On Panic Attacks

A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend who mentioned they'd had a pretty bad panic attack. They've suffered them over the years so it wasn't a much of a shock but it sounded pretty awful. At I was about to say "I can't even imagine what that was like", I realised that I've had one before.

At Thursday's WiT Nottingham Kristina Adams mentioned about health (both mental and physical) and how we need to look after ourselves.

As part of this, she mentioned that panic attacks can be more intense than a heart attack and have effects that are more severe than a stroke. That's incredibly scary, and the point of mentioning it was to make folks think about seeing what help, support, or treatment you could get for these sorts of things.

I remember the panic attack I suffered being during an exam in my second year on one of my more theoretical modules. It wasn't one of my better modules, and like with a couple of modules in uni, I lost all motivation to revise for them.

I got to the exam, flicked through the questions and thought "oh shit" - I was so underprepared.

My back suddenly started to really hurt, and I asked if any of the invigilators had any paracetamol. I was told no, and that I could go get some, but unfortunately wouldn't be able to continue with the exam.

I decided to rush through the exam as best as I could, making sure did as well as I felt I could before I left.

Up until now, it was only a bad bit of back pain, and as I only lived about 10 minutes away, I decided that instead of getting paracetamol, I'd just get home.

As I'd got about a minute from the Computer Science building, I started to feel a quite intense pain in my chest. I started having difficulty breathing. This wasn't just back pain, this was something much, much worse.

I was just next to the Business School (South) building, so quickly rushed into their reception and asked if there was a first aider. While waiting for them to come (what seemed ages but was at most a minute) I started to get worse, not knowing what was going on.

I now realise that the panic from my lack of preparedness for my exam was the cause, and then not knowing it was a panic attack caused more panic. I was really struggling to breathe, and was severely worried for my life! Like, this could've been a heart attack, I didn't know.

The first aider asked me to lie on the ground and asked some questions, but I can't remember what they said. It felt like I was laying on the floor for quite some time, and I vaguely remember a lecture finishing and seeing lots of folks walking past, staring at me. I remember feeling a little embarrassed, as I was making a scene, but I think there were worse things to worry about.

After what probably was only 10 minutes or so, I felt better and went home, and although a little shaken, was fine.

So why am I sharing this? Is there a moral of the story?

I wanted to help give some more visibility of these things, and that they can happen to anyone, and that it's OK to talk about it. It's really important to keep others aware of mental health (even though it is an incredibly personal) because it helps others know where you are mentally and whether they need to be more supportive at a given time.

Written by Jamie Tanna's profile image Jamie Tanna on , and last updated on .

Content for this article is shared under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International, and code is shared under the Apache License 2.0.

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