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rebbieh
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31 Jul 2012, 2:16 am

I've always had a bit of a hard time understanding the difference between an anxiety/panic attack and a meltdown. Perhaps you can help me out.

Last time I had what I think is a meltdown I had just spoken to my parents about how I feel and how tough life is for me. They didn't really understand and I couldn't really communicate the whole thing properly. I'm a person who bottle up all my feelings until I can't take it any longer and then a specific event triggers a meltdown (talking to my parents in this case). So when I was done talking to my parents I felt tears coming down my face, I started rocking back and forth with my head in my hands. I then stood up, paced the room and started to feel like I couldn't breathe properly. I started hitting my head and I had extreme anxiety. Then I lost all control. I remember I threw myself on my bed and started hitting my head and throwing pillows. I then started hitting the back (hard part) of the sofa. Stopped doing so after a while and just sat on my bed and completely hyperventilated. Hyperventilated until I felt physically sick. Then it stopped. Afterwards I realised I had accidentally broken my phone charger and that I had bruises on my knuckles from punching the sofa so much.

Last time I had what I think is an anxiety attack I was obsessing over something. The thoughts kept coming back. It's like they were on repeat in my head. I started to feel like a prisoner in my own mind and like I was losing control of everything. I then started to rock back and forth while hitting my head and crying. Did so for about 10 minutes and then it was over.

If you've read all of that you've probably noticed there are some similarities between the two. Were both situations anxiety/panic attacks or was the first situation in fact a meltdown? How can you tell the difference?

Thanks.



SteelMaiden
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31 Jul 2012, 3:10 am

For me, my meltdowns are very dramatic and involve physical things, like throwing things or hitting people. But my panic attacks are more self-directed things like hyperventilating, crying (but not screaming) and rocking/other repetitive movements.

For example I had a meltdown when I was on the psych ward after a patient got way too close to me and started shouting and pushing me. I have personal space/noise/physical contact issues. I pushed him away and started screaming and putting my hands over my ears, then I picked up a chair and threw it, and started punching the tables. The nurses had to restrain me and then I started whacking my head against the floor and gave myself a nosebleed.

But the last time I had a panic attack, I was shaking, crying, repeating phrases and pacing, but I wasn't outwardly physical like in my meltdown.

That's the difference for me.


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helles
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31 Jul 2012, 3:35 am

I do not know, cant help. Trying to figure out myself.

Liked your explanation of thoughts on repeat, I get that (all the time at the moment)
I am just here to follow the thread :brilsmurf:


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League_Girl
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31 Jul 2012, 3:48 am

I still can't tell the difference. I think I rarely have panic attacks.


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outofplace
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31 Jul 2012, 3:52 am

I have had plenty of panic attacks during my lifetime, but can't say I have ever had a meltdown. The thing is, I always have control of my outward actions so I don't see what happens to me as a meltdown.


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helles
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31 Jul 2012, 3:58 am

Arn´t panic attacs different?

Due to PTS (very nasty home robbery in Africa) I had some panic attacs (I think).

they are triggered by situations that remind me of the PTS situation. It can be sounds, people walking behind me or darkness.

My brain sort of shuts off all logic responses (no logic reason to panic, as I am in a safe environment), Hyperventilation, a very primal urge to flee and shaking. I used to break down crying as well.

Afterwards I can begin to look at the logic in the situation and analyse why it happend. I am getting better controlling these things but it takes time


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Raziel
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31 Jul 2012, 4:04 am

For me a melt down is just an overwhelming of emotion and sensory input.
It is being totally out of the mind.
It's also usually just for a moment and afterwards I might sleep and feel exausthed, but very often very fast better again.
So, it's usually just a short moment for me.
Sometimes befor I feel like "exploding" and I know when the sensory input doesn't stop or whatever, I'll get a meltdown.

A panic attack is much more narrow in their feelings.
It is not clear when it starts and it's getting more slightly worse, with a sudden outburst. It feels more terrible and with a lot more pressure, sweating, fear of death and so on. There are a lot more negative feelings involved. Usually I still feel highly afraid afterwards with thinking of the situation over and over, because it feelt so terrible anxious.
I don't have all that with a classical meltdown.


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analyser23
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31 Jul 2012, 5:40 am

To me a meltdown is more a physical outwards pouring of emotion, namely anger. Mine also involve tantrum like screaming, the need to throw and hit inanimate objects, and utter irrational-nonsensical ranting ;) (must look funny in hindsight I am sure!)

A panic attack for me is where I feel like all my walls around me cave in and I am utterly hopeless and terrified and I always hyperventilate in these scenarios. There is no ranting, throwing or hitting. I curl up in a ball and I can't breathe while crying.

I am unsure if they can be related at all. I am very embarrassed about the first scenario, but very scared about the second.

They both seem to be involved with some sort of completely overwhelming feeling to which my brain/body reacts without much conscious input anymore.

I also notice that my panic attacks are worse and more prolonged the more I attempt to stop them/the trigger is still present, whereas the meltdown just happens until all the emotion has exploded out of me.



rebbieh
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31 Jul 2012, 6:05 am

analyser23 wrote:
To me a meltdown is more a physical outwards pouring of emotion, namely anger. Mine also involve tantrum like screaming, the need to throw and hit inanimate objects, and utter irrational-nonsensical ranting ;) (must look funny in hindsight I am sure!)

A panic attack for me is where I feel like all my walls around me cave in and I am utterly hopeless and terrified and I always hyperventilate in these scenarios. There is no ranting, throwing or hitting. I curl up in a ball and I can't breathe while crying.

I am unsure if they can be related at all. I am very embarrassed about the first scenario, but very scared about the second.

They both seem to be involved with some sort of completely overwhelming feeling to which my brain/body reacts without much conscious input anymore.

I also notice that my panic attacks are worse and more prolonged the more I attempt to stop them/the trigger is still present, whereas the meltdown just happens until all the emotion has exploded out of me.


When I have a meltdown (or what I think is a meltdown) I often get very violent. I throw things, I kick things, I hit things and I hit myself. When I have a panic attack I only get violent towards myself (and that doesn't always happen).

When I have a panic attack I feel anxious. I've got extreme anxiety. When I have a meltdown I have anxiety as well, but it also contains a lot of other emotions. I often feel angry, sad, lonely, frustrated, annoyed etc (even though I can never really identify what I feel while it's happening) which makes me overwhelmed and voila - meltdown. Do you know what I mean?

So can a meltdown contain anxiety or is it then a panic attack?



The_Walrus
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31 Jul 2012, 6:10 am

Whenever I've tried to explain a "meltdown" to someone (my parents, or a professional), they've gone "oh, a panic attack".

I would say that meltdowns are more like sudden onset despair (or occasionally anger) than sudden onset panic though.



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31 Jul 2012, 11:37 am

Well, here are the symptoms of a panic attack from Mayo Clinic:

Panic attacks typically begin suddenly, without warning. They can strike at almost any time — when you're driving the car, at the mall, sound asleep or in the middle of a business meeting. Panic attacks have many variations, but symptoms usually peak within 10 minutes. You may feel fatigued and worn out after a panic attack subsides.

Panic attacks typically include a few or many of these symptoms:

Sense of impending doom or danger
Fear of loss of control or death
Rapid heart rate
Sweating
Trembling
Shortness of breath
Hyperventilation
Chills
Hot flashes
Nausea
Abdominal cramping
Chest pain
Headache
Dizziness
Faintness
Tightness in your throat
Trouble swallowing
One of the worst things about panic attacks is the intense fear that you'll have another one. You may fear having a panic attack so much that you avoid situations where they may occur. You may even feel unable to leave your home (agoraphobia) because no place feels safe.

When to see a doctor
If you have any panic attack symptoms, seek medical help as soon as possible. Panic attacks are hard to manage on your own, and they may get worse without treatment. And because panic attack symptoms can also resemble other serious health problems, such as a heart attack, it's important to get evaluated by your health care provider if you aren't sure what's causing your symptoms.