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Why does my body stay in shock and take so long to settle down if I know I'm having a panic attack ?

16 Answers
Last Updated: 12/06/2021 at 6:47am
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Melissa Strauss, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

I am client focused and believe everyone has a strength. I feel confident in seeing clients with generalized and social anxiety, depression and relational goals.

Top Rated Answers
August 11th, 2015 9:13pm
Adrenaline is a funny thing. Once it's in the system, it has a tendency to stay there until it's used up. Even if the situation which caused the adrenaline rush is resolved, there's still all that fight-or-flight hormone hanging around in the body, causing all the physical symptoms of a panic attack even without the mental and emotional associations.
June 5th, 2015 10:20pm
A panic attack is a serious, overwhelming emotional and more often than not physical experience. When you have a panic attack, your body goes into shock and it often takes a long time to settle down because you are dealing with a flood of emotions that are just too much to handle at that moment (hence the name panic attack). It is a battle. You are aware that you are in the battle and you might know or guess that the odds are you will win, but your mind is preoccupied with the thoughts related to panicking. When the panic attack starts to abate, your brain and body become exhausted because a panic attack is an exhausting experience! There is a reason that people say that having a panic attack makes you feel like you are having a heart attack: you know it is happening, but you can only use the techniques at your fingertips to help yourself, and when it is over, you can only expect to be very tired, stirred up, and possibly in shock for up to a few days. Know that these symptoms following panic attacks are okay and common. It is valid to feel this way. Noticing that you are panicking is also very important, so if you can notice the panic, you are better equipped to take it on and settle down and get out of shock faster. That said, always be kind to yourself. That's really almost all your body is asking for when you panic and afterwards: kindness, care, and love. Sleep it off, take a hot shower, do what makes you feel calm and good about yourself.
May 9th, 2016 5:09pm
In my experience, the more alert and in-tune you are with your body, the longer it seems to take a panic attack to subside. I have been practicing mindfulness exercises and focusing on the breath which has been helping to distract my mind from what is happening, and has made it easier to stop the panic attacks faster.
August 17th, 2015 11:49pm
In my case continuing to think about the thoughts or event that triggered it kept the panic attack going, it was only when I was able to gain control of my thoughts and breathing that I was able to settle down again.
January 16th, 2015 9:46pm
Panic attacks impact on our physical and mental abilities to manage a situation ! Even after we understand things that are happening to us our body can still remain in a state of shock ! It takes longer to settle it because our brain releases chemicals that has prepared it to protect our selfs from harm !
April 12th, 2015 8:46pm
You know, I wonder the exact same thing. I'm really glad you asked this, because I'm having the same question. This gives me the opportunity to think about it to benefit me and you. I feel that it is our body in a frozen or stocked state as you said. It's a paralyzing state where our body and mind doesn't know what to do. Chaos and no direction. When we feel this way, we need to get help from another person in person or here at 7 cups of Tea. if you ever need help you can message me and I will get back to you. panic attacks are one of my areas of expertise. If you can't connect with someone, then finding a way to reduce stress and focus on something is paramount. Our body is confused and doesn't know how to act, so we must find a way to make it act, be intentional go do something. Excessive is a fantastic way to distress and shake away the panic vibes. Listening to music, focusing on our breathing and imagining a calming place are all very effective ways to help ease the pain. One of the most important things to have is a panic sheet, that tells you your coping options that you can grab at any time. When we are paniced, our brain isn't connected to our wisdom, that way if we right it down, we have some direction when we are in a rattled state. Thinking about this has helped me a lot, i'm going to go make that list now. you have truly helped me, i am in your debt. ive been in pain for almost 2 days now, stuck.
October 21st, 2019 12:51am
Panic attacks can be very scary. Your body just wants to stay in motion to fix whatever situation has brought the panic in the first place. Many times, it is something from the past that can not be fixed or changed, but we dwell on doing so. Sometimes, stopping entirely is the hardest thing to do, but if you don't, the body's actions can stay in motion. Try completely stopping what you are doing and taking much deserved time for you. Breathe and stay fully engaged in the present until you find calm. Let the past go, let the future go. The right now is all that is important, and the right now can be a calming place.
January 29th, 2015 9:26pm
Unfortunately, the body might take a while longer to recognize that there is in fact no danger or life threatening situation going on at the moment. I know its frustrating and can made you sit on edge for hours after an unpleasant panic attack, but if you really feel its a problem you may want to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss a possible anxiety medication prescription.
June 10th, 2015 2:27pm
Because a panic attack physically takes the body up to a level of highest alert. Adrenalin gets pumped into your system and everything races. Long after you may have mentally recovered, the body still needs to dissipate the things that pushed it to the extreme.
June 21st, 2016 3:16pm
A panic attack is not only in the mind but in the body as well. When you're having one, your body reacts as if it finds itself in a life or death situation. It's the so-called "fight or flight" response. So, while you recognise you're having a panic attack and you're not actually in danger, it takes a while for your body to recover after its survival instincts kicked it. What you most typically experience in situations like this one is an excess of adrenaline in your bloodstream that activates your muscles and heightens your senses. This is why it takes a while to get your body to settle down. You might try burning out energy to lower the adrenaline. Sometimes it works. And then control your breath to reduce your heart rate!
June 26th, 2018 6:31am
Your mind registers what your feeling, but it doesn't stop it from feeling it. If you see a bear and it's running towards you, you know you're afraid. It doesn't mean you won't run, you will. Panic attacks are your body's reaction to being afraid. You know you're scared but that won't stop you from it.
April 15th, 2015 12:07pm
Personally when I have panic attacks it also takes a long time to settle down afterwards, and I'm not sure exactly what chemically causes it but I think that because my body went into panic! alert! danger! run! mode that it takes a while to gear down again because if you get really afraid and your body gets convinced that something's about to really hurt or scare you, it won't just gear down because we logically know that going to the super market isn't all that dangerous. I kinda think of it like if a bee flies into my face and I freak out because I'm terrified of bees, I won't stop being alert and worrying if it's still after me or if there are others nearby until I've gotten far away from the area.
November 10th, 2015 2:40pm
There are many types of panic attacks and many different ways people deal with them. Maybe in your case it takes longer than others but just as long as you calm down at the end of it cause thats the important part.
November 30th, 2015 2:09pm
Like many others things and emotions in life, such events cause your body to release adrenaline and it takes a while for your body to calm itself back down, to get rid of the adrenaline. It can also be unhelpful if you're afraid of the reaction of your body, which many people experience while in such a state.
December 5th, 2017 12:15am
There's a difference between knowing it's a panic attack and explaining it to the irrational part of the brain that is having the panic attack.
December 6th, 2021 6:47am
I can relate to panic attacks. I have had many. Sometimes it takes longer if you are staying tensed up and not utilizing your breathing. Breathing techniques have worked wonders. Long deep breaths have worked really well and with each deep breath, you will start to feel a little bit of relief. If you are doing shallow short breaths, the panic attack usually lasts a lot longer. By concentrating on your breathing, you are also bringing yourself into the moment and not focusing as much on the panic that is happening in your body.