Whats the difference between a panic attack and meltdown?

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Kaelynn
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24 Sep 2011, 11:47 pm

Are panic attacks and meltdowns simaler? And if not what are the differences?



liveandletdie
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24 Sep 2011, 11:52 pm

I've had both i think.....
the difference would be the element of fear that is present in a panic attack
melt downs are not fearful events but angry explosions maybe trying to grasp some control on the situation.
though they both might leave your heart pounding and somewhat embarassed afterward.


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viera
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24 Sep 2011, 11:54 pm

from what I understand they can be two different things and they can influence each other. panic attacks can lead to a meltdown sometimes.



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25 Sep 2011, 12:09 am

From what I've seen panic attacks are about fear, likely about the future, while meltdowns are about the overwelmingness of now.

But they definitely can present similarly on the outside.



Kaelynn
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25 Sep 2011, 12:17 am

So then what exactly is a meltdown?



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25 Sep 2011, 12:44 am

For me it is when someone is mean enuf to
me it makes me throw things and cry and scream
and i canot stop until the hate burns out.

It is what the Normals call a tantrum and
accuse us of "doing it on purpose"


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25 Sep 2011, 1:05 am

A panic attack is an anxiety thing that is caused by physiological and psychological reactions. You are still aware of yourself, your surroundings, but your sense of your body is distorted by things like your chest muscles tightening and squeezing your lungs (making you feel out of breath) which causes panic over possible heart attack or other problem, fear of imminent death, etc., which causes more adrenaline and exacerbates the symptoms. This cycle can go on for about 30 minutes.

Meltdowns are an uncontrollable reaction to overstimulation, extreme emotion, etc. and often it's like one's brain just stops functioning in a rational manner until the meltdown is over.



anneurysm
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25 Sep 2011, 1:07 am

Kaelynn wrote:
So then what exactly is a meltdown?


It's an expression of frustration about not coping with sensory, social, and environmental demands (i.e. changes of plan). It builds up gradually (although many people, especially children may not be aware of the buildup).

A panic attack occurs suddenly, as opposed to building up, and often revolves around very specific events rather than lots of factors.


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25 Sep 2011, 1:47 am

liveandletdie wrote:
I've had both i think.....
the difference would be the element of fear that is present in a panic attack
melt downs are not fearful events but angry explosions maybe trying to grasp some control on the situation.
though they both might leave your heart pounding and somewhat embarassed afterward.

what this person said.



peterd
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25 Sep 2011, 1:58 am

Hmmm. Meltdowns can happen suddenly as well, in my experience. Meltdowns taste overwhelmingly of frustration and anger, panic attacks stem from fear and uncertainty. Both are physically overwhelming.



KathySilverstein
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25 Sep 2011, 2:16 am

Hmm, at first I would have said they were the same thing, but after reading some of these posts, I can see what some of the differences might be. They are awfully similar, though. Isn't is possible for one to have a panic attack about the circumstances of now as it is to have a meltdown about the same thing? In general I would agree with what people have said so far, though.


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25 Sep 2011, 7:17 am

I can see how the two can seem awfully alike sometimes.

You can start to feel anxiety or even fear upon realising that right now you can't keep up with what you see, hear, feel, smell, taste, you can't at the same time keep up with controlling your emotions (the ones you have now as well as how you feel about the past days or past weeks) and you can't think logically or even solve a difficult intellectual problem at the same time anymore.

Not being able to do all anymore that when you really still want to do it or not being able to do all that anymore when you're asked to continue to do it will cause a meltdown or shutdown.

You realise that everything around you suddenly seems chaotic and you also realise that you can't just go ahead and tidy up that chaos like you usually can do.

Upon realising that you can start to feel anxiety or fear. Your anxiety will very likely make your meltdown worse because your anxiety adds to the mass of tasks you/your brain has to manage to stop the meltdown.

You know, like, simplified, a meltdown is when you try to do more than you can do. You can't cope (so what? nobody is a super human who can do everything all the time!) and things fall apart.

How you feel about this "loss of control" can make your meltdown worse.


That's one reason why - I think - autistic people feel anxious when they cannot follow their routines. Routines, if they're good ones, help to "tidy up" the chaos all around us.

If your routine is taken from you then basically, your ability to make sense of that confusing environment was taken away from you. That's horrible. That can make someone feel confused, angry, fed up, giddy, anxious or they can try hard to keep their calm to try to cope with the situation without a routine (not always possible).


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25 Sep 2011, 7:36 am

I find meltdowns and panic attacks to be quite distinct from one another, but both are emotionally intense.

I usually don't worry about the possibility of imminent death with a meltdown, and I can't usually defuse a meltdown with mindfulness.



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25 Sep 2011, 9:47 am

I think a shutdown is essentially a compressed panic attack. A meltdown is something else entirely.



StuartN
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25 Sep 2011, 10:59 am

Verdandi wrote:
I find meltdowns and panic attacks to be quite distinct from one another, but both are emotionally intense.

I usually don't worry about the possibility of imminent death with a meltdown, and I can't usually defuse a meltdown with mindfulness.


I have both, and find them distinct also. Panic attacks seem to me to be a physiological event with an adrenalin rush and all the physical symptoms of flight-or-fight. Fear and the need to run or escape are the foremost thoughts. There is a vicious cycle of thoughts, physical symptoms (sweating, heart-rate, etc), emotions and behaviour - the "hot-cross bun" model - which can be controlled to some extent, especially with practice.

Meltdowns seem to me to be a sensory overload, where the sheer volume of sensory information causes an intense reaction without any particular thoughts (except "switch it off!") and there is possibly a neurological limit that can not be modified with therapy or exercise.

Panic and meltdowns can both be triggered by similar circumstances, and are both more common when tired, anxious, etc.