A Panic Attack, Part 1: Teenage Panic Attacks

teenage panic attacksI have described the initial trauma in my life that caused me to have anxiety attacks starting at age seven. Without any professional help or support from my family, my panic attacks plagued me almost daily in my teenage years.

Teenage Panic Attacks

As a teen, I experienced severe panic attacks.  They were terrifying, gut wrenching full body ordeals. I had them very frequently, mostly in school, often several in a school day.

Here is a play by play of a typical panic attack for me as a teenager. I will use the scenario of sitting in a classroom, which has been a huge trigger and plagued me daily throughout my high school and college years.

The class is 11th grade English, and we are studying Shakespeare. This class is in the afternoon, right after lunch. Although it is hard for me to sit in any class without having an anxiety attack, this class is the worst for me.

Firsts of all, I don’t like the room. It is small with too many desks in it. I also hate that the door is in the front of the room. I prefer doors towards the back of the room, because in case I throw up or have to run, I don’t want the whole class staring at me.

I always sit in the seat closest to the exit door, but in this class, we have assigned seats. I am required to sit in a row that is 4 rows from the door and I am in the second seat. If I panic and have to leave, I will have to bowl the teacher over, as she stands directly in my escape path. So I feel very trapped and completely blocked from my exit path, which is hugely distressing.

Since my panic attacks in high school always involved fear of throwing up in class, I make sure not to eat lunch the period before this class. (Over the course of this semester, I will lose 10 pounds, and already being a skinny girl, I became freakish looking.) Furthermore, I keep Tums and a slew of antacids and peppermint gum (I read somewhere that peppermint gum can calm the stomach) in my purse and chew them like candy to prevent the projectile vomiting that will surely happen if I let the panic overtake me. (I know this intuitively, although I have never vomited in public, much less projectile vomited in my entire life).

This class is the worst because in it are popular high school kids and if I throw up or go crazy, I will just die. I am frozen with fear of what I think others are thinking of me. Sitting so close to the front of the room, I can actually feel the eyes of everyone behind me staring at me. I feel as if I am under a magnifying glass and their eyes are burning holes into my back and head. I can feel the bile in my stomach threatening to come up.

This feeling becomes so overwhelming that I feel I cannot move or someone will know that I am crazy. In my efforts to sit perfectly still, yet still look natural, I become red hot on my back and face and my heart is racing. My arm pits are cold and wet. I keep forcing myself to swallow, so the vomit won’t come up.

My breathing comes rapidly, as if I am running a one minute mile while sitting in the chair. Then I start to get dizzy. Now I’m afraid that I will fall out of my chair, onto the floor. I’m afraid that I have forgotten how to balance. I stiffen my arms in their natural pose to prevent me form falling out of my chair. I have both feet braced on the ground to help.

Wave after wave of panic overtakes my body, and after each attack, my hands are shaking, although I try my very best to sit perfectly still. I am convinced that the whole class is watching my pathetic attempt to sit still and breathe normally while not puking all over myself.

My teacher is nice. This class entails reading plays out loud, and we get to pick the character we want. I always read ahead before class and find the character who speaks the least. In Merchant of Venice, it is the servant, but even this limited participation is too much for me.

In Act 2, I have 10 lines to read, and I have a massive anxiety attack as we turn the page and I can see that my lines are approaching. There is nothing I can do, my part is coming up and I have to read. I can’t even see for a few moments while I’m having an acute panic attack, and it feels like my body is having a nuclear explosion inside. I try with all my might to sit in my chair, although every fiber of my being is telling me to RUN NOW OR DIE!!

Finally it is my turn to speak. The panic attack starts and I am powerless to stop it. The lights seem very bright, and anxious teen girlI feel almost as if I am not in my own body. The silence in the room is deafening as everyone waits for me to speak. It feels as if I’m talking through a cardboard tube as I hear my quivering voice coming in weak gasps over my racing breaths. My mouth is bone dry.

Finally somehow, the bell rings, class is over. I am exhausted. On shaky jelly legs, I go into the girls’ bathroom as fast as I can, lock myself into a stall, and cry.

I share this information with you because I know there are folks out there who can identify with my stories and my feelings.  I have come a very long way since my teenage years, and today (thank God) I am nearly panic free.  The purpose of this whole blog is to provide you with free anxiety tips that have helped me, so that you can stop suffering too.

I wish you peace,

Jill G.

Looking for an effective anxiety elimination program? I recommend and use Panic Away- and boy do I wish I knew about this when I was a suffering teen. Please get started today and reclaim your life from fear.

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41 Responses to A Panic Attack, Part 1: Teenage Panic Attacks

  1. Marvinskyz says:

    my doctor prescribed me some SSRI for my panic attacks. those medications also helped but i dont like the side effects of SSRIs.

  2. Suffering says:

    Hi I’m a 15 year old teenager and alot has happened in my life family wise and it really affected me. It all started one day I was on holiday with my friend and her mum and dad and we were eating out at a restraunt and I started looking at the food as they placed it infront

  3. Suffering says:

    Of mr I started feeling sick and it didn’t help I was in a hot country as I started sweating and felt like I was going to die well anyway we were there for 2 week and I ate 2 meals in that 2 week I was terrified to eat then I came back and couldnt eat in any public place restraunt etc, I didn’t know at the time but this was the start of it , so then I was in school one day and felt sick and I said to my teacher can you let
    Me out I feel sick and he said no and at that moment my hole body just took a turn and I felt sick hot but cold sweaty I felt like I was going to faint and eeryday after that I kept getting sent home from school and at the moment I’m not in school as it has got worse and I can’t even go out now , your story really touched me and it is exzactly how I feel about school It’s like standing in a room with no doors or windows and a lion in it I don’t know if I will ever pick up the courage to go back to school

    • JillG says:

      Hi Suffering,

      It certainly sounds like you’re having panic attacks and that they started to occur in more places, making you afraid to do more and more things. Have you seen your doctor to make sure it’s not your blood sugar or something else? You’re 15- have you talked to your parents or some adult you can trust? A school counselor, a relative, a clergy person? You can get help, but you will get better much faster if you don’t try to do it alone. Someone like a therapist who does Cognitive Behavior Therapy who has worked with other people with anxiety, for example, can really benefit you. If that’s not possible, see if there are social services or therapists who work on sliding scales who specialize in anxiety. If you have no money and no adult help, at least go to the library and look for books about panic attacks. Here are some books that I recommend http://panicfreeme.com/anxiety-books/

      ((Hugs)),
      Jill

  4. Suffering says:

    Ye my mum and dad have been helping mr and I went to the doctor but they just said I need to try and face it which I can’t it’s got worse at night I can’t sleep , I’m terrified to go out and have a family holiday in summer so really want everything to be back to normal by then , ye we spoke to te school but they keep saying they’ll help me but I havnt herd from them as I have been of for nearly 2 month , thanks
    So much xxxx

  5. Suffering says:

    Thanks so much meens alot xxxx

  6. Rod says:

    Hey, i was just wondering what would be the best thing to do if you’ve had 2 panic attacks in class before? I havent been to school in a month since my last attack and im sorta scared to go back cause i think its gonna happen again. I also havent been feeling like myself lately. Is it for the same reason?

    • JillG says:

      Hi Rod,

      Why haven’t you been to school since the 2 panic attacks? Have you been staying away because of them? Yes, the reason you don’t feel like yourself is because you are feeling scared. Did the attack happen out of nowhere or was it because of a specific reason? Here’s a post that can help you: http://panicfreeme.com/908/how-to-prevent-panic-attacks-do-it-afraid. Rod make it your goal to get through just ONE class, and remember- you can do ANYTHING for an hour (or however long the class is)… And you’ll get through. Good luck!

    • Maya says:

      Hi Rod, just want to say something about the not feeling yourself part.
      I have been sufferring from anxiety for about 7 months now, and panic attacks for like 5 years. And recently in January I had a panic attack whilst at a guide camp, i had felt so shaky, dizzy and short of breath for the whole time, then when i went home from recovering from the panic attack i felt really weird, i didn’t feel myself at all. I didn’t understand why i was feeling like this, until about a week later i looked it up and found out it was something called derealisation and/or depersonlisation(look it up for more info) but it’s kinda when your brain tries to escape the anixety we go through and so makes you feel not like it’s you, you feel like your not controlling your own thoughts and words just come out of your mouth. This website was what i looked up at first and it showed me what it’s all about:

      http://ehealthforum.com/health/not-feeling-like-myself-anxiety-symptoms-t131187.html

      Hope this helps.

      p.s i went to my doctor about it and they said it would be best to see a psychotherapist, and they will help you stop getting so anxious all the time. Because derealisation/depersonlisation can only exsist with anxiety, and once thats gone, you will feel much better.

      • JillG says:

        Hi Maya and Rod,

        Depersonalization is to me one of the scariest symptoms of anxiety. Here is a post I wrote about it: http://panicfreeme.com/250/depersonalization-what-is-it/
        To get better, as with other disturbing anxiety symptoms, I had to just go on about my day in spite of the feelings and not give them too much thought. Once I learned to treat the depersonalization like it was no big deal, it eventually got better. Which is not to say it doesn’t come back- it does sometimes– but then I just learn not to pay attention to it again.

        ((Hugs)),
        Jill

  7. Rose says:

    I know this exact feeling. I’m getting it in two of my classes at uni…I feel like I am going to be sick and make an idiot of myself in front of everyone. I don’t understand why this is happening..the last time was because of something so stupid..I didn’t know the class went for two hours instead of 45 minutes..I had to lie to get out and just get some air. The classroom is really small too and they always shut the windows..feel like I’m going insane..not going to be able to make a tutorial today because I just had a panic attack about it and I’m all shaky and teary..what is the weirdest thing though is that I did modeling for 7+ years( catwalk mostly) and I didn’t mind being looked at..since I stopped doing catwalk( focusing on photographic) it’s like I’m the opposite..just don’t want people looking at me or noticing me. I feel my eyesight getting dizzy, very single noise my body is making internally and I pinch myself to focus the stress in my mind somewhere else.

  8. samanthahus1@gmail.com says:

    I know the same feeling, its great (but horrible at the same time) to know that lots of people feel the same way. I have gotten over having regular panic attacks at school but still have them sometimes (if i have a presentation) I recently had to leave a school trip because I was having such severe anxiety, it was much like this I felt trapped on this week long trip and I was really worried about puking (and came close many times) in front of everyone, I didn’t know that anyone else had the same puking fear that I did until I read this article and the responses! But anyways I couldn’t eat during the trip, I often have a lot of trouble eating when I have anxiety.

    • JillG says:

      It’s good to hear you have less panic than you used to. The very weird thing about the puking feeling- for me anyways- as many times as I have had it (and I had it pretty much daily in college) I never once actually vomited. Did I run to the bathroom and hang over a toilet once or twice? Hell yes,- that’s how much the feeling bluffed me. But I never vomited in public. Somehow I hope this knowledge can help you too.
      Hopefully, you will get to the point where you no longer have to run away from situations because of anxiety. It takes time and determination, but it can be done. I’m living, breathing (non puking) proof :)

      Take care! xxx

  9. Kaitlyn says:

    I cried after reading this because this happens to me too , and it’s extremely horrifying and hard to deal with. There was a teacher today and she couldn’t even look straight at me in the eye while she was talking to me, and she didn’t even say my name right and knew me for two years. Also we had a presentation today and the teacher avoided eye contact too and was blushing to death when she was asking questions. And I think I knew why, I’m not sure, but I think he knew that I was a really shy student and maybe I blushed or did something weird. I also had such a hard time breathing , it wasn’t even funny I was basically was suffocating myself. I get very angry and I know I seem too emotional and stuff but how can I not be when I am in this mess !? I am in 7th grade , I’m kinda popular , because I sit at the popular table but when is this going to go away ? And I mostly have the panic attacks in my first class… I’ll be just sitting there and all of a sudden I would get overwhelmed and severely anxious for no appear-ant reason! Most of all , it’s really hard to breath and feel like my life is over and I’m going to die. I really hate this and I cry everyday because of this. I am very depressed and feel like there’s no way out to this. No I do not want to talk to a counselor or therapist, that will affect my college application, since mental illnesses are recorded I’m pretty sure , or put into your history.

    • JillG says:

      Kaitlyn you do not have mental illness, you are experiencing anxiety. I urge you to talk to a parent, a guidance counselor, or some other trusted adult. There is a way out of anxiety and I promise your life is not over. But you do need to let someone know so you can get some help. You deserve to be a happy teenager so please do yourself a favor and seek help.

  10. Cheyenne says:

    This is a sad story, and it does show me a good example of a panic attack. I am 16 years old, almost 17, and am having a problem. Ive read up on panic attacks, and I dont know if this shows what Im really having. I get some of the same symptoms as a regular attack, but something is missing. So for the past two nights, I started to have this certian episode as I would be dead asleep, or start to sleep. I have had these only twice before, when I smoked marijuana with friends, and I had this exact feeling, except I had more of a reaction to what I smoked. But now, its really starting to scare me. Ive researched, and my mother claims the idea that maybe Im having a panic attack, but now she isnt so sure. Im not either. I went to the doctor the other day, and they said that Im completely healthy (as in no high blood pressure, or cholesterol, etc.) As Im writing this comment, I am starting to feel a “hint” of this feeling, but man, Im just scared. I really am. Can anyone give me advice?

    • JillG says:

      Hi Cheyenne,

      You might be having night panic attacks. I don’t really know. One thing for sure: smoking pot, especially if you get anxiety can exacerbate the symptoms (that was my experience at your age.). My suggestion is to avoid marijuana at all costs. You said you had the feelings after the pot, so stay away from it. If you continue to feel weird, scary feelings, you may be having panic attacks or general anxiety. Since your doctor said you are physically healthy, that would be my guess.

      Take care honey,
      Jill

  11. Help :( says:

    Hello I am a 15 year old and I think I gt panic attacks. I have no idea what causes them though what happens is. First I feel I can’t get enough oxygen into my lungs then I get really hot and shaky and I sweat I go freakishly dizzy and can’t see I am always worries about the strangest things I need help on how I stop these and what I do if I get one at school you say you feel like leaving I want to but I can’t I will get so embarssed and wouldn’t be able to back to that class :/ please help xxx

    • JillG says:

      Hi there,

      It does sound like panic attacks to me. What causes them is adrenalin and other hormones in your body that are released when you are frightened. They make you feel like you cant breathe, give you the shakes, hot flashes and make you want to run out of wherever you are. Have you seen your doctor to make sure it’s not your blood sugar or something else? Have you talked to your parents or some adult you can trust? The good news is panic attacks are very treatable, but you really do have to have some help. Someone like a therapist who does Cognitive Behavior Therapy who has worked with other people with anxiety, for example, can really benefit you. If that’s not possible, see if there are social services or therapists who work on sliding scales who specialize in anxiety. If you have no money and no adult help, at least go to the library and look for books about panic attacks. Here are some books that I recommend http://panicfreeme.com/anxiety-books/

      Take care and best of luck to you honey.

      ((Hugs)),
      Jill

  12. suffering says:

    hi , i was the person up there called suffering who had the panick attacks and there totally going away now and i done it myself the doctors were rubbish and said i just need to go back to school and ill be fine i never got any counceling never took any medicine but by yourself you can get back to feeling ok again i never ever thought id be able to go back to school or go out with my pals again but now i can iv also sat my exams and i go to the town with my pals now and stay with them something i never imagined doing a few months ago and now were booking a holiday for my birthday all i say is whenever you feel a panick attack coming on just try to take your mind of it i know its not hard it never was for me but once you start to do that everything becomes so much easier and also dont avoid things it just makes it harder to do the next time , i hope this is a possitive thing for all the people who feel like there going through it it justs shows they dont always last xxxx

  13. Cam says:

    Dear Jill,
    I am a 14 year old girl and I used to be a very happy child. Then, when I was about 9 years old I started having severe performance anxiety in school and sports. I would be in class, and not know the answer to a math problem on a test. Suddenley, I would feel this terrible feeling in my head and I could feel the tears coming. I lost all control. This still happens today in my 9th grade classes. I have been to multiple guidance counselors and therapists but nothing seems to work for me. When it’s attack time, I can’t stop. It has stopped me from participating in my favorite sports and in fifth grade, I had an anxiety attack during the math portion of a VERY IMPORTANT TEST. I failed the test. I need help, and very soon. I don’t know what to do any more.

    • JillG says:

      Hi Cam,

      Does your math teacher know you have severe test anxiety? If so, could he or she possibly arrange for you to take very important tests- say like the midterm and final exam privately? I remember back in school I would freeze up and panic during tests- I had the answers- I just couldn’t stand sitting in the exam room feeling trapped. Anyhow, I remember for a few final exams I would fake being sick just so I could take the exams alone in a room, without the anxiety of sitting with everyone else. It was amazing not to feel the panic.

      I’m not saying for you to fake being sick, I grew up generations ago and there were no provisions for special needs like there are now. I would say get your parents to back you on this as well as a guidance counselor and take this straight to the principal. If you had ADHD or a learning disability your school would make all sorts of allowances to help you.

      I see no difference here in theory. You are a young woman who is suffering with debilitating test anxiety. As you work to get over your anxiety with a therapist or doctor- and you must persisit with treatment until you get results- you should not be penalized with failing grades. Please enlist the help of your parents or a guardian with this.

      You are so young, and please do keep on with your therapy or find a doctor who can help you. Get a good resource book (here are some) to help you understand what you are going thru and learn relaxation and diaphragmatic breathing. Anxiety is very very treatable. So do not give up! You can be happy again Cam! I wish you the very best of luck. :)

  14. Angie says:

    Hi, im 15yrs old and im having panic attacks. The worst thing is that i get a feeling im going to pee my self. I read its part of the symptoms but i don’t know how to help my self. Any advice?

    • JillG says:

      Hi Angie,
      Panic attacks and anxiety bring on all kinds of strange and bizarre feelings. I used to be afraid of peeing myself too when I was in grade school. My suggestion would be to make sure you aren’t suffering from a urinary track infection, which can make you feel this urge all the time. Barring any health issues, empty your bladder before class or wherever it is you feel this feeling. And then you just have to go through and stay in the class- and know you wont pee yourself – even if your anxiety makes you think you will. It is the weirdest paradox, I know, but the thing about anxiety is it tells you things that just aren’t true.
      I’m willing to bet you’ve never peed yourself before, and if this is so, I can assure you it won’t happen just because of a panic attack.
      Hope this helps. Good luck!!
      Jill

  15. Andrea says:

    This used to happen to me all the time, but now I am a junior in high school and it seems like everything has gotten worse. I get up in the morning ready to go to school, but when I start getting ready to go I think about all the things I have to do that day and I get sick. I feel like I can’t function and that the stress will literally kill me. I have been puking for 4 days straight, it might be a stomach bug, but I feel like it has a lot to do with my upcoming exams and all the projects I have had to turn in. I don’t really know how to change. I just want it to all go away.

  16. Emma says:

    Im 13 years old and ive sufferd panic attacs in public resturants my first one was awful because i didnt understand what was going on inside i felt like i was going to faint and i felt trapped i also couldnt sit still. i had one in class when i sit next to girls who made fun of me i felt it again my teacher noticed and the whole class stared at me and i left to go to the nuses and i kept running to the toilet thinking i was going to throw up . the next i was at a weding and i rember crying telling my mum to take me to the doctors and i went and got dignossed whith anxitey and got reffered to cams is there any techniques i could do when im in a panic situation

  17. erin says:

    you have no idea how much this relates to me! im currently in grade 11 in a class similar to yours, with the popular kids and we read the parts of mac beth aloud each day. Since i was twelve i also had a huge fear of vomiting in public, especially at school. Everyday i would bring a plastic bag with me, so that if i was to puke atleast it wouldnt be as messy. Every morning i took gravol, and i stopped eating during the school day, also edning up looking freakishly skinny. This past year ive really improved, and im getting over the emetephobia. However the panic attacks still come. Just yesterday, my teacher assigned me the role or MacBeth (she picks who we are) and as soon as i was told, it all started. I look at the scene, and i had a full page to read aloud. I was shaking and dizzy and nautious, my heart was beating so hard it felt like others might hear it. Somehow i got through it, ofcourse not without the shaky voice that sounds like im about to break down and cry. But i did. I havent heard from anyone in the same situation as me, especially to do with the fear of puking at school. Im so glad to have come across this. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • JillG says:

      Hi Erin,

      Wow, what a coincidence right? Good for you honey, you are doing great, you should be so proud. You did a lot better than I did! Keep up the good work!! Hugs xx

  18. John says:

    hi Jill i’m a regular 17 year old guy and started having panic attacks last year during my last year of high school because i thought that no one liked me and ended up wanted to kill myself, however with help i got a lot better and now i’ve just started college and it’s started to come back, i just feellike i’m going insane!!

    • JillG says:

      Hi John, you’re not going insane and I am so sorry you are suffering. You mentioned you got better with help. Anxiety is highly treatable so if you are having trouble with it again, get the help you need- again. I needed to get help when I was in college as well, and it really helped me. Good luck!

  19. alicetufty@hotmail.com says:

    my anxiety started about 2 years ago when I was 15,and was stressed with school anyway.A boy a few years younger than me said ‘you look about 11′ and for a whole year after that I couldn’t sit with my friends at lunch and would have panic attacks constantly,because of him,and he sometimes came back to our table,he apologised but it never helped somehow.I still feel extremely anxious at school but have only had a couple of panic attacks since.However I’ve been speaking to a guy a few years below me,and even messaging eachother it has heightened my anxiety.He is now saying he’ll say hi in school,and suddenly THAT feeling from 2 years ago has washed over me and I can’t stop crying,I don’t feel real and I am dreading school,just as I used to.I used to sit in class absolutely frozen in fear incase I saw him,as you described.This guy I’m messaging is lovely,and I speak to guys in my own year,anxiously,but this feeling never comes back.But something in me snapped and triggered me because he’s younger like the boy in 2010 was.I really don’t know how to tell him not to approach me because if I don’t tell him to I will be dreading every time I change classes,he isn’t even in my year or classes but neither was the other boy and it still happened.I just don’t know what to do or how to deal with this,sorry it’s so long…

  20. curtaingal says:

    Please read up on ALL ANTACIDS!! Some of the stronger ones cause or aggravate panic attacks and anxiety!! I learned this the hard way. I took Tagamet 300mg for stomach ulcers years ago. After a few months I began to have horrible panic attacks. I never knew why!! About 10 years later I was prescribed Pepcid 40mg by a doctor. Within a few months I started having panic attacks that were so intense, I wound up in emergency rooms several times with a racing heart and gasping for breath. I started reading medical websites and reading about other patients reactions to antacids. I was shocked to find out that many people had the same reaction. I now know that some antacids deplete magnesium from the body. I now only take a mild liquid antacid or a half of a generic Zantac tablet for heartburn. I have to take a mild dose of Celexa (15mg.) three times a week to prevent the attacks for re-occuring. PS: When a panic sensation is creeping up on you, try grabbing two handfuls of ice cubes or placing your hands in very cold water, or get into a cool shower — it really refocuses your brain on something else. Good Luck!

  21. Let'sNotGoIntoIt says:

    This year has been a horrible year for me. My younger brother recently passed and a mistake i made ended causing a domino effects which ended in me moving schools. After my younger brother died I had a nervous breakdown that seemed to flip the on switch on panic attacks. That added with my new fear of principles offices, security guards, and police officers make for a horrible school situation. When ever a situation arrived when a security guards has to come up to me (which I have been so catious about how it would have to happen so often I owe to bad luck) or worse take me to the pricipals office, i have a panic attack. I can hold it at bay until I am done talking with the security guard or administrator but, once they are out of ear ranger the dam breaks.
    My new friends at the new school aren’t used to the panic attacks and don’t really know what to do to help me. So i have to try to help myself which seems to be harder than i thought. Especially since it is in a high school place, the panic attack seems to be harder to control. It is a struggle and a something I am very ashamed of. If there are any little tricks you think can help me, please tell me then. I would appreciate them very much.

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