Oops, 7 Days. Hey look I don't update on weekends.

panic attacks?

I think I've been having panic attacks. I keep waking up at around 3 am, really stressed out, rapid heartbeat, fast breathing, sweaty, and really worried about the future and my lack of direction. I can't get back to sleep. Is this a panic attack, or just some normal "i'm getting old and still have no clue what I'm doing" type of thing?
Permalink hello 
January 23rd, 2006
No, getting old and wondering what you've done with your life is more of a lying in bed wide awake staring at the ceiling kind of thing.

Philo
Permalink Philo 
January 23rd, 2006
Do you ever get them when your awake? Are you somewhat heavy? Could be sleep apnea?
Permalink Phil 
January 23rd, 2006
I'm not too heavy. 6 foot 1 180 lbs.
I get mini-ones when I'm awake, but I usually just chalk those off to general nervous temperament.
Permalink hello 
January 23rd, 2006
Is there a spate of mental disturbances amongst the regulars here, or is it my imagination?
Permalink sharkfish 
January 23rd, 2006
I think we've all been a little bit crazy the whole time. We're just somewhat more comforable talking about it lately.

Philo
Permalink Philo 
January 23rd, 2006
Shark: We are software devs (mostly), alot of us are CRAZY.
Permalink Greg 
January 24th, 2006
As one who suffers from panic attacks, I can tell you that when you have one, you feel like you are dying and/or going out of your mind. That feeling comes on in a rush and only lasts for a few seconds, bringing extremely rapid heartbeat, breathing issues, etc. The classic "flight or fight" response. It sucks.

Mine started about 5 years ago and time has definately helped. But the first 6 months - year was the worst time of my life. You sound like you could be having them, but they sound mild. Hopefully they won't get worse.
Permalink I panic 
January 24th, 2006
To OP - You might try laying off the caffeine before going to bed. The stimulant is telling your brain go-go-go, but the rest of you is telling the brain it's time to chill out.
Permalink example 
January 24th, 2006
To the OP:

Been there, done that. It's a result of extreme uncertainty regarding the future, usually because your everyday life has reached a level of unpredictability (except for the predictability of failure, that seems pretty high).

What happens to me in that state is I get about 4 to 5 hours of sleep, then wake with heart pounding etc. at about 3 or 4 am. Thoughts of what I could do, should do, might do to turn the stressful situation into a win keep going through my mind.

I don't think it's a panic attack, from what I've heard those are much more serious.

The problem is that it can take an hour or more to fall back asleep. I've tried prayer, zen koans (which work pretty well, actually), counting backwards from 100 (also pretty effective) -- the goal is to get your mind off the disaster, so you can sleep, so you'll be better able to handle the disaster in the morning.

Good luck, though.
Permalink AllanL5 
January 24th, 2006
Oh, yes, and things that make it worse or more likely to occur:

1. Chocolate before bed.
2. Alcohol before bed.
3. Caffinated drinks (coffee, tea) before bed.
Permalink AllanL5 
January 24th, 2006
I find that happens to me if I use too many covers.
Permalink I am Jack's hot hitch 
January 24th, 2006
Caffeine interferes with the mechanism that shuts off input to the brain. (It blocks the chemical Adenosine, which builds up during the day.)

If you're woken up during the night, you may have to wait for a sleep cycle to finish (they're about 90 minutes) before you can get back to sleep.
Permalink MarkTAW 
January 24th, 2006
The symptoms of a failing thyroid are often mistaken for panic attack symptoms. Be careful.

Any severe weakness during the attacks? Consider getting checked out by a doctor. Oh, and it's a good thing to mention pertinent family history.

Good Luck.

Silly Me
Permalink Silly Me 
January 24th, 2006
AllanL5, that sounds exactly like what happens to me. And yes, my career and life are way out of whack right now. I do drink a lot of coffee and smoke too much. This is probably making the situation much worse. However the smokes and coffee are also what make me happier during the day, so it is hard to quit. If I go a day without coffee and cigarettes, I feel like a zombie.
Permalink hello 
January 24th, 2006

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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