Panic attacks: Hello my name is Madalyn... - Anxiety and Depre...

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Panic attacks


Hello my name is Madalyn and recently during my first semester of college I have been suffering from constant anxiety and panic attacks. Along with my panic attacks i experience derealization which is very scary. I was wondering if anyone experiences either panic attacks or derealization and if they would like to explain how they feel when these things happen and what they do to help so I can better understand what I’m going through.

15 Replies

What’s derealization? I definitely have anxiety and panic attacks. I remember in college feeling this way and thought it was just stress from school. I just tried to get through it on my own, which I do not recommend! I wish I got a therapist and started medication. But, at least now I can tell younger people that it is actually serious and getting help now sooner than later is so important! So, I suggest seeing a psychiatrist to get a proper diagnosis and see what he or she recommends for medication. Also, start seeing a therapist once or twice a week. Are you close with your family? You will be okay 💜

Thank you for answering!! ❤️And yes I am close with my family they know I’m having some problems and I have been going to a therapist which helps a lot!! I have realized not to go through it on my own as well, it’s a lot easier when you have a support system. And derealization is sometimes a symptom of panic attacks and anxiety, it’s periods of time when it feels like I’m isolated from the world almost in a dream like state where things seem foggy. Did you ever take medication for your anxiety? If you did was it hard to find the right one? And what did you feel like when your panic attacks happened?

That’s really great you are close with your family. You’re going to need them so much during this process! Talk to them, let them know about your attacks, help them understand mental illness. I get the foggy feeling too! I definitely think it’s a symptom of anxiety. I’ve read a lot of posts on here about fogginess. Also, feeling isolated is so common. It’s because you know you’re not feeling right when you see others feeling normal. But they isolate in their own way. We can do it even if we’re surrounded by people. That can be social anxiety. I am on Vibryd for anxiety and still take my klonopin (stronger than most anxiety medications) at night. It can take time to find what works for you. Most medications need to be given at least two months to see if they’re working. But find a psychiatrist first and they’ll guide you. It’s just important to find coping mechanisms now so you don’t have to deal with so much of this when you’re older. Work towards the future and know that every step you take with therapy is accomplishing and will get you better. Maybe get into yoga, meditation or walking. Exercise and eating healthy have a big effect on our mental health too. My attacks used to be bad. I’d fall to the ground and couldn’t breath. But as time went on and I got wrapped up in work and did therapy, I’d only get anxiety. So the attacks do get less and less.

Yes I’ve been leaning on my family a lot recently and just being around them makes me feel better. I always feel better after telling the people I care about how I’ve been feeling instead of keeping it inside. I’m glad I’m not alone in this and you can understand how I feel. I have been going to a therapist but have lost time to see her since college started and I play college soccer so I’ve been very busy but I just scheduled an appointment and I might talk to her about trying a medication. I am just worried about side effects. Thank you for all of the tips I need to take more time out of my day to care for myself is what I realized from this. I’m sorry you experienced attacks too but it’s so hopeful to hear that it will get better.

Derealization, also called depersonalization, is is this strange feeling that the world is not real or you are not real. As scary as it is, it's important to remember that is it just another one of the many symptoms of anxiety, and nothing more than that.

Coping with this symptom is much the same as coping with panic attacks. The tendency with both is to react to it, struggle with it, ponder it and try to make it go away. Ironically, this is what fuels anxiety and panic, and symptoms like derealization.

It's best to learn to observe these feelings without engaging with them, without reacting to them or trying to make them go away. To accept these feelings and not struggle with them. To relax and go limp and float through these feelings. The better you get at this, the more you drain your anxiety of its power, until ultimately there is nothing left but the normal, helpful anxiety we should be feeling when a situation warrants it.

What's worked for me is Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and guided mindfulness meditation. I learned the therapies from books, being that I don't have the time or money to see a therapist. (If you want my favorite book titles let me know!). For meditation I use the Headspace app. There is a whole series of guided meditation specifically for managing anxiety.

It's also important to remember that these new, healthier ways of thinking take time to learn, so you have to try to be patient and not get too frustrated.

It may also help to think about any possible underlying cause. It's your freshman year, which is when you're trying to figure out what to do education and career-wise, which can be overwhelming though we don't realize it. You may possibly be keeping something out of your conscious thought (like "what to do with my life?", for example) and it is manifesting itself in the form of anxiety and panic. The solution here would be to bite the bullet and face what's worrying you head on.

Also know that this problem we're dealing with affects one in twenty people. We are not alone. And we will get through this.

the_mad00 in reply to teemo1

Wow thank you so much this was all very helpful it’s always great to know I’m not alone in this battle especially considering how strange and scary the symptoms can feel. I would love to know the names of your favorite book titles, I’ll take all the help and understanding I can get. Floating through the feelings is a great way to put it. I definitely need to try and do that more and remain calm instead of panicking when the symptoms start to happen. I think an underlying cause right now is feeling alone at college because I haven’t found many true friends yet but it’s only been a few months so I know things will get better.

teemo1 in reply to the_mad00

Hi, sorry I saw your reply just now! The book I read for CBT is called When Panic Attacks by David Burns. The one for ACT is called The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living by Russ Harris. (Though I know it's not easy to find extra time for reading when you're in college!)

The two therapy types seem sometimes a little at odds with each other but for me, they are both useful in different ways. You can pick and choose which techniques work best for you. And it takes time to sink in. After finishing a book it can take time to gradually improve as you get more and more used to applying what you've learned. I also highly recommend the Headspace app.

There is a big bonus from all of this. Once you have managed your anxiety and gotten it under control, you get to keep all of the techniques you've learned and apply them to other parts of your, career, friendships, relationships, creativity...everything.

And like you said I'm sure that once you settle in and make some good friends at school, that in itself will help enormously.

Hey I can kinda relate to your experience with anxiety while at college. I’m sorry you’re going through this and I would like to offer you support and help if you ever need it. Can you describe your anxiety? And what is going on when you start feeling anxious? Is it with classes, friends, leaving your dorm, eating meals alone, homework, or something else.

the_mad00 in reply to jgjuka18

Thank you for reaching out and offering support!! My attacks usually happen when I’m around a lot of people or if my mind feels overstimulated by noises like a lot of conversations going on. and I get this overwhelming feeling that I just can’t take it anymore and then it starts to feel like I’m completely isolated almost like a piece of glass is between me and everyone else while I’m having the attacks and like everything else around me is happening in fast motion or spinning almost. I know that sounds so crazy, it’s hard to explain but they scare me so much and I think a lot of my problem stems from my fear of the actual panic attacks and the fear that I won’t be understood if I have one in-front of others.

jgjuka18 in reply to the_mad00

So this is such a textbook suggestion but can you try grounding yourself? I know they make a bunch of apps to help people with that. I don’t experience derealization so I’m not sure if this will help but I carry a little fidget stick (not the fidget spinner). If you go on amazon and type in “fidget marble mesh” it will come up and they come in packs but you can get 12 for $6. They fit in my hand and I just play with them in my hands to help me stay present and have my body distracted so I can decrease my anxiety. I also highly suggest you checking out the website or app called the Mighty. I just checked and they do have people talking about their experience with derealization and how they deal with it. Their stories sound just like yours! On that network you can interact with people and get feedback. Honestly the website is better but the app is more convenient. I’m still here though to talk and help you but I think to answer the question you posted I would check out that site/app. When I have anxiety attacks that make me want to run away and hide in my room I do find it helpful going into a bathroom that no one uses and breathing for a minute and drinking cold water. I really hope some of this was helpful and we can keep talking about it if this wasn’t helpful.

the_mad00 in reply to jgjuka18

I appreciate your feedback so much!!! I will for sure check out the fidget sticks because finding ways to ground myself always helps when I feel that way so It would be nice to have something convenient in my hand. And wow thanks for bringing up that website I’ve been looking for people also experiencing derealization to better understand it and what I’m going through! The bathroom technique works well for me too! Thank you for all of the help if you ever need anything I’m here for you too

jgjuka18 in reply to the_mad00

I really hope you have found connections with that website or this one! I hope you have a chance to try the fidget stick thing. It would help me a lot during therapy while I was talking about trauma so I wouldn’t have a flashback. I would sometimes get flashbacks in class or something and once I started using that fidget thing I seemed to have them less often.

Hi Madalyn~

I definitely have experienced both anxiety & derealization at college. It's a huge transition to college--and everything you're feeling is normal. A lot if not most of college students feel anxiety and panic at some point in college. So it's is normal. Freshman year is the most common time because everything is new. It can be terrifying. Getting something familiar to carry with you that is soothing to keep you grounded is good. For me that would be a rock or a shell. Some people like squishy things. I keep those in my pocket to feel when I am anxious and it keeps me "grounded" so I don't derealize. Many many people wear ear buds with music, nature noises, or whatever you want and focus on what you're listening to to drown out the other loud noises. This could really really help you too! Also gives others the idea that you don't want to be spoken to (if you don't want to talk to anyone...a lot of people wear ear buds with nothing playing at all but just because they don't want to talk to anyone. So that's another idea.) So those are a few tricks. Hopefully they will help. College counselors are great to visit since they know exactly what your going through, they can refer you to great resources or help you with things that other therapists may not be able to. College counselors are typically free so I'd encourage you to take advantage of that too.

the_mad00 in reply to Jobug

Thank you so much for the suggestions. Feeling grounded in any way always makes me feel better so I’ll definitely get something to carry around in my pocket, because I’ve had a lot of people recommend that(: ah I’ve never thought to listen to nature music through my earbuds instead of music I’ll try that so I can relax more. I’m going to a counselor off campus but I need to look into what the college has to offer thanks for bringing that to my attention!

I go through this aswell. The world feels fake to me and I panic. It’s scary. Your not alone ❤️

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