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No, you're not dying of a panic attack

panic attack

I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay, you keep telling yourself. You walk in circles, shaking your hands back in forth, hoping to regain control of something, anything. Your heartbeat feels thick and heavy, like it’s scraping at the inside of your body, looking for a way to beat right out of your chest. Your palms are sweaty, and you’re noticeably shaking. I’m okay, I’m okay.

Warmth overtakes your body. Not the kind that feels like home, instead it feels like you’re burning, melting into oblivion, your whole body ready to break at a moments notice. And when did you start crying? You can’t even remember. I’m okay. Panic overwhelms your ability to concentrate on anything but the anxious thoughts thrashing at the surface of your brain, seconds from erupting into a full blown panic attack.

But you’re not dying. I promise, you’re not dying.

What is a panic attack? 

Panic attacks are far more than a freak out or a breakdown. If you’ve never had one, you wouldn’t understand. And if you don’t know if you’ve had one, you haven’t.

In technical terms, a panic attack is a “sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause.”

What are the symptoms of a panic attack?

Panic attack symptoms aren’t black and white; they often differ from person to person. Here are few ways students at the University of Kansas experience panic attacks:

  • Bella Latorella (Junior): “I feel as if I can’t breathe and my lungs are closing.”
  • Abby Vossen (Freshman): “I feel like I’m not in my body, and I’m living in a dream.”
  • Maddie Elliott (Senior): “Usually I get really hot and sweaty, my heart beats really fast, and I feel like I can’t breathe.”
  • Skylar Rosner (Junior): “My heart is pounding, sometimes my vision goes black, my hands and voice shake, and I feel like I’m dying.”

What are ways to cope with a panic attack? 

Just as everyone experiences panic attacks differently, everyone has different coping strategies as well. You have to find what’s best for you. 

“I often just need alone time and need to be somewhere safe and calm,” Junior Anna Avery says. “I also have used techniques to ground myself, focusing on what I hear, see, and feel.”

Grounding techniques are common for victims of panic attacks. Because many people feel an out of body experience when they’re having an attack, finding physical things to ground you can bring you back into your body. Some people run cool or warm water over their hands and face, while others try focusing on taking deep breaths. 

Counseling can also be a great way to help you find new ways to coach yourself through these challenges.

Michelle Worley, a licensed clinical marriage and family therapist, says that, oftentimes, students don’t feel they don’t have the time or money to reach out to a professional. However, she reveals, “There are many practices in the KC Metro who offer discounted rate therapy.” This includes her practice, Great Oaks Therapy Center.  

 Talking to a mental health professional, like a therapist or psychologist, can help people identify their panic attack triggers. And the hope is that by identifying these triggers, you’ll respond differently to the attacks, and they’ll decrease over time and ultimately stop. 

A panic attack isn’t life-threatening. It won’t kill you. You’re not dying. But that’s not to say the sudden, intense fear that rushes over your body isn’t scary. But it is manageable.

Just keep reminding yourself, I’m okay.

Person 1: This song slaps.

Person 2: Your mom slaps.

Person 1: Thank you, my mom is a kind and wonderful lady.

 Person 1: I’m so sick of alcohol.

Person 2: I don’t know, I’m getting stronger every day. I love it.

Person 1: Do you do the vegan wrap here?

Person 2: We can do the chicken wrap with no cheese?

Person 1: I’ll take the Beyond Burger please. 

Person 1: Oh my God! I feel like I know you somehow…

Person 2: Yeah, we went to high school together. 

Person 1: Oh! *walks off*

Guy 1: Is the black market even real? Has anyone ever been on it?

Guy 2: I tried once but I couldn’t figure out how to get on.

Guy 1: I stayed up until 2 am watching Disney plus

Guy 2: I told my girlfriend I fell asleep but I was actually watching the Mandalorian.

Girl 1: How long have you guys been dating?

Girl 2: Since the summer, well actually for like two years but it’s a long story.

Girl 1: Who are you looking for?

Girl 2: This guy, wait I found him. Fanny pack boy. He flipped off my professor after a test and ran out of the classroom.

Girl 1: How did you choose KU? 

Girl 2: Honestly, I flipped a coin. 

Boy 1: Did I tell you? I think I had a threesome this weekend.

Boy 2: Woah, hold up. You think?

Boy 1: I was born a Phi Delt.

Boy 2: Please don’t ever say that again.

Girl 1: How do you get your boobs to look like that?

Girl 2: I don’t ever wear a bra? I don’t know. 

Girl 1: I just really want a guy to bend me over you know?

Girl 2: How do you know? You’re a virgin!

Guy: Sometimes I wish I could just be a dog and sleep all day. 

Girl: You wake up at like three every day. 

Guy: I know.

Girl: So…

Guy: So does that make me a dog or something?

Girl 1: I wish I was a little bit taller.

Girl 2: I wish I was balder.

Girl 1: I wish I had a...wait, wait, wait balder?

Guy 1: Let’s slap dicks

Guy 2: You ever pee and it feels like throwing up?

Woman 1: *holding baby* He would have been safer at the Hawk

Woman 2: Oh absolutely.

Girl 1: I would never date that guy.

Girl 2: Well, it depends how much money he has.

Girl 1: I’m going to the doctor to see if I have bronchitis before I hook up with him again.

Girl 2: Yeah that’s smart so you don’t give it to anyone else. 

Girl 1: No I mean I want to make sure I infect him.

Guy 1: I'm cutting some of my unnecessary costs, starting with Juuling.

Guy 2: Ight man, good luck.

Guy 1: Actually I might just start chewing

Guy 1: How was work?

Guy 2: My manager was chastising me for not dressing up in a Halloween costume, she doesn’t understand I’m strictly here to get paid.

Guy 1: I am so tired of this week, man

Guy 2: Dude it’s Monday

Guy 1: I know

Person#1: I want to be on the first ship to mars

Person#2: Not me, I doubt they have Wi-Fi

Perons#1: Yeah but at least they’re evolving up there. We’re all just devolving.

Girl 1: Um, I don’t eat pig.

Girl 2: You eat bacon all the time, bitch.

Guy 1: You better get going. 

Guy 2: Yeah, see ya. I’m off to get some Adderall.

Girl 1: Are you home right now?

Girl 2: Yeah, why?

Girl 1: I bought a cat

Girl 1: I just don't understand what fishing is for.

Girl 2: I don't know. Food, maybe?

Guy: I’m just gonna have to like carry an entire box of spiders up the hill tomorrow.

Girl: What?

Guy: Yeah, just like a hundred spiders in a box.

Guy 1: Sometimes ya just gotta give yourself a haircut.

Guy 2: Dude, you shaved half your head. That’s not a haircut, that’s a mess.

Girl 1: Can you eat fruit raw?

Girl 2: How else are you supposed to eat it?

Girl: That class is killing us. ​But they say rest is for the dead.

Guy: Well, at least we'll be rested.

Girl: She's not in class this semester.

Guy: Maybe she's dead.

Girl: Or studying abroad.

Girl: They're like oil and water.

Guy: Wow, you're so good with analogies.