HELP with panic attacks.

  1. Its been 4 weeks into nursing school and I'm having panic attacks. Now it's occurring during tests and seriously effecting my grades. I study and study and my mind goes blank, (I get dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous, tight chest. classic symptoms of panic attacks) when I'm testing. This is an accelerated program so the courses are intensely paced, giving me no time recoup academically. I feel absolutely stupid and I don't know how to deal with it. I've never consistently do this poorly before. My research papers are high A's but my test grades are horrid. I realize I'm self fulfilling my fear of failure but I can't seem to halt the process. and I don't want to take anxiolytics for fear of interference with my mental capacity. But at this point, I'm not sure I have any mental capacity left. :smackingf

    But I will not quit.. I'm just afraid of being kicked out before I can have control of my stress.
    Last edit by middleageNP on Jan 25, '07
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  2. 14 Comments

  3. by   gwenith
    Force your breathing In hold out hold. Tense on the in hold and relax on the out hold. (count about 3 seconds for each part 12 seconds each breath - I know this sounds like under breathing but you will be DEEP breathing) READ the paper. Then START with the easiest question. The one you REALLY know - go to the next easiest and so on. This will boost your confidence and allow your hindbrain LET your forebrain do it's job.
  4. by   ann945n
    I too was in the same position. I thought i was having heart attacks but after some testing done by my doctor turned out to be panic attacks school induced My best advice is to get some good sleep eat some good foods, a night out at the movies and a good cuddle. I know i know i sound silly but for me just squeezing in a little bit of normal life into nursing school did me wonders, no more chest pain. just remember you can do this, you are smart capable and go have a normal life!
  5. by   staceylee67
    Are your teachers supportive? Can you discuss this with them? I think you should at least talk to them and let them know what's going on, as they may have some suggestions too. Personally, I have taken Xanax (Never while doing patient care). I think they make you calm.. not ditsy. But I am no expert on the matter... I just wanted to offer my 2 cents.
    Last edit by staceylee67 on Jan 25, '07 : Reason: may be seen as offering treatment
  6. by   CHATSDALE
    you wouldn't do your own surgery..get thee to an md...your futue is riding on this
  7. by   nurse4theplanet
    Listen to gwenith! I used to think deep breathing excercises were a crock...c'mon, my anxiety was so bad how was breathing going to help, right? But I wasn't doing it right, and after some practice, it really started to make a difference. It can become very calming, reducing your heart rate and anxiety. It's definitely worth a try.
  8. by   MALE*RN*777
    Talk to your teachers about testing and tutoring help. Usually they are very helpful with these things. Also find someone who might be in the classes ahead of you and borrow their notes. Ask them if they remember any of the important areas to study. Most instructors focus on the same thing every year on tests although they make you study the whole thing which you should. I'm not tell you to cheat but a push in the right direction could help.
  9. by   subee
    Quote from heehee61
    Its been 4 weeks into nursing school and I'm having panic attacks. Now it's occurring during tests and seriously effecting my grades. I study and study and my mind goes blank, (I get dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous, tight chest. classic symptoms of panic attacks) when I'm testing. This is an accelerated program so the courses are intensely paced, giving me no time recoup academically. I feel absolutely stupid and I don't know how to deal with it. I've never consistently do this poorly before. My research papers are high A's but my test grades are horrid. I realize I'm self fulfilling my fear of failure but I can't seem to halt the process. and I don't want to take anxiolytics for fear of interference with my mental capacity. But at this point, I'm not sure I have any mental capacity left. :smackingf

    But I will not quit.. I'm just afraid of being kicked out before I can have control of my stress.

    Don't you remember what Dr. Melfi told Tony Soprano? Panic attacks are a psychiatric emergency (Tony was losing consciousness during his). If you are a full-time student, you can access student health services for a mental health consult with a REAL professional at this. Yes, yes you have to learn to do all the relaxation exercises, but that's further up the learning curve. If you're really motivated, you can get through this program but you're gonna have to control the effects of these attacks right now. If you have to take drugs to get you through this program, then suck it up and take them. You'll feel pretty rotten for the few weeks so start them during a break. Please promise that you will devote 30 minutes a day to taking care of YOU. These are skills you're gonna need later anyway. Square breathe, no caffeine and eat healthy.
  10. by   middleageNP
    Quote from MALE*RN*777
    Talk to your teachers about testing and tutoring help. Usually they are very helpful with these things. Also find someone who might be in the classes ahead of you and borrow their notes. Ask them if they remember any of the important areas to study. Most instructors focus on the same thing every year on tests although they make you study the whole thing which you should. I'm not tell you to cheat but a push in the right direction could help.
    It's not that I don't understand or know the materials, it's the inability to recall them when I'm taking tests.

    Thank you all for your suggestions. I'm going to try the breathing exercise...BEFORE the tests. I'm also going to the doc today and see what he can suggest. Meanwhile, managing my studying time to not go beyond 2:00AM probably would be helpful.
  11. by   nj1grlcrus
    So sorry you are going through this. I know the feeling, I would blank out in math tests, and then know most of the answers on the drive home. Two reasons it was happening to me was (1) bringing study materials to class and doing some last minute cramming (it boggles the mind), and doubting my own abilities. You are starting to doubt your abilities, even though you know the material (excellent grades on research papers), and poor test scores are reinforcing your doubt. I agree you have to talk to a doctor, and also speak with your instructors. Your school should have academic counselors that have sen this happen to many other students, and will be able to give you some tools to overcome this. Good luck, and stop doubting yourself. :smilecoffeecup:
  12. by   jjjoy
    1) For me to not stress out too much on important things, I have to remind myself that the universe will not implode if I don't I don't perform as well as I'd like to. I don't function well under the "failure is not an option" attitude. "Failure" is just another learning opportunity. I think of the people I've met who I admire who have "failed" in one way or another at some point. For me, thinking about that takes some of pressure off of myself and then I perform better.

    2) Is it just the anxiety contributing to the poor test scores? Do you give yourself practice tests? How do you do? When you review the tests are the answers clear? Nursing test questions, modeled on the NCLEX, are unique beasts that often are not obvious at first glance. If you're used to testing well in other subjects, nursing tests can be particularly discouraging. As another suggested, if you can get hold of previous tests, they can make good practice materials. Otherwise, get a NCLEX review book and review the topic/section that your next test will be on.

    3) You're four weeks in. That's not much time to adjust to the bulk of information being thrown at you as well as figure out good studying and test-tasking strategies. How are others doing? Have you been able to get to know your classmates at all? Could you form a study group of supportive classmates? For me, I have to stop studying the night before a test and get some good rest. Last minute reviewing just makes me nervous so I made an effort to avoid stressed-out classmates who were furiously cramming the morning of an exam.

    Best wishes to you!
  13. by   SonicnurseRN
    Girl I totally know what you are going through! I have Panic Attacks (before & during Nursing School). I am also in an accelerated RN program. Listen- I heard all the deep breathing advice, meditation, yoga etc. for years & thought it was a bunch of b.s., but things kept getting worse & I finally tried. It is amazing!@! If you really dedicate yourself to practicing deep breathing exercises not just before a test, but every day you will be amazed at the difference! People tend to hold their breath when anxious. Also, something that really works for me is meditation. You don't have to chant or do any of that nonsense. What I do is sit quietly for five to ten minutes without moving, in a alert position ( i.e. sitting up straight) and eyes closed. Seems really basic ... but after you feel fantastic. Its hard to do at first, but very much worth. Also, try positive affirmations. "I can handle this, this is easy, piece of cake, I rock, etc" Try doing these things for 10-20 minutes a day and I think it will help you a lot. You seem like you have a great attitude and with a little work I'm sure you can improve your panic attacks! Good luck! : )
  14. by   middleageNP
    I will definitely try deep breathing. It is a better choice than being on anxiolytics. Thank you all for your suggestions.

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