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Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting
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Author:  Somedudeathome [ Sat Jul 26, 2014 6:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

I've been dealing with anxiety for about 4 years now off and on. I don't have it 100% of the time but certain situations can trigger it and lead to panic attacks. For those not familiar during a panic attack my heart will start racing like I sprinted a mile, I'll feel light headed, can't catch my breath, arms and legs start to get tingly feeling like they are falling asleep, and I just can't think straight.

Anyway, it's been happening while working out now. I think because the feelings I get while working out are very similar to that of a panic attack. It's extremely frustrating because I love working out and it's been an outlet for me for around 9 years now. I had made great gains but now because on the anxiety I am not pushing myself at all. I realize that nothing bad will really happen and it's all irrational thoughts but it's not fun going through it all. The heavy breathing and burning in my chest and things trigger it. Certain exercises to do like bench press, shoulder press, and squats. Basically any exercise where when I start breathing heavy and get anxiety I can't just walk away easily. After a panic attack I always feel drained similar to after a tough leg day so I can't just go back and pick up where I left off.

Now, I think that while working out I'm so tuned into my breathing that rather than just breath without thinking about it I'm hyperventilating. I need to relearn proper breathing techniques while also trying to reel in the anxiety. I know I have to just push through and keep exposing myself to it but the point of this post is to see if anyone else is dealing with this? Or does any one have any suggestions?

Author:  robertscott [ Sun Jul 27, 2014 5:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

see a healthcare professional

Author:  Somedudeathome [ Sun Jul 27, 2014 10:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

I am but they don't lift weights so they don't have the same kind of insights as people on here might. They can offer the suggestions for general anxiety and coping strategies butdon't have the experience lifting.

Author:  robertscott [ Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

I wouldn't be holding a heavy weight above my head or face until I had my anxiety attacks under control, personally

Author:  Somedudeathome [ Sun Jul 27, 2014 2:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

My thoughts exactly. Any suggestions on how to overcome this? Any tips on how to control my breathing better than just the standard out while pushing?

Author:  KenDowns [ Fri Oct 03, 2014 8:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

I have had exactly one panic attack in my life and it was terrifying. I can only imagine that it would be frustrating and discouraging to experience this as a regular thing - unpredictable and probably always at the worst time.

Can we assume you have been offered the two routes available from professionals: psychiatric and psychological?

The psychiatric route will give you meds to control the symptoms. The psychological approach will assume there is some emotional conflict buried somewhere that needs to be identified and addressed, and that doing so will at very least reduce the attacks and in the best case eliminate them altogether. Personally I'm big into the psychological route.

At any rate meditation is a great thing to learn. How far have you gone with it? It is easy to learn on your own, great to do with like-minded friends (which I rarely get to do), and generally great for health. What have you tried there.

But here is a question: what do you for your panic attacks? Do you have any technique to mitigate them or reduce them? If so, have you tried that while working out?

Author:  poptart [ Wed Nov 05, 2014 1:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

I used to have severe panic attacks, and I have reduced it to a manageable level by following these tips:
a. Muscle relaxation techniques. Everytime when your muscles tensed up, you will shirt all your attention towards relaxing the muscle. The idea here is that you can't be anxious and relaxed at the same time.

b. Get medications from psychiatrist. I was prescribed Xanax in case the attack is too strong to be controlled.

c. Mindfulness. Practice to stay more in the present moment to prevent yourself from dwelling into the past.

If all else fails, consider attending a hypnotherapy session. As KenDowns said, this approach can be used to help you voice out your emotional conflict, and the therapist will decipher what it means.

Hope it helps :smile:

Author:  Ironman [ Fri Nov 07, 2014 4:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

I've faced the same issue, and I handled it the same ways Poptart did. So I would second that advice.

Author:  Somedudeathome [ Tue Jan 13, 2015 8:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

So kind of reviving this but I'll try to answer everyones posts.

Ken, like you said they do always come at the worst times. I have taken both routes and I'm currently on a daily medication but also have Xanax for the times where it catches me off guard or I know that I'm going into a very stressful situation. For the first year or two I did my best to not have to take medication because I didn't want the side effects and the dependency that comes with them but had no choice. I also have seen 2 different therapists (switched because of insurance) and both were helpful. They gave me coping techniques and did do a bit of digging but there's not really much of anything in the past.

Some things I do when I feel it coming on is to try to regulate my breathing, focus on anything but the anxiety, a walk for some fresh air, and muscle relaxtion if I'm tensing. They all help depending on the situation.

The main problem with exercising is it mimics the sensations of a panic attack. While the coping techniques do work it takes a lot away from the that days workout. Can't go as hard as I normally would. 50% of my attention is on lifting while the other 50% is trying to stop the feeling of dying (I know I'm not). It's also a long time to go trying to fend of a panic attack and is exhausting. If I could afford it I would get a personal trainer but can't.

poptart, I think I responded to most of the things you said in the first bit but hynotherapy as in hypnosis? If you've done this could you expand more and tell me how it went?

Author:  KenDowns [ Sun Jan 18, 2015 7:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

Somedudeathome wrote:
The main problem with exercising is it mimics the sensations of a panic attack. While the coping techniques do work it takes a lot away from the that days workout. Can't go as hard as I normally would. 50% of my attention is on lifting while the other 50% is trying to stop the feeling of dying (I know I'm not). It's also a long time to go trying to fend of a panic attack and is exhausting. If I could afford it I would get a personal trainer but can't.


As I am not a medical professional this may be a naive question, but has time and experience under the bar lessened this to any degree? Here's why I ask. In the absence of a serious issue like panic attacks, everybody brings all kinds of preconceived notions into the gym that limit their progress - I know I sure did and still do sometimes. Lots and lots of practice gradually exposes and eliminates these notions as they are replaced with correct ideas based on accumulating experience.

So, as you soldier on in the gym, are you able to compare your experience to the "false" (but powerfully real) impression of impending death? Does the repeated experience of successfully completing a set offer any accumulating realization that the feeling, as real as it seems, is not real?

Author:  Somedudeathome [ Tue Jan 20, 2015 10:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

Ken, you're 100% correct. That is basically the solution and what I've been doing. You did put it in a way that I have never thought about comparing it to other "preconceived notions." Being a hardgainer I thought I had a lot of limits but ended up proving a lot of those thoughts wrong. Maybe if I think of the anxiety as something more like that it'll help. Right now since I've been working on getting past this for a while the anxiety seems almost like a massive mountain I've been climbing and occasionally tumbling down. Comparing it to being a hardgainer and how I was able to get past that at the gym kind of adds that light at the end of the tunnel.

Author:  stuward [ Wed Jan 21, 2015 9:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

Tackling a massive mountain is daunting. Break it down to small finite steps that you can accomplish and then move on. All complex tasks can be tackled that way.

Author:  jarbinx [ Wed Nov 04, 2015 3:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

Somedudeathome wrote:
So kind of reviving this but I'll try to answer everyones posts.

Ken, like you said they do always come at the worst times. I have taken both routes and I'm currently on a daily medication but also have Xanax for the times where it catches me off guard or I know that I'm going into a very stressful situation. For the first year or two I did my best to not have to take medication because I didn't want the side effects and the dependency that comes with them but had no choice. I also have seen 2 different therapists (switched because of insurance) and both were helpful. They gave me coping techniques and did do a bit of digging but there's not really much of anything in the past.

Some things I do when I feel it coming on is to try to regulate my breathing, focus on anything but the anxiety, a walk for some fresh air, and muscle relaxtion if I'm tensing. They all help depending on the situation.

The main problem with exercising is it mimics the sensations of a panic attack. While the coping techniques do work it takes a lot away from the that days workout. Can't go as hard as I normally would. 50% of my attention is on lifting while the other 50% is trying to stop the feeling of dying (I know I'm not). It's also a long time to go trying to fend of a panic attack and is exhausting. If I could afford it I would get a personal trainer but can't.

poptart, I think I responded to most of the things you said in the first bit but hynotherapy as in hypnosis? If you've done this could you expand more and tell me how it went?


I was prescribed Klonopin by my doctor at the age of 15 for treatment of acute anxiety after having been the victim of sexual abuse. My doctor kept me on this drug for several years, when I switched doctors at the age of 22, he upped my dosage and added Xanax, alprazolam. I obviously became incredibly dependent on both drugs however I didn't take more than what was prescribed..however apparently I was prescribed an insane amount. I discovered the severity of the situation when I decided to stop taking my medication- since I had been taking the medication for over a decade, I had no choice but to enter rehab, but before that I was placed in a medical detox unit in a hospital for a WEEK. I suffered a seizure and at times couldn't remember how to do simple things such as spell or tie my shoes- I couldn't hold a glass of water without spilling and I could barely walk in a straight line. Never in my LIFE have I ever experienced such agony. There were people on the unit with me that were withdrawing off of heroin, and my situation was worse by miles. It has been seven months since my last dose and I still suffer from intense headaches and dizziness. It should also be noted that my anxiety levels have decreased so significantly that I am no longer on any medication.

Author:  Pierre Bruce [ Tue Nov 10, 2015 1:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

Somedudeathome wrote:
I've been dealing with anxiety for about 4 years now off and on. I don't have it 100% of the time but certain situations can trigger it and lead to panic attacks. For those not familiar during a panic attack my heart will start racing like I sprinted a mile, I'll feel light headed, can't catch my breath, arms and legs start to get tingly feeling like they are falling asleep, and I just can't think straight.

Anyway, it's been happening while working out now. I think because the feelings I get while working out are very similar to that of a panic attack. It's extremely frustrating because I love working out and it's been an outlet for me for around 9 years now. I had made great gains but now because on the anxiety I am not pushing myself at all. I realize that nothing bad will really happen and it's all irrational thoughts but it's not fun going through it all. The heavy breathing and burning in my chest and things trigger it. Certain exercises to do like bench press, shoulder press, and squats. Basically any exercise where when I start breathing heavy and get anxiety I can't just walk away easily. After a panic attack I always feel drained similar to after a tough leg day so I can't just go back and pick up where I left off.

Now, I think that while working out I'm so tuned into my breathing that rather than just breath without thinking about it I'm hyperventilating. I need to relearn proper breathing techniques while also trying to reel in the anxiety. I know I have to just push through and keep exposing myself to it but the point of this post is to see if anyone else is dealing with this? Or does any one have any suggestions?



Hi there Somedudeathome
Let me share to you some proper breathing exercise that you can keep in mind! Let's pretend your doing a bench press, remember to breathe out slowly and continuously while pressing the bar, then when you are on top of the lift or on the return, start inhaling. Just a little trivia for you: Holding the breath improves your chest's strength.
The reason why you are having panic attacks, is because you are breathing too much oxygen. You do not give your body enough time to maintain CO2. You might think that you do not have enough air, but it is actually the opposite, you have too much. When you are having panic attacks just hold your breath for 10-15 seconds, and just repeat it for 4 times just to make you calm. Lastly, you can try breathing in and out of a paper bag. Hope that will help you.

Author:  tylerpc73 [ Tue Apr 05, 2016 3:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anxiety/ panic attacks while lifting

Panic attacks are the worst thing in the world. I have had a couple of my life. Are you taking any pre-workout supplements with excessive amounts of caffeine? I almost had a full-blown panic attack the first time it took a very intense pre-workout

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