started to have panic attacks and become anxious

Hi all, I had my first panic attack back in last week of Dec 2022. I was on my way to work as usual, and out of a sudden, I felt terrified inside the train and started breaking into sweats. I was trembling and felt like I cannot breathe. I ended up u-turning back home and called in sick for the next 3 days. This happened again shortly after this first episode in early Jan 2023.

I visited 2 GPs for help, but they both said that I have irritable bowel syndrome because I also had symptoms like feeling nauseous, dizzy, stomach cramps etc.

Initially, I was very conscious every time I make my way to work, I try to go to office later to avoid the crowd as I thought it might be the crowd that is making the whole experience worse. But it didn’t really help as I still experienced it time to time.

It slowly died down, but it is still always in the back of my mind and recently coming back at full blast after a train breakdown.

I am not sure what led to these, and recently I feel a lot worse where my heart would be racing when I am doing nothing, I feel breathless sometimes as well. I feel generally unwell and don’t know where to seek help.

Could anyone please help?

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Hi @user1131

I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing this and it must be tough to be dealing with something unknown. It takes a lot of courage to be sharing your feelings and I want to commend you for that.

Can I ask if something happen on the way to work the first time you experienced this in December 2022? I wonder if you have experiences like this due to crowds in the train or is it due to concerns about work? It might be helpful to identify the triggers to these experiences so you can get appropriate support.

I am asking if it is due to work because you mentioned that this usually happen when you are on the way to work, not back from work or when travelling to other places? Sometimes, if there is something at work that is of concern, our body might adopt an avoidance stance towards it and it comes out in ways like this.

It might be helpful to speak with someone about how you are feeling, to gain new perspectives about your situation and perhaps to join the dots to why you are feeling these experiences. It can be a trusted friend or family member. If you find it challenging to talk to your family or others directly or if you need additional support, you may also consider reaching out to a mental health professional like a counsellor or online platforms. They can provide a safe space for you to explore healthy ways to work around your emotions.

Here are some platforms you can consider:

  1. Limitless - Talk To Someone - Limitless
  2. IMH CHAT - Home - CHAT
  3. Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) - 1800-283 7019

Also, during the panic attacks, it is helpful to find a space and calm yourself down. You may alight from the train and go to a corner to do so before getting onboard again. Here are some suggestions for you to consider trying:

  1. Deep breathing exercises – Find a comfortable space and position yourself comfortably. Take a deep breath in while counting to 5 and breathe out counting to 5 as well. While you are breathing out, imagine that the air leaves with your stress and tension. Stay focused on your breathing and cast aside other thoughts. Repeat until you feel better.
  2. Grounding exercises – A five-step exercise (5-4-3-2-1) can help to ground you in the present when you are feeling anxious.
    You would need to engage your 5 senses (like 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can hear, 1 thing you can taste).

I hope this is helpful and that you are able to find out why it keeps happening. Do seek support if needed and remember that you are not alone in this. Take care!

Hi @Raindrop, thanks for much for listening and attending to my concerns! Really appreciate it :")

The strange thing is, nothing happened to me on the way to work before. The trigger I am suspecting is my fear of not being able to go to a toilet on time. There were a few memorable incidents where I desperately need to visit the toilet but am stuck on a long bus ride or traffic jam. Thankfully, I didn’t make a mess on myself but I was wondering if this fear is what is impacting me as I do notice I tend to have these panic attacks whenever my stomach is feeling unwell and the feelings get out of hands and translates into light-headedness etc. I usually have to dash out of the train to visit the toilet, and sometimes there is indeed some urgent bowel movements.

It does happen when I am on the way home from work as well. I tried speaking to my family members and friends but unfortunately its hard for them to understand how scary it was for me and it is often brushed off as me overreacting and that I should not worry so much…

I have reached out to a social worker before and she said it might be because I have agoraphobia and that I fear of being trapped with no escape and in my case, unable to get to the toilet in time. However, I feel that its slowly impacting my daily life although its only once in awhile because the feelings are so intense that I am unable to focus on my work.

And thanks so much for your advices! Will definitely keep them in my head and apply them when needed. :slight_smile:

Hi @user1131

Thank you for letting me know your thoughts, I am glad to hear that you will try to apply the suggestions!

Good that you gave it some thought! Perhaps you can consider going to the toilet before boarding trains or buses, or taking a light comfortable meal before travelling.

I am sorry to hear that you don’t get helpful support from your family or friends when you shared with them. It must feel hurtful to be dismissed. I hope you remember your feelings are valid. Everyone has different fears and concerns, and your concerns are definitely real. It is like someone can be afraid of heights, or cockroaches and perhaps others can emphasize with them because it is so common. It is just that your concern is more unique, thus people might have difficulty understanding that.

While it affects you, please do not take it too personally. Try out different ways to alleviate these concerns of yours and I hope things get better for you!