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Sudden anxiety attacks

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Punch

New member
Joined
Dec 18, 2011
Messages
3
Ok, so I’m in my mid-30s, professionally successful and in my own opinion, pretty mentally and emotionally robust. I’ve never experienced anything resembling clinical anxiety before - that is, until a couple of weeks ago. Now I’m concerned my career is at serious risk.

I’ve been public speaking and doing pitches for over 15 years. Without wanting to sound arrogant, I travel the world pitching and more often than not winning business from some massive, globally renowned organisations.

I get nervous, butterflies in the stomach and all that’s, like most people do. I’m not sure I’d ever want to lose that; the adrenaline that comes with it helps rather than hinders.

But a couple of weeks ago something happened that I can’t fully explain. I had a pitch in London; it wasn’t particularly big or difficult - maybe 20 people in the room in total. It was a sit down pitch rather than stand-up, which I tend to find slightly easier in general.

The build up wasn’t great. I had a 6am train to get there on time, and my kids were both ill in the night so I had barely slept. My train was cancelled, which meant getting the next one with standing room only and stressing over being late. I made it on time, but had no time to eat.

In the moments running up to the start of the pitch I felt absolutely fine. Then, as it began, everything went nuts. I started shaking, jelly legs, feeling sick, sweating, heart palpitations, blood pressure through the roof, couldn’t breathe. Suddenly I was gripped with the fear of speaking. Panic, panic, panic. I had to get out of there.

When it came to speak, my voice cracked, I felt incredibly dizzy and honestly I felt like I was going to pass out. I have no idea why.

This lasted for maybe 10 minutes. I got through it and felt comfortable after that. We won the business, but my distress must have been noticeable during those first 10 minutes.

A week later, and I’m in Abu Dhabi for a routine client meeting. This time I’m well fed and well slept going into the meeting. It’s expected to be a positive meeting. I feel great.

Then all of a sudden I think to myself; “I hope THAT doesn’t happen again”. And then it does. I’m stood up but I have to sit down because my legs have gone. I’m shaking.

This time it doesn’t subside. I get through two hours of meeting, but my head is pounding, my blood pressure is crazy and it feels like my right eye is about to burst. It genuinely feels like it could pop. The meeting ends and I feel fine again.

I’m really worried I now have a complex. I love what I do for a living, and now suddenly out of nowhere, I’m worried I won’t be able to do it. I got through these two experiences - but my body was telling me to get out of there.

What of next time I actually escape or worse still, pass out. On both occasions the latter felt possible. I was a wreck.

My careeer is in danger here. I just wondered if my experiences sounded familiar or if anyone had any advice. This has come out of the blue and I’ve no idea what to do.

Thanks!
 
R

Rosieameira

New member
Joined
Nov 30, 2019
Messages
3
Location
Australia
Hello. :) yeah a panic attack is caused by an increase in fear. You were stressed the first time, sleep and food are big ones and then things not going to plan, it’s was all a lot. Then the meeting itself was just another stress on top which it sounds like usually isn’t a big deal but because there was so much stress already you went into fight or flight. It was such a buildup of worry your brain thought you were in danger and needed to escape. Because they are so terrifying you remembered it and worried it would happen again in that situation. The second time was caused by worrying about it, that was all the additional fear your brain needed to send you into fight or flight again because you were so afraid. Then there will of course be more fears for your career, that’s why it was worse. There was more fear because it happened again and you were even more worried. It’s not the situation it’s the panic attack that’s scary but your brain kind of associates it with the situation so it becomes a trigger.

I used to have daily panic attacks in all kinds of situations so I know exactly what you mean in regards to feeling like your going to faint. I never did though. Its quite rare to faint from a panic attack because fainting usually involves a sudden drop in blood pressure and panic attacks cause your blood pressure to increase. Knowing this was very helpful. Nothing bad actually happens it’s just the overwhelming sense that something bad is going to and you need to get out and you focus on your body and stress over everything which feeds it more fear and makes it worse.

You did really well not leaving both times which is the natural instinct. To not have panic attacks in certain situations you need to not be afraid of having one there because the fear is what will bring it on and make it worse. This can be tricky because they are terrifying... my advice would be to remember it can’t hurt you (even though it feels like something terrible is going to happen) and it’s very unlikely you will faint. See it as something trying to ruin your presentation and that your not going to let it...the main thought needs to be its a panic attack and as much as it feels like it, I’m actually fine and it can’t hurt me.

Your not in that deep with only two, but if it does happen again try to get through basically carrying on and refusing to be afraid and not leaving as you have been doing. Ignore it as best you can and remind yourself it can’t hurt you. Its about not responding to them with fear, because that’s what makes it worse and in turn makes you more afraid of it and enforces to your brain the situation is scary and dangerous. Your brain learns it doesn’t need to be afraid in that situation because you dont respond to it with fear, so it stops sending you into fight or flight because it doesn’t think you need to escape in that situation anymore.

I don’t know your thoughts on meditation but it can help before presenting because it kind of brings your emotional state back to neutral, it’s not a build up of stress and then one more thing being the presentation. Your pretty calm after meditating and then it’s the thing, so your less likely to go into fight or flight. I hope that helps! Read the book ‘the mean reds’ I think it’s on iBooks it explains all this way better. ☺
 
W

Worriedgirl88

Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2019
Messages
10
Location
United Kingdom
The first time was probably more due to lack of sleep food and a stressful start to the day. You were running on empty
The second is because you thought of it again. I know how that feels as this is me every morning. I was against medication but i got to the point i couldnt do the school run or eat so i went to docs. He put me on the lowest dose of propanalol tablets. These stop the anxiety symptons ie racing heart dizzy shaking and make things easier to cope with. They dont need to be taken every day too maybe talk to your doctor about these. Try one for the next few meetings so you cant get the symptons then when your body realises you are fine again you wont need them. Good luck xx
 
C

ChrisAUK

Member
Joined
Dec 3, 2019
Messages
5
Location
UK
I'd just like to add to this, your symptoms are exactly what i start to get once i start to focus on a small pain or ache in my body, if i let my mind concentrate on that pain or ache my symptoms build up and build up.

I think because you have suffered to symptoms once you worry about it happening again, which is exactly what brings on my symptoms
 
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