Amanda Seyfried

Amanda Seyfried Shares a Simple Way to Help a Loved One Through a Panic Attack

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When a panic attack strikes, working through the feelings and racing thoughts can be that much harder if you feel like you’re alone. On the latest episode of Dr. Berlin’s Informed Pregnancy –a podcast that discusses pregnancy, parenting and life — actress Amanda Seyfried, who’s been open about her anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder before, talked about a period of time when she was having frequent panic attacks, and what helped her get through them.

Seyfried told Dr. Berlin and his co-host Kacy Byxbee that while acting in an off-Broadway play in 2015, she was having panic attacks on stage every six or seven shows.

“It feels like you’re going to die,” she said. “It feels like you need to leave the stage.”

But because she was acting with her now-husband Thomas Sadoski, who she met during this time, she wasn’t completely alone in her experience. She said while no one else could tell she was having a panic attack, he could, and having someone see her, really see her, helped her calm down and get through those tough moments.

She said:

I would act through them, and I would just connect with Tommy. And he’d always be aware of it. He would recognize that thousand-yard stare. And then he would bring me back and the lines would keep flowing, but my whole body would be cold and I’d be sweating at the same time. And it would only last like 60 seconds, and then we’d get through it.

While not everyone gets to stare at their future husband while having a panic attack, having someone with you — who knows you and who will be there for you without judging you — can be a great way to get through these tough moments. We wanted to know what else people who experience panic attacks needed from their loved ones, so we asked our community what they would add.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “Talk. About anything and even if it doesn’t look like I’m paying attention. I’m doing everything I can to keep it together so I may seem zoned out, but a voice breaking through can help. Just keep talking.” — Jennifer T.

2. “Serve as a buffer between me and everything else. I don’t like when a bunch of people come at me or a bunch of things are happening. If a loved one can stand between me and everything else, literally.” — Amanda M.

3. “Just be there for me. Hug me if I ask you to. Offer a cool towel for my forehead. Don’t touch me unless I ask you too. Don’t freak out, I’ll be fine once I calm down, but if you don’t stay calm, then I’ll freak out more.” — Beth S.

4. “Talk to me, distract me by talking about things you know I love or like. I need my mind taken off the thoughts that are raging thru my mind. When I seemed zoned out, I’m not I’m there please keep talking. Please do not touch me unless I ask or motion for you to do so as it that could make it worse.” — Amanda C.

5. “When I have panic attacks, I do not like to be touched. So respect distance even though all they want to do is give a hug to comfort. What they can do instead is help me use my senses. Have them ask me what I can see, what I can feel and something I can here. This helps ground me.” — Heather L.

6. “I have someone in my life who’s able to reach me like no one else ever has. They just simply say, slow down, breath, you’re safe, everything is OK and I love you!” — John E.

7. “If we are in a crowded environment, take me somewhere quiet and stay with me until it passes. Talk about your day, about your pets, anything. Just be with me and don’t judge me for my brain deciding that something about my environment or even a flashback was a danger. Tell me it’s OK, and when it gets better that you’re glad I worked through this one and empathize with the strength it takes to go through a panic attack and keep going.” — Ashley A.

8. “Guide me through whatever is going on. When I panic, I lose coherent thought and I’ll freeze if I don’t know where to run. Sometimes, running isn’t an option. I’ve had someone verbally guide me into parking when I tried to drive and had a panic attack. I’ve had someone quietly encourage me to move forward when I had to walk into a courtroom and I froze. Things like that help me get through whatever situation I happen to be freaking out in. Also, hiding me is a great move. If I’m looking for a place to hide and you have one, lead the way! I’ll be forever grateful and feel much closer to you.” — Johnna R.

9. “Writing this I just had a panic attack moments ago. A friend who willing to talk to me on the phone and helped me with my breathing. He reassures that everything is OK and told good things about me. Also, hugs and shoulder to cry on helps.” — Devin D.

Thanks to Amanda for your honestly, and for everyone who supports a loved one through a panic attack.

Lead image via Wikicommons

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23 Metaphors That Might Help You Explain What a Panic Attack Feels Like

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Unless you’ve experienced it, it can be hard to imagine how brutal — and how physical — experiencing a panic attack really is. While those experiencing one for the first time sometimes think they’re having a heart attack, panic strikes differently for different people, exists on a spectrum, and no two panic attacks are the same.

So when you want to explain to others what it feels like so they can really understand, metaphors are a great way to get people into your head.

To collect some handy metaphors you can use when describing your panic attacks to others, we asked people in our mental health community to share how they would describe theirs. You might find an answer that resonates with you.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “It’s like walking down the steps and missing the bottom step. That mini ‘heart attack’ feeling. But it stays with you all day. Every day.” — Laura S.

2. “It feels like I’m holding my breath while underwater. When I try to come to the surface and breathe in more air, my lungs are unable to expand. Instead, I continue to struggle to breathe. Once the attack passes, I finally get some air, but it is still not nearly enough.” — Katie W.

3. “It’s like you’ve suddenly become receptive to any and every small/insignificant stimuli you thought you could never be affected by. Whether it be the sound of a door creaking or a dish breaking, everything seems much more magnified and difficult to control.” — Muhammad H.

4. “You’ve been running down a dark tunnel for miles, but you haven’t moved an inch.” — Andy C.

5. “For me it’s like a crushing weight on my chest while my heart feels like it’s going to jump right out of my body, my blood feels like it’s a raging river coursing through the veins of my whole body, my head pounds like someone is using a jackhammer on it, I’m suffocating and all the while my brain won’t shut off.” — Monika S.

6. “Like being squeezed through a very small, very tight rubber tube. You can’t hear, can’t breathe, can’t see. It’s just you with the overwhelming darkness struggling to break free and see the light again.” — Brittany D.

7. “It’s like that moment when your stomach drops when you’re at the top of a roller coaster, but the feeling doesn’t go away. It stays there, making your heart race, your thoughts spiral out of control, your chest hurt and blood pulse in your ears. It feels like you’re going to die. Logically you know you aren’t dying, but your mind won’t respond to logic.” — Jane C.

8. “It’s like driving for me. I can be going along just fine — watching my mirrors, my blind spots, other cars in passing. Then I see a car ahead of me and it’s going considerably slower than the flow of traffic, so I glance over to switch lanes, but there’s a car beside me. So I start to slow down, looking at my other side. That’s right — a car is there, too. I slow down more and my heart begins to race a little. Not only do I not like having to slow down, but not having a back-up plan to avoid it gets me a little worked up. But there I am… slowing down. And then, that car starts to brake… quickly… suddenly… so I brake quickly… and suddenly. That’s when I look up at my rearview mirror and see a semi-truck bearing down on me at full speed. He’s yanking his horn with one hand and shifting down with the other. And I know… I just know… I am going to be sandwiched between the car in front of me and the semi behind me. I close my eyes, hold my breath and wait for impact. But the truck never hits me. But the stress is so high and my heart rate is beating so fast that sometimes, I think it would be easier if the truck did hit me.” — Melanie S.

9. “Like my skeleton is trying to escape through my skin.” — Jessica L.

10. “Perhaps like you’re in a space shuttle and the door opens, you don’t have your oxygen. You are having trouble breathing, can’t find your air. You’re searching and searching, you see the black endlessness of space. Are you going to find your oxygen, or end up in the void.” — Lindsay G.

11. “Like losing one of my kids at a public place. My son was 3 when he once ran off while we were raising one of those parachute things at a large family friendly event on a military base. For 10 minutes, there was this immense pressure on my chest, heart racing, empty pit in my stomach, my mind going a million miles an hour, everything turning into a blur… Later on experiencing panic attacks, that’s the experience that comes closest.” — Jason T.

12. “When I feel like ‘a bag full of angry bees,’ that’s when I know a panic attack is coming. I become restless, cannot concentrate, even feel itchy; like, if I didn’t have skin, I would just buzz off in a million different directions. Then comes the shortness of breath, heavy chest, etc. The panic. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I appear completely unbothered, but inside I’m screaming and dreading death.” — Chrissy C.

13. “Like you’re watching a horror movie you’ve seen a hundred times, but it still scares you stiff. You know what’s coming but you can’t skip it.” — Stephen M.

14. “Like having a full-grown elephant sitting on your chest, while you’re pinned down underneath it. After a little while, your hands and feet go numb and cold, and your head starts to swim. You want to move, but you can’t. You’re stuck there, forced to endure it — ride it out — wait.” — Stine S.

15. “For me it’s like when you wake up from that dream where you’re falling and your body jolts awake and you aren’t sure whether or not you’re in danger but your body is saying you are. Your eyes are darting, it’s hard to breathe and your heart is in your throat. When it comes to calming down from one, I one time heard someone say, ‘It’s like you’re trying to peel a potato with another potato, but everyone else thinks you have a peeler and can’t understand why you can’t peel the damn potato.'” — Megan H.

16. “It feels like having an itch on your whole body while walking on a tight rope hundreds of feet up in the air. You want to explode out of your skin, but you don’t want to move to avoid losing the little balance point you have, and you can’t get distracted scratching a spot because you need your entire focus to get across to the end.” — Helen H.

17. “Like hundreds of people asking you questions and screaming at you. I don’t know the answer to any of them. I cover my ears but the voices remain. Now they are telling me how silly and worthless I am. I curl into a ball and pray and cry until they diminish. Afterwards I feel like I have been beaten I’m sore and tired and can’t move.” — Tamera M.

18. “A panic attack to me feels like I have lost control of my own body, like when you’re playing a video game you have no experience with so you just button mash hoping something will work. I am button mashing my way through those moments.” — Amanda B.

19. “Like the sky is falling down. Anything and everything you could imagine just feels like it’s falling apart. Absolutely terrifying.” — Ian R.

20. “It’s like seeing everyone around me moving, but I’m standing still, invisible. Gasping for air, but unable to break through the ‘invisible wall.’ Like a million tons of bricks on my chest. I can’t talk, I can’t tell them that I need them. It’s like drowning.” — Jana W.

21. “It’s like having a heart attack while trapped in quicksand. The more you fight to get through it the more you sink. No one can reach you to help pull you out and your chest is about to burst open with pain and panic. Eventually you have to lie back and surrender to your fate. And just like heart attacks and quicksand, you never know when you’ll get trapped by either one.” — Nikki T.

22. “Like a computer that stopped responding. It’s like loads of information being shoved into your head constantly and forced to process them all but you can’t because it’s all too fast and too many to count.” — Gianina P.

23. “It’s like trying to blow a marble through a drinking straw… something is blocking the air that is so diligently trying to get out. There’s a build up of pressure that is felt, then everything turns dark.” — Amanda O.


23 Metaphors That Might Help You Explain What a Panic Attack Feels Like
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To My Friends Who Are Curious About What a Panic Attack Feels Like

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What it feels like to have a panic attack…

Panic attacks are something you simply cannot fully understand unless you’ve experienced it. Throughout the years that I’ve been struggling with anxiety and panic attacks, many friends have been curious about what a panic attack is and what it feels like. So, although you still may not be able to completely understand, I’m going to try my best to explain, because I appreciate the desire of my loved ones to understand my struggles.

Sometimes I can feel it coming, and sometimes I can’t. Sometimes, it is the pounding of my heart which perpetuates and increases in speed until I finally allow myself to have a panic attack. Sometimes, it comes as a sneak attack and turns into a full-blown panic attack before I even have a chance to think about it.

It usually starts in my heart. It starts pounding and gets faster and faster. Then my breathing struggles to keep up with my heart. This is also when my mind starts buzzing. “Oh, no,” it thinks. “Not again. I can’t handle this. It needs to stop.” This only adds to the increased physical sensations. My breath gets faster and faster, preventing proper oxygen from entering my body and therefore causing light-headedness and dizziness.

Then, my hands and feet begin to get shaky. Soon, my feet completely go numb and I’m forced to fall to the ground or wherever I am. I become extremely worried about who is around, who is seeing me, who is judging me. My breath becomes quicker and quicker until I begin to completely hyperventilate. Often around this point, if someone is around, they will come over and try to console me. I usually can’t understand anything they say. I can’t focus on anything except for my scattered thoughts that make me feel like I’m dying. Deep down, I know I’m not, but in the moment it feels like I’m never going to be able to gain control again. That’s the worst part — it feels like I’ve completely lost control. I can’t control my heart rate, I can’t control my breathing, I can’t control my shaky body, I can’t control my thoughts, I can’t control who is around me. Eventually, my hands and feet and sometimes my stomach get very tingly, almost like they’re falling asleep. Another thing I can’t control. I also usually either get very hot to the point where I’m sweating profusely, or very cold to the point where I’m hugging myself tight and shivering. I begin crying; a lot of times I don’t notice it until afterwards, and I usually don’t know why this occurs.

 

This is the climax. I think my panic attacks usually last around five minutes, although in the moment it feels like hours have passed. Eventually, my mind starts being able to focus more and I’m able to remind myself where I am and what is happening. I make myself touch the ground or someone there who I feel comfortable with in order for my body to remember what is real. I make myself become focused on my breathing first, to start to gradually make it become slower. Eventually, my breathing comes back to normal, and with it my heart becomes slower. It still takes me a while to completely recover, my hands and feet are still numb and I’m usually still crying.

But, slowly but surely, I’m able to regain control of my surroundings and know that it was only a panic attack, that it was out of my control, but that that’s OK. And I think the best thing I can do is to realize this is OK.

Everyone experiences panic attacks differently, and panic attacks for someone who experiences them frequently may even be different each time. So, the best thing you can do as a loved one of someone who experiences panic attacks is to recognize it is a real experience, it is something out of the person’s control and that it does not at all affect the person’s character or define them as a person. We appreciate your desire to try to understand.

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Thinkstock photo via iconogenic

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What It Really Feels Like to Lose Control During a Panic Attack

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This piece was written by Kendra Syrdal a Thought Catalog contributor.

It feels like stopping. It feels like that record scratch moment in comedic movies where everything freezes and there’s a close up, usually at unflattering angle, of someone’s face and they’re trying to explain in a run-on sentence (not unlike this one) how exactly they got here. Only there isn’t anything funny. And there isn’t anything to laugh at. And there isn’t even really an explanation. There’s just you and your heart palpitations, trying to make everything stop spinning.

Sometimes my fingertips go numb. In a way I legitimately can’t explain. It’s like when you knock your funny bone, or sit on one foot for too long. But it’s exponentially less curable. And instead of being localized, it radiates through my fingers, my arms, my shoulders, my chest, my torso, my stomach, my thighs, my shins, my toes, before reverberating back up and making my brain vibrate in a way I can only describe as, “Not OK… not OK at all.” Sometimes I can’t even taste when it’s happening. Coffee, water, wine, chocolate, another person. It all blends together in an inexplicable way because I’m so removed from my own body.

It’s fight or flight — and I’m definitely not involved in the decision making.

It feels like vibrating in the least fun way I could possibly describe. I’m the rubber band that was snapped and I haven’t settled yet. I’m just existing. Tense. Tight. Pulled. Waiting until I am able to exhale and relax and stop holding myself taught. I overanalyze every word that comes out of my mouth. I can hear the tension between each syllable. I know other people can too and I feel like they’re judging me for it. I feel like they hate me for it. It feels like they don’t get it and explaining it wouldn’t make sense, it would make it an excuse. I hate the idea of being an excuse.

It feels like failure. It feels like losing control over the most base level thing: myself. It feels like an out of body experience in which I’m watching myself flail and spiral and become this completely inept version of myself with absolutely no way of intervening. So I sit there, bile bubbling at the back of my throat while I try to appear OK, attempting to preserve the illusion of “normality.” The facade of fine. The ruse of “alright.”

Even though I’m not.

I’m not, I’m not, I’m not.

And I’m not sure when I’ll feel otherwise.

This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

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Thinkstock photo via berdsigns.

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The Calm After the Storm: What It's Like in the Aftermath of a Panic Attack

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I wish there was a word that captured the feeling of a panic attack. A strict and specific word to encapsulate one of the cruelest feelings I have ever known. It seems like my entire life has been spent searching for that one word that matches my internal definition.

The rush of blood, the fast pace of my heart rate, the moment right before the first tear falls. Some people would use a word like “fear” or “agony” to describe this. However, I still don’t think those fit. The feeling is something much more than antagonizing dread. It is much more than the feeling of death.

If you have ever experienced a panic attack, then you know what this is like. It is a roller coaster, slowly easing upwards before a huge drop — waiting for the inevitable. Except the drop never happens, and you are stuck at the very top with your heart racing and hands shaking. It is only until minutes or hours later, once you can breathe again, once you remember how to stop crying, once you can be thankful that you are alive, that the roller coaster drops and ends.

Unlike a roller coaster, a panic attack doesn’t stop once it ends. There is leftover emotion, leftover pain and exhaustion. This is the hardest part for me. My panic attacks come as quickly as they go; only a few minutes that seem like an infinity.

It is only afterwards that I realize that there is more suffering than just that initial feeling of dying. I sometimes feel ill for days afterwards. I lose my appetite and if anyone even dares to feed me, the nausea overtakes the slightest hint of hunger. And it feels as if there is never enough oxygen. I may be breathing normally, but inside it feels like my lungs are struggling to get air, struggling to obtain the one thing I need to keep my heart beating. My face and skin become dry for days from the sheer amount of tears I shed during a panic attack. And I will have scratch marks on my thighs from trying to keep my body grounded, as if gripping my body will keep me and my brain from floating deeper into my deadly thoughts. I will be fatigued for days and take naps for hours, because those five minutes of panicking were capable of making me lose all of my energy for a week.

The panic attack will break into my home, sneak into my body and truly attack. It will turn my body into a wretched beast with clear physical imperfections that could last me one minute or seven days. The five minutes that are spent searching for breath and drowning in tears will ruin me. Those five minutes will physically change me for a week.

Yet despite these struggles, expect me to be fine afterwards. I may be dry and scratched, falling asleep at the dinner table, and convincing you that I just wasn’t hungry today. I may be struggling to find air and shaking constantly, wondering if anyone else knew what it was like to feel as if death sat next to you.

I am fine, though. Don’t worry, I promise. It’s just a rough patch. I’m just stressed. I’ll be fine.

I have convinced so many people in my life that I’m “OK,”  I almost believe it myself. I have done it so well that I have learned how to catch my breath and answer a phone call right after an attack. I can make a Facetime call with friends look effortless and disguise the dried tears as simply sleep deprivation. I am able to go out to dinner after a panic attack, but I tell everyone that the scratch marks are just from my siblings. Panic attacks have taught me how to lie and fake and convince those I love that everything is alright, everything is fine. Having panic disorder has taught me more acting skills than a single drama class ever could.

When I strip back the lies and falsities, those few days after a panic attack are the days where I am most at peace. While I may not be able to breathe, and I know how many marks I have on my legs from my fingernails, I am perfectly OK.

Most people say there is a calm before the storm, and while there always is, panic attacks bring this to me backwards. Because these struggles remind me of how I am so incredibly, undeniably alive. I have dried tears on my face and haven’t washed my hair in days, but I am here. While I am not 100 percent OK, I am as close as I will ever get during those first few days. Each shallow breath, each clawed mark, each horrible wave of nausea are feelings that I take in stride simply because I have survived another attack. There are days that are worse and days that are easier, but the feeling of my heart pounding out of my chest is always the same. I know how quick it will go, how hot I will feel, how the tears will flow at the same pace as each beat. I know how this feels. That feeling that there is no word for, no clear or specific definition. It is this panicked limbo that consistently occurs throughout my life.

And I know that every night, every attack, every time, I will feel the same afterwards. I will feel tired and I will feel hurt, but I will be alive. Those first few days after a panic attack, I am at peace and OK with just being alive. There is nothing more I could need, nothing more I could ask for.

While I dread the idea of another attack and pray that there was a different way I could be reminded of my glorious existence, I know that this is my life. Whether I want it or not, I have to accept it and accept that each attack will make me feel grateful to be alive. There might not be a word for the feeling of an attack, but I know there is a word for those first few days after. Serenity.

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The Exhaustion of Experiencing the 'Fight or Flight' Response on a Regular Basis

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I believe a lot of people have had an anxiety attack of some sort before. If not, I don’t wish one on you.

Picture this: you wake up to a smoke detector blaring in your house. You smell smoke. Your body instantly kicks into gear — the fight or flight in you — and you jump out of bed. You quickly think of who you have to get out of the house and how. Now!

Or slightly different. It’s 2 a.m. and something wakes you up. You know everyone should be sleeping. You get out of bed, open your bedroom door and you are looking at a robber who is going through things in your living room. Same flight or fight will kick in. How many are in here? Does he have a gun?

From primitive times, our bodies have helped us in situations of danger with a boost of adrenaline and other chemicals to help us physically fight or to physically get the hell out and run. Chemicals to help our brains with clarity. Heart racing, our minds often think of scenario after scenario.

Now picture that feeling — that fight or flight feeling, that rush of adrenaline, the rush of endorphins — but your body is not in any danger. You’re actually just sitting at your work cubical, mid-conversation with a customer. Or you just had Thanksgiving dinner with your family. You know you are not physically in any danger, but your body is pumping out chemicals as if you are in severe danger. And that feeling happens all day long, or several times a day, or several times a week. But you are always in fear of being in fear. Always afraid of the next attack.

In a scenario I gave above, eventually the person who jumps up in the fire will crash from all that adrenaline. Hard. The day of a person with anxiety may also include dealing with adrenal fatigue. People get tired from their bodies always being in a heightened state of danger. It’s so tiring.

Now here’s the kicker. Panic disorder takes away so many things. Going to work. Going out with family or friends. Meeting up with co-workers. You make up different excuses as to why you can’t go this time. Eventually they stop inviting you. And anxiety’s partner in crime, depression, kicks in.

You get sick and tired of being sick and tired. It’s a circle of feeling like you’re going to die and then crying because you feel all alone. It’s calling out of work because you’re in the parking lot and you can’t breathe, then feeling like shit about it afterwards.

No one ever thinks about what happens to a body when fight or flight mode kicks in — especially when there is nothing to fight and nothing to run from. It short circuits everything. And leaves you wishing there was a third option. Fight, flight or write.

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