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Was This A Panic Attack?

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Funny that Jennifer just posted the link about the recent study.

I know I am asking for advice when probably I need to talk to my doctor, but I had a weird episode on Sunday and I don't know what to think of it. I have had a few panic attacks in the past--in my late 20's. I had all the classic symptoms back then. In a way this felt like what I remember, but some ways not.

I have been tired and stressed this month due to work, adjusting to being full-time, and G starting school. I just ran a 2-day workshop Fri and Sat and was pretty tired. Sunday I was at a friend's farm with my daughter and some friends. Feeling relaxed, but tired. I was walking across the lawn when totally out of the blue I felt dizzy/lightheaded and then short of breath. It lasted for about 20-30 seconds, I guess. I checked my pulse when this started happening and it was my typical, standing 90-110 bpm. I felt a little anxious when the symptoms didn't let up. I remember in the past getting very shaky after an episode. This didn't happen. I just felt tired and slightly lightheaded. After 10 minutes I felt fine.

If it happens again, I guess I will contact my specialist...? I'd appreciate any thoughts!


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To me, that just sounds like being tired and stressed out. I wouldn't be surprised if that happens to a lot of people, even those without dysautonomia.

Like you said, though. I'd bring it up with your doc! And don't worry too much about it. As if I could give advice on that front!


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I also think this sounds like your body was crashing. I've had similar situations and my body seems to be telling me "slow down, I can't handle life at this pace, etc." I would definitely talk with you dr. about this but would also evaluate your stress levels and pace of life and try to slow down.

Hope this helps!


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Did you find yourself breathing fast and deep before the dizziness, or did you just feel breathless when the symptoms didn't let up right away?

Usually with panic attacks the dizziness/light-headedness and tingling in the fingers / lips is caused by hyperventilation. The person starts for some reason to breath too quickly or too deeply (or both) and feel panicky about their breathing / sensation of being unable to breathe even though they are actually breathing too much. The fast / deep breathing causes the person to breathe out lots of CO2 and lowers the CO2 level in the blood. Because CO2 in the blood is carried in the form of carbonic acid and bicarbonate, altering these balances causes the pH of the blood to alter and you end up with a respiratory alkalosis which causes the symptoms.

Often there is a trigger for panic attacks such as a specific thought or seeing something unplesent or a fear of something.

We shouldn't try to guess the cause of your dizzy spell over the internet, but I'd advise you to discuss it with your doctor. (I'd be suprised if it turned out to be a panic attack, sounds like a dizzy POTS do to me from what you said).


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Thanks everyone.

I can't remember getting that dizzy totally out of the blue, except related to a panic attack in the past (about 10 year ago). That's why I wasn't or am not sure what to think. The dizziness/lightheadedness came on first and then the breathlessness. I had not suddenly stood up/changed position--I was simply walking--and I was not feeling anxious, just more tired than normal (I had had a stressful week/month). When my POTS was bad I would feel dizzy a lot, but that was along with feeling generally poorly all day long. This was different b/c I was not feeling that poorly and it was so sudden.

It has not happened again in the past couple of days. I am thinking I should wait and see if it recurs rather than contacting my doctor immediately. When I have my next check up I will definitely mention it.

I have been under great stress (for me) for the past month working overtime each week with major projects (and more public speaking/presentations than usual, which I hate) and settling into a new school routine for my daughter. On top of that I have not been sleeping all that well (I never sleep well in the fall for some reason). This month should be much less stressful.

I am taking a 4-day weekend this weekend and took off part of today!


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I've just had one of those "is it anxiety or pots moments." Here I am sitting at the computer, suddenly feeling anxious and like I might swoon, and feeling hot. No particular trigger. And I check my pulse, and it's on the high side for someone just staring at a computer screen (90, normal for me upper 60s, lower 70s when not potsy). Not fun.


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I think I'll mix things up a bit? :) It sounds a bit like a combination of anxiety and POTS...does that make sense? Perhaps the level of stress you are under is creating a low level of anxiety that is making you more prone to POTS symptoms, even if they are appearing in a 'new and different' way.

I don't know if that makes one bit of sense, but it really doesn't sound like a full-blown anxiety attack b/c you can't identify thoughts precipitating the even, nor do you remember that 'I'm going to die' feeling that comes with a true panic attack.

It sounds like one of those bizarre blips on the POTS radar that we never quite understand. But, of course, me mindful of these happening again!

I am sorry that I've been missing so much going on--not realizng that you are working full-time now (Oh my!) and that G is in school now, for some reason I was thinking she had a year to go! Oops!

I've had some weird just quick moments and then they go away--of hear flip flops, dizziness, nausea, etc.

Hope your four day weekend is a good one...


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I get these types of episodes when I'm run down or sometimes completely out of the blue. I could just be walking down the street and my HR jumps and I get dizzy, etc. I call them POTS attacks. For me, they are definitely not panic attacks. I'm not positive, but I've always thought of panic attacks as freaking out about a particular thing (like heights or riding on a plane or something simpler), and then getting very emotional, hyperventliating, etc. That doesn't sound like what you describe. Hope you can relax and get some rest over the weekend.

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I had a doctor one time 17 years ago tell me that I was hyperventalating. He did a blood gas test. I was so mad!!!!!!!!! I never went back to him. I now know it was my NCS and I was also misdiagnosed 23 years ago with MVP and again I now know it was NCS/POTS.


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Thanks so much again everyone for your replies and kindness.

Emily--yes I started back full-time in early August. It's been a huge adjustment for me. Unfortunately I started back full-time and immediately got into some very time and energy-consuming projects. G is in school 5 mornings a week--in a montessori program--so she is not categorized as pre-K or Kindergarten--she is somewhere in the middle. She is in day care in the afternoons.

I DEFINITELY need rest!

Here's something from about.com on panic attacks that I had read the other day:

For the attack to be considered a "panic attack," it must have four or more of the following symptoms. If you have fewer symptoms but still experience the sudden onset and brief duration that characterizes a panic attack, then you may be having a "limited symptom attack." The symptoms below are from the DSM-IV, but in parentheses are similar symptoms described by people with panic disorder:

Palpitations, pounding heart, or fast heart rate (may also feel like heart flutters or skipped beats)


Trembling or shaking (may also feel like jitteriness)

Shortness of breath or smothering sensations (may also feel like difficulty breathing or taking in a full breath)

Choking feelings (may also feel like a lump in the throat or difficulty swallowing)

Chest pain or discomfort

Nausea or abdominal distress

Dizziness, unsteadiness, lightheadness, faintness (may feel like you're going to pass out)

Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (a feeling of being detached from oneself)

Fear of going crazy or losing control

Fear of dying

Numbness or tingling sensations (also known as "paresthesias," this may be described as "pins and needles" and may be felt in various parts of the body, most notably extremities such as the hands and feet but the lips and face are common areas as well.)

Chills or hot flushes

I agree about POTS "attacks"--I do also get episodes of suddenly becoming "POTS-y" when I am run-down (worse tachycardia, palpitations, weakness, tiredness).

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They're not that uncommon, particularly in women. But keep in mind that a panic attack would be a sudden onset of a couple or more of these symptoms at once.

The thing that is disturbing of course is that the symptoms mimic more serious conditions. And it can be too easy for a doctor to blow off symptoms as panic or anxiety in women when it is actually something else.

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