All worked up, and nothing to show for it
February 1, 2011 10:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting worked up and freaked out about nothing, have you done this before, have any solutions?

As I was lying down to go to bed I got really upset and freaked out. I feel like adrenaline is just filling up my body, my heart beat feels pretty urgent. I started crying. I was a little upset about something. But it is not urgent or overwhelming. Yet I have this physical, followed by emotional feeling of urgency and panic.

Now I don't feel like I can go to bed. I just feel all worked up, and it seems over nothing, no real provocation. What's going on. There is a something very physical going on. I sort of thought panic attack, but I don't feel like I'm having a heart attack or something, which is what I understand panic attacks to be like.

What does this sound like to you. And what can I do to diffuse it?
posted by chocolatemilkshakes to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Generalized Anxiety Disorder could be one explanation. You should talk to a doctor who knows about such things, if this is interfering with your life.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:11 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

A clarification I should have made. I didn't cry because I said "oh I am so sad I feel worked up" but instead like I felt sad, part of this overwhelming feeling I'm having is feeling overwhelmingly sad. But it was a sadness blown out of proportion, I was feeling misunderstood by someone I care about. But it wasn't something that just happened, and my violently sudden sadness and crying about it seems out of proportion.

Thanks for you help all.!
posted by chocolatemilkshakes at 10:11 PM on February 1, 2011

It's a panic attack. It doesn't have to be precipitated by anything and it's not always like a heart attack. My panic attacks have sometimes felt like I'm being squeezed really hard around the middle and I have severe back pain. See a therapist, AND get some anti anxiety medication from a GP or psychiatrist (preferable). Please don't mess around with anxiety induced sleep disruption/deprivation -- I've been there and it can be a long road back.
posted by sweetkid at 10:16 PM on February 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

By sitting down and posting this question, you have already done something very helpful. You thought about what you were feeling, noticing how it felt in your body, and you put that into words. Now you can look at these words and see the feeling they describe as separate from you who read them in this moment.

More than that, you reached out to us. You asked other people for help and encouragement. You are taking good steps.

Your breath is your friend in moments like these. By bringing your attention to your breath and making your breaths slow and long, you can actually change the mixture of gases in your blood, and bring relaxation to your body.

Here's a thought. Make yourself something warm to drink. Maybe change into your favorite PJs, fluff the pillow and straighten the covers. And when you get back in bed, just be with the breath. Make the inbreaths and outbreaths long and easy and even, and let the breath rock your mind to sleep.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:19 PM on February 1, 2011 [16 favorites]

I've had panic attacks since the age of 14 and I don't think I would describe them as 'having a heart attack'. Although, back then I did think that maybe I my heart would stop in my sleep.

To me, it's more of a feeling of heart racing, breathing fast and heavy... a sense of escaping the area and/or myself... my mind racing... sometimes a pins and needles feeling. Basically the feeling of panic.

Its sounds like something upset you more than you think it did.

What can you do? Drink some tea, watch something funny, call a friend, concentrating on breathing, clean/organize something, etc. Basically something to keep your mind busy with something else.

Hopefully it's just a one-time thing and you'll be feeling back to normal ASAP.
posted by KogeLiz at 10:22 PM on February 1, 2011

I used to live with someone who had several panic attacks a week, and have had a few myself. This sounds like it could easily be one. My understanding is that anyone can have a panic attack and it doesn't necessarily mean you have something chronically wrong or will start having them regularly (though there are obviously ways to handle that if you did).

I recommend watching something funny you like, like a favorite movie or TV show, have a snack, a glass of water, whatever usually helps you feel zoned out and relaxed (though maybe not booze or drugs since you don't want that to be your go-to thing for this).
posted by elpea at 10:33 PM on February 1, 2011

Have some water, breathe normally, go play a mindless game until you're tired again. Up your hydration and lay off the caffeine for a bit. Consult your GP if it keeps happening.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:33 PM on February 1, 2011

As others have said it's a panic attack. You can go the route of psychiatrists/pills or just try to suck it up. My specific advice is to watch some awful TV (House Hunters or Mythbusters marathon for example) until you get sleepy again. For once TV turning off your brain will be a good thing. It'll be awful but, anecdotally, this is likely not going to start happening to you every night. If that does happen, sure, look into solutions.
posted by Patbon at 10:41 PM on February 1, 2011

Also don't think you're insane or something for having this sort of come out of no where. That's, unfortunately, how they work, bubbling up from subconscious or even partially forgotten feelings.
posted by Patbon at 10:43 PM on February 1, 2011

That was a panic attack.

They can happen anytime, without provocation.

The biggest piece of the puzzle as to HOW to conquer them is to remember that they END.

Thinking that something was wrong and that I might have to deal with them everyday for the rest of my life just fed the loop.

There are also plenty of pieces of sage advice listed here. Distract yourself with something funny is always the best.

And good luck.
posted by gcbv at 10:44 PM on February 1, 2011

I was in my twenties before I realized that not everybody feels this way for some part of every day.

I've lived with this feeling my whole life. Think of having an internal thermometer. Yours just went off the Richter scale. Some people's thermometers are naturally set higher or lower than others.

It's alright. You'll be fine. Distraction is the key right now. I read trashy books, or reread childhood books on nights like this. Sometimes funny TV can help, or a very familiar movie (The Princess Bride was my adolescent go to for this).

If you've never practiced paying attention to your breath, it's unlikely to help you in the moment. But keep in mind for later. Spend a little bit of time each day from now on just breathing. Using your breath is a useful skill to have but, in my experience, it must be practiced to be useful in times like these.

Another trick of mine is to visualize, in great detail, my grandmother's home. I start at the front door and try to remember sounds and textures along with the visualization. This has helped me get through panic attacks for years.

If you're lucky, this won't happen again. Get some exercise this week, tomorrow if possible. It always helps.
posted by dchrssyr at 10:52 PM on February 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

N'thing everyone else saying panic attack. I think everyone's are slightly different, and part of the initiation to the Brother(and Sister-!)hood of the Panicked is finding what coping strategies work for you. In addition to the excellent suggestions of tea/water, something funny, mindless game (I love puzzle games on my phone for this), I'd also like to add the suggestion of a bath or a shower. I do think it's important to stay out of bed until you're feeling calmer so that you don't lie down and anguish over whatever triggered this.

I also recommend a sound machine (I like nature noises, but others prefer music, white noise, etc.) for falling asleep once you're ready to go back to bed. By having something to listen to, it helps keep me from thinking something to death.

Welcome to the Brother(and Sister-!)hood.

When I had my first panic attack, it helped me to know I wasn't going crazy or the only person in the world who had 'em.
posted by smirkette at 10:54 PM on February 1, 2011

Thanks everyone! I love how I know I can get quick helpful answers here, even in the middle of the night. Took alot of your suggestions, just drank some tea and played a room escape game online. Still a little jumpy, but I've definitely calmed down a notch.

All of you're answers were really helpful and comforting thank you. I'm gonna go try sleeping again. Goodnight!
posted by chocolatemilkshakes at 11:04 PM on February 1, 2011

Datapoint: My panic attacks come in the form of feeling like I'm the statue in the middle of a snowglobe. The ENTIRE WORLD is swirling all over the place, and I'm the only thing that's staying still. Add body tremors and hyperventilation, and it gets very uncomfortable. The aftermath is generally some weariness, very mild leftover dizziness, and tingly fingertips. I generally tend to start crying uncontrollably partway through (very embarrassing, frankly) so I get to deal with that at the same time too.

... Having one in the car while on the highway is the reason I keep both hands on the wheel at ALL TIMES. It was something my mind could focus on as 'stable', and managed to keep me coherent long enough to pull over and call 911.

Like everyone says, breathe carefully and deliberately, and welcome to the 'Hood.

... Oh, and at least for me, having a Drink (as in alcoholic) afterward makes me super queasy, so I'd possibly avoid that. Tea, however, is perfectly okay.
posted by Heretical at 11:26 PM on February 1, 2011

That sounds pretty much exactly like the panic attacks I've had for years. The adrenalin, the urgent heartbeat, the anxiety and urge to cry -- all symptoms I had too. I eventually went on medication (Zoloft), since the attacks were happening frequently, both day and night, and really disrupting my life, and they've slowed down a LOT.
posted by sarcasticah at 12:02 AM on February 2, 2011

I've been there before. Sometimes all it takes is time away from an anxiety inducing situation or location... At least that's what worked for me... Sometimes time is the best remedy.
posted by antgly at 12:04 AM on February 2, 2011

I have only ever had one heart-attack-feeling panic attack in my life, but I have had plenty of what I call "anxiety attacks". Your experience sounds exactly like one of those. I am not awesome at dealing with them, but they do go away. I'm really just here to confirm that it doesn't have to feel like a heart attack (though it's really, really weird when it does).
posted by Because at 3:33 AM on February 2, 2011

For what it's worth, I experienced a full-blown panic attack exactly one time in my life, almost 30 years ago. So it's not like everyone who's ever experienced a panic attack is doomed to a diagnosis of anxiety and a lifetime of medication.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 3:43 AM on February 2, 2011

Panic attack. If it's the only time it's happened (or it happens only rarely), I wouldn't worry too much about it. If they become frequent (or frequent-ish), I'd talk to a doctor ... medicine and/or therapy can help a lot. (And they do come in flavors ranging from "OMG HEART ATTACK" to "Wow, this level of adrenaline and upset is really unwarranted, oh well.")

Sometimes just knowing, "Okay, this is a panic attack, I'm having this physical reaction to emotional stress that actually ISN'T THERE" can help you calm down. (A lot of people with frequent panic attacks feel they're ALREADY under better control just from having a doctor put a name to it.)

Personally I take calm breaths and remind myself, "This is just panic, I'm fine, but I am definitely a little freaked out," but once you've got that level of adrenaline in your system, it's just going to be a while before you're calm again. I just had one of those nightmares that wake you with adrenaline, which is why I'm awake and would rather not be! I know I'll calm down and forget about it, but it'll be a while (and given the time of day, I'll probably have to give up on sleep and have a nap later instead). You might remind yourself that it's just like that -- a huge adrenaline rush/freakout premised on nothing at all, just like a nightmare that wakes you -- and cope accordingly. Eventually you'll calm down and be fine, eventually you'll forget about it, until then, you might as well do something to take your mind off it and think about a nap later.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:09 AM on February 2, 2011

Try taking up yoga or meditation.
Next time you have a panic attack, remind yourself that it is just a panic attack and try either the yoga or the meditation -- you may find that one or the other (either movement or still) helps you get yourself back under control better. The key is to practice before hand so the movements come automatically when you need them.
posted by LittleMy at 8:18 AM on February 2, 2011

Try noticing your bodily state, and describe it in physical terms. Separate it from your emotions. Then separate your emotions from your perceptions of reality. Then separate your perceptions from your thoughts, which you will see to be false assumptions ultimately based on your bodily state.

I've also found that eating healthy food helps: if you try to live on a diet of high-carb snacks, your blood sugar will be on a roller coaster and so will your emotions.
posted by bad grammar at 6:09 PM on February 2, 2011

Nthing LittleMy.

Also Google "square breathing". It's an easy technique to learn and helped me a lot.

I'd suggest laying off all intoxicants (including caffeine) for a few weeks, getting a really generous amount of sleep every night, and rereading/rewatching some of your favorite books, movies, tv shows, whatever keeps your mood up.

It will get better. As others said, the fact that you were able to sit down and make this post tells me that you are going to be fine. There's no way I would have been able to do that during my first panic experience. That said (knock wood), I haven't had an attack in well over a decade.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 11:29 PM on February 7, 2011

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