There are tons of guides about writing a character with anxiety, but here’s how a panic attack actually feels - at least in my case. Knowing how your character is actually feeling will enable you to write a much more authentic para/whatever you’re writing.
Please note that it may differ from person to person.
So, first of all, you get into a really down mood. Like, you’re feeling like everything is bringing you down. Everything that has happened to you during the day seems like the end of the world, and it feels like one more thing will set you off. This is why many of us choose not to leave the house, especially those of us with Social Anxiety Disorder: even making eye contact with people can make us feel like absolute shit, and staying inside is a lot safer.
Next, you usually get triggered by something. It can be something really minor, but it’s the final straw. Things that can trigger you may be:
So, the actual panic attack? It’s really hard to explain. First, you can’t breathe. Seriously. You really feel like you’re choking. Many people start sobbing uncontrollably (I know I do), and there are tears and snot and it makes it even harder to breathe. Then your brain goes into overdrive. It really does. It starts imagining the trillions of bad things that could happent to you; the trillions of bad things that are happening right in that moment; all the things in the future that could cause something bad to happen, and you know there’s something you have to do, but you just can’t do it. You just can’t. So you’re crying and sobbing and you can’t breathe and sometimes you just curl up on the floor and you sob and sob and sob. And sometimes it gets even worse because you try to do something but you fail (like the other day, I called my mother but she wouldn’t answer the phone), and you stumble around and all you can think about is all the shit that happened to you that day and in your life and it just all piles up into one big explosion.
After the attack, you keep crying. You lie down or sit down or keep stumbling around, and you cry. And then you feel absolutely drained. Like, really fucking drained. Like you’ve just spent all your energy doing something you really wished you hadn’t done. You might feel physically sick, and you might even throw up. Overall, you just feel generally shitty. Really shitty. Tired, drained, shitty, and sick. And if you have them frequently, you pretty much feel like that all the time.
There you go. I know it wasn’t professional or particularly helpful, but I hope you can get some genuine, authentic shit for your character out of this.
Remember that this is my experience, and it varies from person to person. Feel free to add to this if you have something different to add.