What Brings on a Panic Attack?


A good friend of mine landed in the hospital overnight – waking up with serious vertigo and a racing heart. He was sure he was having a heart attack. His wife called 911 and off they went to the emergency room.

The doctors did all kinds of tests – and thankfully eliminated both stroke and a heart attack which leaves them to thinking what he had was a good old fashioned Panic Attack.

Mayo Clinic describes the symptoms:

Sense of impending doom or danger
Fear of loss of control or death
Rapid, pounding heart rate
Trembling or shaking
Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
Hot flashes
Abdominal cramping
Chest pain
Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
Numbness or tingling sensation

On the outside, this man is a calm mannered successful father, husband, businessman, grandfather. Looking at him you’d say he has it all together.

I’ve had one other friend who years ago experienced a series of panic attacks and a family member who did too – each person had the fear that they were going to die.

And in each diagnosis, it was “only” a panic attack. Mayo Clinic says the fear of having another panic attack has actually caused people to have another. Some people get therapy from a psychiatrist to determine the reason for the attack. Others chalk it up to a one-off experience.

I’ve never had a panic attack myself – thankfully, but it sure sounds awful.

Anyone here know of a friend of family member who has gone through one or more panic attacks? What have they done afterwards? No medical diagnosis please, just some of your observations. Thanks.

8 thoughts on “What Brings on a Panic Attack?

  1. I had one at home shortly after my husband died. I didn’t know what it was at first but realized it was a panic attack about half way through. I just tried to breathe normally until my heart stopped pounding & the dizziness, shaking & nausea passed. I haven’t had another one & it’s been 8+ years now but I can certainly understand someone thinking they might be having a heart attack. I checked right away with Dr. Google & then followed up with my real Dr. during my annual checkup. Both Drs. concurred.

    1. Wow, I am utterly impressed you were able to stay calm, self diagnose, breathe, and get through it. That’s amazing. Perhaps it was logical to you that you were having a panic attack because you had just lost your husband but in this case, there doesn’t seem to be any trigger, other than he was offered (and accepted) a new job.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

        1. Logic says you are right but he’s a seasoned businessman who has even changed careers midstream. He’s at an age (65++) where he could comfortably retire if he wanted but loves the challenge work brings. The new job sought him out. So I’m thinking not the new job. I’ll be interested in hearing updates from his wife.

  2. Without giving away details, let me say from experience that this is a symptom of modern life that seems to attack all manner on non-panicky personality types. It is a very complex physiological phenomenon.

    1. That’s interesting because this guy is someone who could be described as Mr. Cool as a Cucumber. Soft spoken. Quiet. Who knows, maybe he kept all his stress inside?

      The good news is that he’s home from the hospital now. The doctors said he passed all the tests that they gave him. Yay.

  3. And just to remind you, our gone but not forgotten HBO character, Tony Soprano, started that series off with a panic attack, sending him to Dr. Melfi. This setup the sub-theme that even though you are a Mafia boss, you can still be “every man” with your family and business stresses. Ba-da-boom.

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