Mental Health Monday–Fight or Flight?


You know you’re going to die.

You can’t breathe, your heart is pounding, sweat is pouring down your face and back. Your vision blurs, your tongue feels thick. Your stomach and bowels threaten to expunge their contents, like, immediately. Even ordinary sounds are jarring. Basically, your body has betrayed you without warning and regaining control seems impossible.

This is just a glimpse of what a panic attack feels like. Once the cycle starts, these intense bouts of anxiety can come without warning. The sufferer often worries about the next attack. Anticipation itself brings on the symptoms.

In other words, it’s a vicious cycle.

So, my question to you:

How would you write a scene of someone having a panic attack? Would you focus on his or her internal sensations or would you highlight the world around them, pointing out the details of his or her heightened perception?

Either way, the experience for the reader can be pretty intense, right?

Check out Lydia’s post on Medical Mondays!

Remember, this post is intended for writing purposes only and is NOT meant for medical treatment or advice.

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5 comments on “Mental Health Monday–Fight or Flight?

  1. Lydia Kang says:

    Wow, good question. I think I’d do a little bit of both–the internal, and the external, to pull in the experience as a whole.

    Panic attacks seems so scary. I’m lucky I’ve never had one. I’m afraid to have one!

  2. Great post!

    I’m with Lydia–I think it would be important to do a little of both. I’d also make the sentences short and choppy and not flowery. 🙂

  3. Lynn Rush says:

    Well now that I’ve read this, I think my panic attack scenes will be stronger.

    I’m one who would focus on the feelings of the character with a sprinkle of what happened to ignite it.

    I’ve survived a couple of panic attacks and then learned about them in grad school a bit, so hopefully that’ll help me write the scenes better.

    Love your Mental Health Mondays!

  4. Hmm. I need to add more of these symptoms to my poor MC’s panic attack. She was getting off too easy. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. I’m more of an internal person when it comes to showing character emotion but that’s what I like to read. I love finding out about how the characters are dealing with things.

    Thanks so much for sharing this post and inspiring us all to inspire some panic.

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