If you've never experienced a panic attack before, allow us to give you a little spoiler alert: They're the absolute worst.
For many of the 40 million American adults who experience an anxiety disorder, panic attacks are a common occurrence. The physical symptoms alone are debilitating, and include labored breathing, chills and a spike in blood pressure.
However, perhaps the most draining symptom of a panic episode is the emotional aspect. There are crippling thoughts that happen during a panic attack, making it a terrifying mind-body experience.
We asked our Facebook community to share just some of the things that run through their mind during a panic attack. Check out some of their responses below -- they're further proof that mental health conditions are anything but easy.
1. "I don't feel good."
"My panic attacks start off as a feeling of something 'not quite right' going on in my body, then my mind goes on overdrive as I begin to obsess over every sensation I notice." --Angela Bugli
When panic attacks first start, people may get sweaty palms or dizziness. This may initially cause them to feel like something else might be wrong.
2. "Oh no, not again."
"[I think] these attacks will never go away. I know this is irrational, but I can't make it stop." --Jessi Merrill
Panic attacks are often a recurring symptom of mental illnesses, particularly for those with a panic disorder. However, just because someone has experienced a panic episode before doesn't mean it's any easier to handle.
3. "How embarrassed will I be this time because I can't get past this unfounded fear?"
"I think about how silly I feel and how it's all going to be okay. You know all of this, but the spiraling just keeps happening." --Mendy Serbantez
Many fears at the core of anxiety are categorized as irrational. Whatever triggers the panic attack usually is unfounded -- but the brain often doesn't know the difference.
4. "Am I having a heart attack?"
"My chest starts to hurt, like my heart is racing horrifically fast. I'll feel like I'm losing my mind... because nothing is really wrong but it definitely feels real. The tears will come along with the frustration at being out of control." --Staci Lynne
Sometimes the chest tightens during a panic attack, prompting many to seek medical care. After one particularly bad panic episode, singer Demi Lovato said she went to the emergency room because she couldn't catch her breath.
5. "People are judging me right now."
"People truly need to learn the difference between normal fear and anxiousness and real anxiety disorders. I think many try to hide [anxiety disorders] and make excuses because they fear judgment." --Laura Pederson
There's a huge stigma surrounding mental health conditions. Panic attacks can sometimes be aggravated by fear of negative stereotyping, especially when they happen out of the blue in a public place.
6. "Why can't I just be normal and brave like everyone else?"
"It feels like a veil is in front of you and nothing is real. A fear sets in and you feel like you may faint." --Jennifer Brody Fass
Mental illness feels truly isolating, but it's more commonplace than many people realize. Approximately one in four people will experience a mental health issue at some point in his or her life.
7. "I'm going to die."
"[In the moment], you have no doubt that you are going to die. It is a feeling of being claustrophobic in your own body." --Lisa Tolli Kogan
During the peak part of a panic attack, people experience painful symptoms such as an inability to catch their breath or pain in their chest. This can cause someone to feel like their body is shutting down.
8. "My loved ones will be disappointed."
"My brain is truly rushing with thoughts. It usually ends with 'my family/friends/coworkers will be disappointed with my inability to get through this.'" --Wendy Prater Mendoza
A strong support system is crucial when it comes to mental health conditions. If a loved one is experiencing an episode of panic, here are some dos and don'ts to follow.
9. "Please make it stop."
"I think, 'I have to get out of here, get away. I can't do this, I can't feel this.'" --Christy Sharshel
An average panic attack lasts anywhere from a few moments to 10 minutes -- but each one of them feels long and excruciating.
10. "Just breathe."
"I focus on this mantra, 'breathe, breathe, just breathe,' spoken slowly and repeatedly as I shove my fingertips into my chest in a vain attempt to make my heart not tear itself out of my body." --Joyce Crook
People who have experienced panic attacks before may have go-to coping mechanisms that may help them calm down. For some, it's a mantra. For others, it's focusing on a particular item in their line of vision.
If you or someone you know is looking for some ways to calm down an anxious thought, try one of these tricks. Everyone deserves to feel well.
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