Panic Attacks: The Longest 2 Minutes of Your Life

September 16, 2010 Kate White

My head is a marvelous place, I just wish I wasn't in it all the time. I'm practicing patient impatience; kicking rocks off a cliff whilst I wait for the spinning to stop.

Waiting, waiting, waiting - wanting something different. Different how? That's key. Wondering, am I really that stressed?

Signs of stress and anxiety:

  • Feeling like you understand the kettle and this boiling-over thing
  • There's so much tension in your neck and shoulders you make Atlas look like a wimp
  • Your cereal doesn't go "snap, crackle, pop" so much as "flop, crunch, crash"
  • Realizing that your main sources of anxiety relief are wine, Valium and Girl Scout cookies.

OK, so maybe I understand the kettle a little too well, and my shoulders may have developed an overly intimate relationship with my ears. But it's no big deal, right?

It's all in my head. Or so several doctors, and various acquaintances have gone out of their way to inform me.

Sure it is: Much like that cavity you're studiously ignoring. Except this is a little harder to ignore because it really is in my head. It never goes away completely. Things improve, I have my stable, apparently 'normal' moments but that's not quite the same. I'm more or less stuck dealing with it, trying to find better ways of being within my own oftentimes terribly uncertain experience.

How to manage anxiety and panic

If you're restless and uneasy, try to be patient with that. Even if the world isn't. Even if it means taking more breaks than you'd like and remaining mindful of the very fear and worry which seem to be causing the problem.

Try to incorporate new things, like meditation, into a stress-busting routine.

The anxious mind insists that there's catastrophe on the horizon, when it just isn't so. It makes the world feel like too much and some days I just want to forget the psychobabble, leave off the self-help and minimize to my heart's content. I'd feel better, for a while. Maybe I could even pretend it's fine.
I could. But I'm pretty sure it isn't the best idea. It wouldn't get me anywhere but right back where I least want to be:

The average panic attack.

Honestly, there's no such thing. There's nothing average about an anxiety attack (panic attack). It's a thoroughly weird mental state consisting of 2 parts terror, 1 part utter confusion and a few ounces of pure adrenaline jacked into your veins.

In the search for allies, I have found that time is one. Did you know that most panic attacks last 2-3 minutes?

They feel like forever but put that in perspective. 2 or 3 minutes. That's half your average Mp3. It takes longer to sharpen a pencil! Not a huge chunk out of your life, so I can sort of understand how people might think that's not such a big deal. But those few minutes can change the way you live your life in some really dramatic ways (watch Panic Attacks Can Be Frightening).

Common reactions to panic include:

  • withdrawal from things/people/places you previously enjoyed;
  • loss of appetite;
  • feeling like you can't ever really breathe;
  • increased worry and propensity to fear the unfamiliar;
  • muscle tension and/or weakness;
  • thoughts that you're going crazy and shouldn't tell anybody about what you're experiencing;

and a whole bunch of other incredibly normal responses to what just isn't an OK-feeling thing.

Hang in there, no matter how long or short your panic attacks may be. If you've survived one, you're strong enough to overcome them. Having a few more mental hurdles to leap doesn't make you weak or lesser-than, and there are more ways than you'd think to beat anxiety and manage your panic attacks.

APA Reference
White, K. (2010, September 16). Panic Attacks: The Longest 2 Minutes of Your Life, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Author: Kate White

June, 8 2017 at 8:34 pm

Hello, been sick since I was 4 and recently I have been having these attacks and I'm not sure what they are, I have Epilepsy so when I have an attack I've been told that I mumble, walk in circles around the house and I hit myself, but they only last for a couple minutes. Feels like to me a huge chunk has been taken out of my life. I'm scared and I cry after. My Dr isn't sure what to think. Think someone can help me?

May, 3 2011 at 10:59 am

I have found the assistance of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to be profoundly helpful in the reduction of panic attacks (along with the use of Bach's Rescue Remedy right in the middle of them). There are alternative modalities and holistic counseling that can help you get to the root of the problem and at the very least, help reduce the charge of the incidents when they do happen. EMDR is also a very helpful tool. Check local counselors in your area to see if they offer these services.

Dr Musli Ferati
September, 24 2010 at 8:09 am

Panic attacs are the emergency cases in mental Health Service as well as in General practice. They are very frightened experience for patient and a big diagnostic-therapeutic challenges for psychiatric staff. Panic attacs also presents dificult issue in whole health care system.

September, 17 2010 at 6:03 am

I have had panic/anxiety for 24 years off and on, and there were episodes that lasted for hours...even the whole day! I never learned how to let it to relax. I'm still working on it! Its a very debilitating disease.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kate White
September, 17 2010 at 7:41 am

Hi sherril,
yes, it's incredibly rough when it's that intense for those lengths of time. i have had similar periods, and at the point, it really affects everything, doesn't it?
I hope you're able to make progress with all that. It isn't easy, by any means and well obviously one can't say everyone can completely recover but I do believe there's hope, no matter how bad it gets. I have to believe that, from experience and from the perspective of wish-fulfillment, I suppose.
Anyway, I'm putting some good thoughts out there for you. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I think a lot of people could probably relate to what you said. Certainly I could!

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