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Readers Respond: What Is it Like to Have Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia?

Responses: 53


Updated May 25, 2009

major panic

i had my first attack in about 1975. there were no names or treatments available. i literally thought i was dying. i started therapy in about 1980. didn't do any lasting good. the shrinks were learning from me. went for about a year. my gp finally got me on zoloft in about 1997. the only way i've ever been able to explain what became at one point the almost never ending attacks, was to try to equate the feelings with something that happens to everyone. think of something, a scene in a movie, a friend who went boo, anything like that. remember the feeling of fear that shot through your body when that happened. the adrenaline that scared the bjesus out of you. take that feeling, multiply it by 10 and imagine feeling like that 24/7! that was me for a long, long time. the meds have helped immensely, but it has been and still is a long road. i am proud that a few weeks ago, i made it 9 hours from where i live to see my son's graduation from grad school.
—Guest kino


It is the most awful thing that has happened to me. I prefer to have a migrane or pain after a C- section than anxiety and everything associated with it. I haven´t done so many things with my family for fear of leaving my house. I regret all those things. I wish I could turn back time and do some things with my kids that I didn´t do because I was always afraid that something could happen. I really like to go and play slot machines and maybe I had 2 or 3 panic attacks while being there and I stopped going. There´s so much I could tell from very bitter experiences I had.


it feels like your a prisoner and there is no where to go you feel like there will never be a way out and you feel that is your destiny ment to be this way. You cant do anything you want is what the disorder says it controls you; you panic because your afraid to be afraid and you feel trapped its soo hard to live life if you feel there is no hope to look foward to.
—Guest panicinside


It makes you feel like you are going to die every time one comes on. Your heart beats fast, like a quivering bowl of jello. You have pains you can't explain. You can't catch your breath. You feel like you can't get safe. I feel like I can't stand anymore. I feel like if I go out in public I will die, or at the very least, not be able to get to anywhere I am safe. I have to have something to take my mind off of being around other people. I use to take my cell phone with me and talk to my daughter in law, who was at work. She sometimes had to put me on hold, but I still talked like she was on the phone. I would tell her about what I was buying, even to comparing the cost of things I was going to buy. I would sometimes set in my car and not go anywhere. I was safe in my car, you couldn't get in if I didn't let you. I even told the fire men that if my house was on fire, I would meet them at the door, but I would not leave until they helped me out the door.
—Guest purplebuns1

Most Terrifying Feeling!!!

To me it feels like someone is squeezing your chest until you can no longer breathe, while you are sweating profusously, almost to the point of passing out.

dont judge unless you've been there

I just have to say, having panic attacks--it sucks, but they are treatable. I've been suffering with them for about 20 yrs. For me, there was really nothing that would set them off. When I was really bad, I couldnt leave my bedroom, couldnt drive anywhere, really they controlled my life. I'd get heart palpatations, couldnt catch my breath, sweaty, lightheaded and just plain petrified that these things would hit me whenever. People that were suppose to be supportive, told me they were all in my head and I could stop them if I wanted. That is the biggest bunch of B.S. Today, I'm still on medication, went thru domestic violence issues, am newly divorced, live in my own apt w/ my 2 kids after 18 yrs, am going to school, and just take one day at a time. In my wildest dreams I never thought I'd get to where I'm at now. Just remember, they're not all in your head. There is help out there, and you can get thru these things. Just take baby steps, and one day at a time.


I know it is very hard for someone who does not have panic to understand what our lives are like..i hope i can explain a little bit to you so that you will have a better understanding of what it is like to live panic with each day and to work so hard to overcome. Panic disorders are not associated with "insanity", nor are they the result of laziness, selfishness, or emotional weakness. They come from having repeated panic attacks: involuntary, frightening reactions that may either come "out of the blue" (indicative of panic disorder) or be provoked by certain situations.They are created by a chemical imbalance produced by fear. These panic attacks cannot be reasoned away and often lead to avoidance of specific places, people or situations. Imagine the terror you would feel if you were stuck standing in the middle of a six-lane highway with cars coming at you at one hundred miles an hour.

Panic attacks and agoraphobia

I am a very outgoing person so it is hard for those who know me to believe I have occasional panic attacks. It feels very shameful for me to admit this vulnerability. Especially when so many people turn to me for enouragement, support and strength in other areas. I feel like it diminishs my worth in the eyes of others. Most of the time I know what has kicked off a panic attack. Low blood sugar, caffeine, aspartame, lack of sleep, major stress or mild asthma can kick it off and I can usually take care of the situation calmly and quietly. When it comes out of the blue for no apparent reason I am devastated just as you probably are to see me going through it. Please just support me and understand if I need to leave a place quickly or if I need to stand still in one spot and breathe through it. I know you are frightened but your over concern and panic does not help me. It just adds to my shame. Just be calm and touch me as that helps to not feel alone and brings me back to reality
—Guest jeannekrieg

An Invisible Madman

Well first I'll explain what a panic attack feels like. Imagine a man holding you up at gun point. Your natural response is going to be to submit, flee or fight him. Your adrenaline is pumping, you are overcome with intense fear, possibly imagining your own death. Now imagine there is no gunman. Those feelings are the same, but there is no real threat. It doesn't make it any less frightening. With panic disorder you are constantly afraid that the gunman is going to return, that you are going to have all those feelings again. It's a state of constant awareness, almost like having to check for the boogyman around every corner. Agoraphobia can be a direct cause of trying to avoid the non-existent bad guy that you are fearing. You literally hold yourself prisoner in your home feeling as if you are suddenly safe from all those threats to your existance. The problem being that the threats only feel real, there is no bad guy, you are hiding out in vane.

Panic Disorder

Imagine not being able to get in to the car without feeling like you can't breathe. Do this day after day after day (because you need to eat and pay the bills) and you start to feel like you are losing your mind. For a person who was once quick witted with all the right words on the tip of my tongue I am now - at times- unable to remember my mom's phone number- much less the perfect word. At times I find it difficult to speak at all. The only drug that comes close to helping (Xanax) the doc's don't want to prescribe because of all those faking addicts out there. When you work in the mental health field as I do a brain tumor would be better than the stigma that goes along with mental illness. Oh and pray you never have a heart attack because you won't want to call an ambulance because of the way they look at you. At least I know I won't ever call one again after that first time.

What Is it Like to Have Panic Disorder

The worst part is not knowing what is going on with you. You always feel the fear of not being able to breath, having a heart attack, embarrassment of creating a scene etc. The sweats and the trembleing was enough to keep me from going places that I felt confined, like the grocery store, church and any gatherings. That led to just stopping from going anywhere which soon developed in the feart to go outside the house. I could not go out my door onto the porch. even in my home I had the fear that something bad was going to happen. I never wanted to be left alone but at the same time I did not want groups of people around. I developed a sense of depending on one person, my son to be around. I was in and out of hospitals not knowing what my problem was nor the doctor knowing. I was referred to a Pychiatrist who knew what I was undergoing. Slowly I started being able to go "Out". Even today I think about it

Lost Control

Terrifying, Lonely and Isolated. Little or no control over what happens to me. Always frightened, and if it's negative it will happen to me. Other's can not understand as I don't myself.
—Guest Smilingbee

Panic disorder seem to cause agoraphobia

The first time I had a panic attack, I thought I was having a heart attack while driving which made me not want to drive, then I started having them in stores. I was at the point of not leaving my house to keep from having an attack. I thought there was something wrong with my heart. I had tests after tests and nothing was found. I finally went to see a psychiatrist & he told me I had panic attacks which was causing agoraphobia. My "fight or flight" response was miss-firing. He prescribed xanax, I take about 2 a day. I've been on the same dosage for about 9 years and I am so much better. I still avoid certain things like freeways, jury duty, & swimming underwater, but overall, I can do just about anything now. I don't know why xanax has such a bad reputation. I've had no side effects, it's a very inexpensive medication & I haven't had to increase the dosage. It's just a medication I have to take the rest of my life like my synthroid. I had RAI Dec. 05 r/t Graves disease.


It is like living a nightmare. Crowds are out of the question soare shopping malls any big places. When I have a bad anxiety attack I start to feel really werid like I will not be able to walk. I start getting hot and cold. Sweating my heart pounds then the fear gets worse I start thinking I am having a heart attack. I get shaky you fel like you are dying. Everything seems sureal. It is pure hell to have one is all I can say. All you want to do is get home where you feel safe. It drains you afterwards. I take meds for mine but still get them once in a while. I used to not even leave my home for a long time. I go to a good doctor now and can get out more but still some places I still will not go to. They are horrible. I have been to the ER many times thinking I was dying and it was only a anxiety attack. I lost my job and live on disability now. You never know when one will hit. It is a horrible thing to have. It is like you are outside of your body almost surreal.

my panic and agoraphobia time

this was so long ago over 20 years and no one really had any idea what was the matter with me but I educated myself and found a book called the panic diesease by a dr Sheehan and I will never forget it. I found a great psychatrist after many tries with many others and found prozac and ativan which helped me I forced my self out of the house on my own telling myself i would only go to the corner and back and if I died then so be it as I could not live the way I was. Beleive it or not it was this kind of drive that eventually led withthe medicine to help me greatly. I am still edgy . I still take some prozac and ativan if I feel shaky but I have captured the world and went on at 47 years old to finish college with this ailment. it was problably the best thing that ever happened to me.
—Guest kay austin
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