panic attacks??

Mar 14th, 2007, 09:19 AM
  #1  
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panic attacks??

When I fly (which isn't very often), during take off, I start to feel a TREMENDOUS pressure in my chest, like I'm being crushed! And therefore, it feels like I literally cannot breathe! Does this happen to anyone else?

The very first time I flew back in 1984, I didn't feel this way at all, during take off. My ears popping was a bigger problem! But in 1998 (the second time I flew) we started climbing, and gradually, it felt like all the air was being sucked out of my body, and I couldn't seem to take a deep breath! I had a panic attack so bad, I scared the passengers all around me! I was sure I was going to die!

On the flight back (two weeks later), I felt...NOTHING when we took off! I could breathe normal. I remember my head felt a little "swimmy" but that was all.

In 1999, when I flew again, I felt the same sensation in my chest, only I resisted screaming and scaring the passengers! I got through it,(it seemed to go on for about 10 minutes, just like the first time) but my chest hurt something awful--maybe from holding in my screams. When I returned home four days later, again, I was able to breathe just fine during take off!

People have told me I had a panic attack. But it sure didn't feel like one! I really thought I was dying! My two friends, who often fly, told me they don't experience that sensation. And the passengers on the plane around me, were obviously fine.

Now, I'm going on a trip in May. I'm taking Ativan, before I board the plane. I hope this helps. I have to admit I was scared out of my mind, back in 1998, when I flew for the secone time (I don't know why, I knew what to expect!). But I don't want the same thing to happen again. So, can anyone else give me advice? I hope the Ativan is enough. I take it reguarly anyway. I would like to avoid creating an embarrassing scene again! LOL
cmm1972 is offline  
Mar 14th, 2007, 09:45 AM
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I guess, yours is a case of what physicians call "air travel intolerance with respiratory symptoms". This happens mainly due to cabin pressure.

Usuall, most aircrafts are pressurised to cabin altitudes up to 2438 m. At this height, the partial pressure of oxygen will have dropped to the equivalent of breathing 15.1% oxygen at sea level, but not inside the aircraft

But there are wide concerns regarding altitude exposure. You're not the only one to experience this. Please consult your physician and get advice!!!

Fear not!!Happy Flying!!

earthhopper is offline  
Mar 14th, 2007, 09:56 AM
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HKP
 
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Do see your physician and/or cardiologist and/or a specialist in panic attacks. But:

1. Is it possible you were reacting to the increased "G" force in a plane that's both accelerating and climbing at a stiff angle? I've found that I get into trouble with smaller planes and/or with take-offs that involve a very steep climb (often because of noise-abatement requirements) until they level off and ease into cruising speed and altitude.

2. Have you ever tried "square breathing" when you feel yourself "losing it"? Square breathing is: inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts. It does a lot to re-regulate your body's rhythms and calm your mind down.
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Mar 14th, 2007, 12:36 PM
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If you went from feeling normal and calm to feeling like you're honestly going to die all within ten seconds or so, you probably had a panic attack. There isn't another feeling like it in the world that I've found so far. The intense feeling of dread is very real. I have found that Xanax helps very much.
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Mar 15th, 2007, 04:10 AM
  #5  
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Ativan and Xanax are in the same category. You might also look into learning some relaxation techniques- get a tape or cd that provides instruction in "progressive muscle relaxation," and practice the techniques at least daily for two weeks before departure; take the cd (or download it onto an MP-3 player/IPod) and use it on the plane. You might also check out podcasts related to "relaxation." This all might help with calming the autonomic nervous system (respiration, pulse, blood pressure), which has an impact on feelings of anxiety or panic.
 
Mar 15th, 2007, 05:18 AM
  #6  
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Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful advice!
cmm1972 is offline  
Mar 15th, 2007, 08:38 AM
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Totally a pleasure CMM!! Everything will be great!!
earthhopper is offline  
Mar 16th, 2007, 02:29 PM
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Try this simple exercise: inhale, then slowly exhale saying "reeeelaaaaaaax" while exhailing. If it helps, keep your eyes closed.
FainaAgain is offline  
Mar 25th, 2007, 10:08 PM
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FWIW, G forces in an airliner are very minimal, and they exist only briefly under certain conditions, such as the start of a climb (but not a steady climb, no matter how steep it is), and in turns. The difference is usually only a few percent above normal even when it exists, so it should hardly be noticeable (less than an elevator).
AnthonyGA is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 06:55 AM
  #10  
HKP
 
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Anthony, you've apparently never been in a plane taking off at a 45+ -degree angle to comply with noise-abatement!

More to the point, I suspect you're one of those lucky people who really isn't as sensitive to changes in velocity, acceleration, centrifugal or other forces as some people are.

I assure you, I've been in many take-offs where I'd rather have been rising in the Sears Tower elevator -- but even then, the point is that some of us are very bothered by both elevators AND steep take-offs or banking turns in a plane (never mind theme-park rides). My suggestion was that OP might have had a response to take-off that was triggered not only by anxiety but by the acceleration and angle of ascent. I have a similar sensation of pressure most of the time, too -- and it's only fun for people who love the sensation, while others just don't notice it.

HKP is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 12:51 PM
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Actually, I've been in such planes. They don't encounter any particularly high G forces.

The angle of climb in an aircraft has nothing to do with G forces. Some modern aircraft can climb very steeply if called upon to do so—the 757 comes to mind, although most other airliners can do it (they just don't in normal service in order to avoid spooking passengers). Even in the steepest climb, the G force is always normal.

In a steep climb, the net acceleration vector shifts rearwards a bit, giving you the (correct) impression that you are angled upward. The angle almost always feels far steeper than it actually is: a 10-degree climb may feel like 60 degrees if you have no visual references (or if you misinterpret the references that you have, or if you are simply the nervous type).

In a turn, you will not feel any turning sensation, but you will feel just slightly heavier, as coordinated turns (and all airliner turns are coordinated, i.e., banking turns) do produce a very slight extra G force (you might be a few pounds heavier in the turn). Your semicircular canals interpret this as a sensation of going up, rather than turning, but the sensation is incorrect. Looking out the window and seeing the sky tilt also spooks some passengers, but it is quite harmless—you do exactly the same thing when riding a bicycle, riding a motorcycle, skiing, or skating. If you aren't looking out the window, you won't know that you're turning; instead, you'll feel as if you are going up.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 01:11 PM
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I'm a psychologist and you are describing the classic symptoms of a panic attack which are sometimes confused with a heart attack. Your feeling like you were going to die is classic. Benzos like ativan and xanax work great as well as relaxation. See a professional. You don't have to suffer.
SharonG is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 01:33 PM
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Thanks again, everyone, for your advice! Actually, I saw my doctor yesterday. I told him how I felt, and he also says this is a panic attack. Since I already take Ativan for anxiety anyway, he told me the morning of the flight, to take TWO Ativan instead, and I should be fine. But thank you to everyone who answered my questions. I feel better already! You were all very helpful!
cmm1972 is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 04:23 PM
  #14  
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Practicing relaxation techniques with a professional might help reduce your need for benzos! Have a great trip!
 

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