What a Panic Attack Feels Like

Even though panic attacks are unique in the fear and helplessness they cause, there are some things to which they can be compared for clarity’s sake. So, here is my list of things a panic attack feels like.

Hummingbirds filling your body.

When your heart is racing and your pulse thrums just under your skin, you can get this surreal feeling up a million little wings beating around inside of you. Those little birds flit and fly through your veins, brush against your muscles, and flutter within your chest cavity until you want to reach in and rip them out.

Someone shaking you mercilessly.

My biggest problem with panic attacks is the way my body shakes and convulses during a particularly bad one. It’s not just little shivers and shudder. It is noticeable, uncontrollable, debilitating trembling that keeps me from even standing up straight. It’s like someone has just grabbed you by the shoulders and is shaking you until your teeth feel ready to fall out.

Your body drawing into your center.

Every tendon and muscle tightens like a guitar string. Your knuckles go white. Your jaw clenches. Someone or something has grasped the strings that lead to your edges and is jerking them in toward a spot just beneath your chest. All you can wonder is when those strings will finally snap.

A whirlwind buffeting you from inside. 

The main image I get for this one is when I’m shaking so violently and crying with such pitiful force that I just start whipping my head around and sending my hair bouncing around my face. Contrary to the comparison I made a moment ago, this one feels like your pieces are being forced out, and you’ll soon fall into a heap of bits and parts with no clear function.

Your heart is a switch flipped at random.

Probably the absolute worst thing having to do with panic attacks is how utterly random they can be. While I have certain triggers, other times I can suffer an attack out of the blue. It’s horrible because when someone later asks what set it off, you feel so ashamed because you don’t know. You don’t know, and you feel like you were overreacting or being dramatic or that something is irrevocably wrong with you. But that’s just it, they can come from nowhere. More like panic ambushes than foreseeable attacks.

So, these are five things I think accurately describe the feeling of a panic attack. Notice that most of them have to do with your inner workings being affected. That’s because a panic attack is rooted in how your mind and insides work together. No one is hitting you and leaving a panic attack impressed on your chest.

The impression is from the attack pushing out.