without thinking I went upstairs, into my son's room and got into bed with him (he was out cold!) and just lay there next to him listening to him breathe, and his clock tick, until I calmed down.

Then I went and got my dog (the one in my avatar) and brought her to bed with me and she curled up with me and I went back to sleep.

It was awful though! Does anyone else have experience with panic attacks during the first stage of their recovery? This morning I prayed for the courage to continue not drinking..because I tell you the panic and fear that hit me in the night almost felt like a heart attack!

Thanks for any guidance.
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Old 02-10-2010, 06:54 AM
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I too get frequent panic/anxiety attacks out of nowhere. It does feel like I'm dying sometimes, a nerve-racking experience. If the panic attacks persist, please see your doctor. There are non addictive meds for anxiety so you won't be trading alcoholism for benzo-addiction.

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Old 02-10-2010, 06:56 AM
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Hi, I suffered with some bad panic attacks when coming down off drink and drug binges. They aren't nice and I used to hate the feeling of a panic attack lingering under the surface during comedown/Wd's from heavy booze and drug sessions.

They got worse for me as my driniking progressed and I hated feeling like I was gonna die or something terrible was gonna happen. I got panicky/anxious at times in my recovery when thoughts of drinking entered back in my head and I was worried but getting to meetings and writing on SR helped quiten them.

Just know that drinking will only make them worse in the long-run so the best solution is to stay sober and keep working your recovery. I have found applying the principles of the steps of AA helps keep me relatively calm and collected and the serenity prayer is also a great calming influence when I feel myself getting a little panicky or anxious.

Peace And Love x
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Old 02-10-2010, 07:35 AM
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Sounds Like One...

Yep, I'm right there with those who have suffered from panic attacks. I've suffered from anxiety all of my life and have had my share of the attacks. Your symptoms seem to mirror mine when I have one in the middle of the night.

Everyone thinks you have to be in some huge situation of stress to have a panic attack, but the truth is that they can come out of left field. The feeling of certain death is a very common symptom as well.

All that said, I would go in to see your doc or at least call his office to let him/her or their nurse know what happened and your symptoms. They may or may not want to see you, but I bet you'll feel a sense of relief by at least letting them know what's going on.

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Old 02-10-2010, 07:49 AM
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Thanks guys. I am going to call my new doctor. I just had a physical last week. This was my first real panic attack I guess.

Augh! Great! *sigh*

Back to work...thanks for the support.
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Old 02-10-2010, 09:33 AM
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Been there... horrible..
But that passes as well.....
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Old 02-10-2010, 09:38 AM
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I used to get these when trying to not drink for a night or 2, i would wake up unable to breathe...always dreams nothing physical (although pls go to docs to check yours out if need be), then have a mini panic attack afterwards...then sit up till the sun came up as i would be so freaked out and then back to sleep maybe...

I say mini panic attacks cos i had them for about 6 months when i was early twenties and they were really, really bad...not fun at all!

Havent had any of this in sobriety thank God!
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Old 02-10-2010, 10:39 AM
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Yes, I have had panic attacks long before I began drinking and I still have them today.

And, you're right, they feel awful, and I am convinced I am going to die.

I have avoided taking medication for them, because these are ongoing for me and I the meds are generally addictive. So...I have learned that by 'staying in my body' it helps. In other words, feel the breeze on your face, feel the fabric on your skin, be aware of your breath going in and out. It helps to calm you down and to get your mind out of the panic spiral.
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Old 02-10-2010, 12:37 PM
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Like Anna I've had them all my see your Dr and get their opinion, Soph,
I've learned I can just try to breathe, and ride them out and that works - for me....but do get professional advice


Last edited by Dee74; 02-10-2010 at 02:50 PM.
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Old 02-10-2010, 02:06 PM
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Hi Soph,

When you get frightened your body produces adrenaline, the purpose of it is a flight or fight mechanism - basically it is what keeps us humans alive by giving us the abilty to move much quicker than we can do normallly or have much more strength than normal when we are in immediate danger.

Have you ever slammed on your brakes to avoid a car accident? You know the feeling of a sudden rush of adrenaline as it surges through your body with your heart pounding......then it gradually fades away but you are left feeling really shaky, you probably find it difficult to drive for some minutes after. This is how a healthy nervous system works in response to immediate danger.

When the nervous system is not healthy - perhaps because of depression, illness, medications, alcohol/drug abuse (which directly affect the nervous system), then this flight or fight reaction can happen when there is no immediate danger.

So what you get is a sudden rush of adrenaline for no reason - like you did in the middle of the night. You are not expecting it so you get frightened by the feelings. The body's response to fear (you're frightened so it wants to get you out of trouble by putting you in fight or flight mode) is to pump more adrenaline, so causing more of the unpleasant symptoms such as heart racing.

Now you feel like you are going to die, so in response to your fear your body produces more adrenaline and so the sensations of an adrenaline rush which are normally very short lived are now prolonged and you are in the panic attack from hell.

It will eventually pass as the body can only produce so much adrenaline in a short space of time but it will leave you feeling completely exhausted. I bet that is how you felt after.

The problem after having a panic attack is that you then get frightened it is going to happen again. Fear causes the body to produce adrenaline and if your nervous system is not too healthy (as I said above) then you will have an abnormal release of adrenaline putting you into fight or flight when there is no immedate danger to life. And so another panic attack begins.

This is why people who have never had panic attacks, have one and then suddenly find themselves having them all the time. They live in constant fear of the next one, so a unhealthy nervous system is now in an almost permanent cycle of fear, producing adrenaline, fear.

If you are having a panic attack you can stop the production of adrenaline and stop it in its tracks by not being frightened of it. Easier said than done but the book Self Help for Your Nerves by Dr Claire Weekes is an excellent resource in learning how to do this.

Understanding what panic attacks are and applying the methods in the book stopped my panic attacks very quickly. I was so bad that I couldn't even walk near windows in my house or go near knives in the kitchen without being gripped by fear and panic attacks.

Are you just sober a short time? If that is the case the panic attack has probably got something to do with withdrawal. Your central nervous system has some healing to do. The more it heals the less likely it is to produce adrenaline when it is not supposed to. However if you do find them happening again, I would highly recommend that book.

If you are frightened remind yourself that no-one dies of a panic attack.....but they do die from drinking.
Take care.
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Old 02-10-2010, 02:21 PM
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Just to add - and I shall try to be careful re not giving medical advice here, mods please delete if I am crossing the line.

You should always see your doctor if you are concerned with your health. Unfortuantely a lot of doctors don't understand panic attacks or even if they do, they tend to treat them with medications. While they may help, medications which affect the nervous system by their nature affect the nervous system. And an affected nervous system is suseptible to panic attacks.

My first panic attack was actually caused by a prescription medication which I came off immediately but the panic attacks continued and got worse (reason why in my post above). As I said in earlier depression/medications/alcohol/drugs/illness can all affect the nervous system.

If you have had your first panic attack due to the natural healing from withdrawing from alcohol then understanding this and using natural techniques to get your nervous system back to working normally is going to be benefical.

As has already been said, anti anxiety meds can be addictive so it may not be the best thing for someone giving up an addiction.

Perhaps a conversation with the doctor about why you are having a panic attack and what is physically going on in your body and how you can change that....would be more benefical than taking a prescription, unless it is absolutely necessary.
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Old 02-10-2010, 03:10 PM
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Thanks intention, so much, for the words. I take them seriously and appreciate them very much.

Newly sober, yes. I have been completely alcohol-free starting Feb. 1st this month, and before that I had taken alcohol 12 evenings out of a period of 48 evenings, small amounts. My last "drunk" was Dec. 11th, 2009.

I had a physical last week and all my lab work came back good, (hooray) but he did ask me "what are you doing for fun?" and we had a long chat about doing fun things to balance out stress. And sobriety thus far is really stressful for me. Like others have said, I feel like a good friend of mine has left! Have been a bit bereft and down.

I know that I need good daily exercise - to get me sweating and worn out and get those endorphins flowing, and get me so tired that I fall into bed. I know I need that - better than meds. This awful snowy cold weather has not helped!

I am going to look into that book though and I left a msg. for my doctor today so he's calling me back, about the panic attack. I hope I don't have another one but it's good to know what to do with all that adrenaline in there, racing around at all hours of the night! Sheesh!

Grateful for everyone's words.
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Old 02-10-2010, 03:52 PM
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hi i have had panic attacks for over 20 years. i am ten days in and getting them more frequently. i still feel like i am gonna die sometimes but have managed to get myself down to thinking this for a minute or my early twenties the feeling could last days then i found a half cure stella beer. i never sought help for them, i should of trusted in the healthcare professionals as u now place your trust in the people of this site. the beer would numb me from ansiexty in general. most days i did not feel normal till the 3rd one went down and was ready for bed by the 4th 5th 6th sometimes 9th 10th 11th and that went on every day for 15 i need to start where i should of always started with the doctor for a course of cognitive therephy as opposed to other mind numbing drugs. the panic attacks have become easier than the drink
on the positive side they keep me paronoid enough to know i am gonna die if i drink again.
good luck danzoo
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Old 02-10-2010, 03:56 PM
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hi just read intentions post . icould not agree more.....but u gonna start somewhere so of to the doc i go
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Old 02-10-2010, 04:03 PM
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Are you working a recovery program? It often helpful to have a few numbers handy to call when the thought arises, to cut a bodily response off at the pass. I still get bouts of anxiety and paranoia almost a year into recovery, but as soon as I voice my problems to another recovering alcoholic, the problem soon goes away, or diminishes. Writing about it here can be helpful, but having people near you -- or a phone call away -- is key to battling both the obsession, as well as related problems.
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Old 02-10-2010, 07:49 PM
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hey astronomy, yes i am in AA, and my sponsor should have been the person I called this morning. But I went to work and put my post up here and so many great folks in recovery reminded me I should tell my doc, which I did.

the panic attack also happened around midnight and i didn't wanna call anyone!

i also realized i drank a hot chocolate late (well like 9pm) so that might exacerbate. (But my sugar cravings could easily be another thread!! Whew! Talk about replacing one sugar with another. I may have stopped wine but now I need chocoholics anonymous I think!
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Old 02-11-2010, 03:48 AM
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I had my first panic attack while I was driving on the highway!

Putting hand up as well about talking to your dr.

Dr said my attacks were related to withdrawals since alcohol plays havoc on the nervous system. While I was drinking, I was too blitzed to feel the effects of them.

Also found out from other family members that they too had panic attacks and some of them never even drank.

Don't want to stir the gene pool up on this one. Just want to encourage you to see your dr.

Mine has me on a very manageable, non-addictive program in dealing with them.

All the best ~
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Old 02-11-2010, 11:25 AM
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I experienced panic attacks in the night during the first week or two of sobriety. I'd wake up almost every hour, focused on my heartbeat and feelling like it was about to seize up at any moment. It would take 30 - 45 mins to calm down and go back to sleep, only to wake up the same way an hour or so later. This would usually go on all night.

I started taking 2 over-the-counter sleep aids, the kind you can get at any grocery store or Wal Mart, and 2 "Relax & Sleep" vitamins by Nature's Measure, which contain chamomile, valerian root, and melatonin. I never experienced the panic attacks again.
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