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Painful Anxiety and Panic Attacks
About 2 years ago, I had my first panic attack while driving. I thought I was having a heart attack or something and ended up calling 911 and being transported to the hospital via ambulance. The doctor told me that my blood pressure was actually extremely low and that my heart seemed healthy and fine. He said that he thinks I am "all stomach" and gave me some antacids and sent me home.
To get into some more detail, I'll explain how the attack came on. I had been having an extremely painful toothache due to an abcess on the right side of my mouth. While I was at work, I took a couple of tylenol extra strength. For some reason, however, I havent been able to take pain killers in large amounts because it causes me to become very anxious. I have some kind of subconscious fear of overdosing and having a heart attack. A short while after taking the pills I went into the bathroom and tried to force them back up. This caused my heart to race and made me more anxious.
Because the pills werent working on the toothache, I called a local dentist and set up an emergency visit, and left work early. I went home and smoked weed with my girlfriend to try and calm down and make the pain go away. I remember that while I was at home that I felt like my head was light and I had pins and needles in the hands.
As I was driving to the dentists office I kept checking my heart rate and couldnt focus properly. As my anxiety built, there was a sudden change in sensation. The pins and needles in my hands quickly spread up the left side of my body and face. I wasnt able to grip the steering wheel and was forced to pull off the road. My heart was racing extremely fast and I was gasping for breath. This is when I called 911.
Since then I continue to have similar episodes, not nearly as intense, but still very uncomfortable. I feel like I am overanalyzing bodily sensations and misinterpreting them as symptoms of cardiac arrest or some other more serious condition. I find that smoking exhascerbates and contributes to these sensations and have quit cigarettes and green twice in the last 2 years. I also find that even without these other contributing factors, that panic symptoms occur quite frequently while driving or riding in a car.
I can't tell if these symptoms and conditions are being caused by an actual physical malady or if they are being generated by my mind. Whenever I am experiencing a very difficult attack, it is hard to meditate because I become so concerned with my breath and heartrate that I can't focus. I become worried that I am not breathing deep enough, then I'm worried that I'm hyperventelating, and I constantly check my heart rate, and if there is any kind of pain or sensation in my arms or face or ears I immediately assume it to be signs of a coming heart attack.
Does anyone have any experience or advice regarding this situation? It's causing me serious distress and keeps me from maintaining a calm and peaceful demeanor. I don't know what to do.