What does a panic attack feel like?

Panic attacks present themselves in all different shapes and forms. Everyone’s experience with a panic attack differs. On Bank Holiday Monday I experienced my worst panic attack of this year. I thought I’d tell you a little bit about what triggered it and how it made me feel.

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One of my worst fears whilst driving is to get stuck in standstill traffic. Today, bank holiday Monday that happened. I had woken up feeling quite anxious but had decided to go out anyway, hoping it would improve my mood. My partner and I had just got onto the dual carriageway when a mile up the road we came across standstill traffic. I took a deep breath trying to keep calm, surely it would be moving again soon. I checked my phone and it said that the road wouldn’t reopen until 2pm, it was now 11am.

Now before I go any further with this post I just want to say that I know this is a bit of a sensitive subject, there are people out there who would just tell me to think how lucky I am not to have been involved in the actual accident. Yes, I know I’m very lucky not to have been hurt or to have any of my family or friends invovled in it. However, mental health does not work like that, just because you’re lucky not to be in a certain situation does not prevent a panic attack, etc… from occurring.

My thoughts go out to the bike rider involved in the accident and his family and friends. I can only imagine what a terrible experience it was for them. I hope the rider makes a full recovery and is one day able to tell the tale.


My panic attack – 

For me, standstill traffic is my worst nightmare, the feeling of being trapped in a car, potentially for hours. As the time ticked by I felt my anxiety increase until it evolved into a panic attack. The only time I’ve ever experienced a panic attack like this was at Christmas (you can read about it here).


After 45 minutes sat in the traffic the panic attack slowly built up and the feeling of being trapped was worsening. I could feel myself getting hotter and hotter, my palms clammy and I was starting to feel sick. Eventually my entire body was violently shaking, I had pins and needles in my hands, my face was going numb and my vision was beginning to go, I felt like I was going to pass out. The feeling would ebb away for a few moments, only to hit me again. It was exhausting and frightening. I knew that I could not sit here indefinitely fighting this.


My boyfriend reminded me that we were only about a mile and a half from the slip road and suggested I walk back to it and someone could come pick me up. I felt silly at first, I was making such a fuss when a few miles further up the road someone was suffering so badly. I told myself not to be so stupid and to sit tight. Despite trying to adopt this approach the panic attacks kept coming in waves and I knew that I had to get myself out of the situation.


After a very long walk back down the road I met my dad and went back to my parent’s house. As soon as I was out of the car I felt immensely better, knowing that there was an end in sight. I went back to my parents and waited for my boyfriend to get out of the traffic and drive over. In total my boyfriend sat in that traffic for three hours. I was incredibly grateful to have been able to get myself out of that situation as had I not I’m not sure what would have happened. My mum said I would have had to have called an ambulance. I disagreed with her, how could I have done that when they have so many more important emergencies to attend?


I pride myself in being able to get myself through most situations but normally there is an end in sight. Here in England when a traffic accident happens and roads are shut they can be shut for hours and hours at a time whilst evidence is gathered. All in all I believe that this particular road was shut for a total of 4 hours – this is quick in this country!

I’m writing this on the evening of the events so that the panic attack is fresh in my mind. I’m now physically and mentally exhausted, I also feel like a bit of an idiot for causing such a fuss. It’ll be a long while before I drive on another dual carriageway/motorway.


It’s now a few days later and I wanted to add to this post. Unfortunately, after a good night sleep the affects of the panic attack didn’t disappear. I woke up the following morning feeling physically exhausted and my body ached all over from having been so tense and having spent a long time violently shaking. Mentally I felt terrible too, I was tired, disappointed in myself and just generally felt fragile. I still don’t feel back on top of things yet. I’m trying to accept the fact that this was probably the second worst panic attack that I’ve had in my life and so it will take time to recover.


Drop me a comment below about the worst panic attack you’ve experienced.










24 thoughts on “What does a panic attack feel like?

  1. I remember screaming and shouting when suddenly in my head everything went quiet. I was aware I was screaming. A very strange sensation. Possibly hyperventilating. That was a bad attack. Generally I can’t do traffic jams. The tension in my stomach hurts for days if I do get caught in a jam. I can’t use the toilet as my muscles hurt so much for days. It’s most unpleasant. I haven’t had a bad attack for years now luckily. But I understand exactly how you feel. It takes long time to control your emotions enough to be able to stay in control. The logical part of the brain has to control the emotional part. The Chimp paradox is supposed to go into it in more detail.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a horrible feeling, almost an outer body experience but at the same time you couldn’t be more in touch with how you’re feeling! Traffic jams are my worst nightmare, this particular one is the worst I’ve ever come across. Controlling our emotions is a life long lesson! I shall have to look into the chimp paradox


    1. Thank you 💛 It’s nice to hear a positive story to know that you can face your fears and be strong enough to get through it xx


  2. Thank you for sharing your struggles with us! I can somehow relate because I get so much anxiety when I drive and it’s because of being in a car accident from a year ago. I still struggle with being behind the wheel and I’m more cautious of everything around me because I don’t want to be in a car accident ever again. So thank you!✨💗

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing this! It bugs me when people think all panic attacks are the same, hyperventilating and rocking back and forth. Each person can experience them differently, I’ve even had several different kinds of attacks! I hope you’re feeling better, I know panicking takes such a toll on your mind and your body x

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It really is. That the key though trying to break it .Its just figuring out how. Don’t give up trying to figure it out . I think your onto something with setting goals each month .🙂


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