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I'm wondering if anyone has experienced temporary paralysis during panic attacks?

I've been experiencing it lately (I have made an appointment to begin seeing my therapist again, after taking a few weeks break - but don't see her until Thursday). Once it was during a full blown and obvious panic attack with hyperventilation. I figured that my body wasn't getting enough blood and/or oxygen because parts of my body went numb, began to curl/contract and then were temporarily paralyzed. Once I began to "come down" I gained feeling in my face, hands, arms and legs and then could move them again.

However, more recently, I've experienced my muscles during what I think is a form of panic attack a bit differently. I recently had 2 situations (one being this morning) when I didn't feel like I went into a full panic attack, but instead had a bizarre and strong desire to tense my muscles. Sounds strange, I know. Anyway, it feel like I "freeze" or get "stuck". I begin to notice that I'm staring in one place with tense muscles, clenched teeth and eyes wider than normal. I feel conscious, and somewhat aware of my surroundings, but I also feel pretty disconnected. And I am very aware of my thoughts - because they are about my being frozen and staring in one spot with my eyes wide open and how ridiculously strange I feel.

This morning when it happened, I was home alone, but the other time it happened was when I was driving. I was scared that I was going to lose control of my emotions, mind and body. I was concentrating very hard on not allowing my muscles or myself freeze and was trying to talk myself into calming down and "holding on" until I got home.

I know this sounds bizarre, but I'm wondering if anyone has experienced anything similar or maybe has any insight about this. I have PTSD and do get triggers resulting in panic attacks and flashbacks, however these recent experiences are unfamiliar to me.

Thanks in advance.
Yikes. I wonder if the lack of responses means I'm on my own with this one? I was hoping maybe someone else had experienced this or at least heard of it. Maybe i'm posting in the wrong forum?

I'll try PTSD.
So, I didn't post this in PTSD, but I did go to my doctor and thought I'd add a quick post - just in case anyone else does hyperventilates during panic attacks.

Apparently, I experience Tetany (Definition of tetany | due to hyperventilating.

"You can induce tetany in a few minutes by hyperventilating. The increased gas exchange in the lung lowers blood carbon dioxide (as dissolved bicarbonate), raises the blood pH, lowers the calcium concentration, and you are shaky, anxious, with hand muscle cramps drawing your fingers into a clenched fist."

The cure?
Breathing into to a paper bag. Ya gotta re-breath CO2.

Also, get your calcium checked (I had my blood taken immediately after my appointment) just to make sure everything's ok there too.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Fascinating. I meant to come back to this thread, actually, healthbound, because I did some searches looking for any links between PTSD or anxiety and "paralysis" and didn't find much that was helpful.

Thanks for posting this!
Thanks comfortzone.
It's actually happening again right now. it started about 15mins ago. i seem to be sort of phasing in and out of it and it's really scary.

when it's done, i'll read the article.

thank you, again.
You are welcome Healthbound!

I have a friend who used to experience similar symptoms. We were both attending the same university (for undergrad) and lived on the same floor in a residence hall. When she started to have these experiences I would talk to her about the way the trees were swaying or how the snow was falling...anything to get her mind/body off of wherever it was going. It began to work as time passed. I believe that our bodies have their own memories too.

I hope your symptoms decrease. Best wishes,
OK - so first of all I'd like to express my sincere gratitude for I don't even know how many words I looked up while reading this article - but I know it was A LOT.

Second, I'd like to express my sincere gratitude to comfortzone for posting the link to this article so that I could have an opportunity to learn more about what's going on with me.

This article was extremely fascinating and validating. While it's true that I had to look up the meaning of words from almost every page, much of the article made perfect sense to me. I identified with many of the connections made between trauma, triggers and flashbacks affecting my mental, emotional AND physical memory, defenses and reactions. And even beyond what the article was proposing, I found it incredibly helpful to read about many of the mentioned experiments (although, I guess I'm sort of saying that I relate to rats and chicks!).

I wonder why I am having an increase in flashbacks now though. And if I think of the Animal Model and agree that I didn't have an opportunity to dissipate spontaneously due to chronic infliction of trauma --- do I need to go back and somehow give myself an opportunity to do so? Will that help me? Seems to make sense. But given my current circumstances it doesn't seem possible to provide an environment where I could even think about dissipating spontaneously. Ahhhh...BUT, I could practice meditation and perhaps take action to deal with my relationship and financial dilemma (both are triggering most of my flashbacks).

Regardless, what does seem clear is that my mind AND body are most definitely reacting to something and my reactions are significant. The trick seems to be figuring out how to induce a *new* reaction to triggers to make new physical/mental/emotional memories. I don't even necessarily need to identify what the triggers are at this point - I KNOW when I'm having a flashback and so if I can somehow even do something very small during those times I might be able to teach my mind/brain/body to react differently. This is WAY easier said than done. Like, I'm on another planet when I have flashbacks. There is no place for logic and even if there was - I can't DO anything when I'm frozen anyways!

....Hmmmm. If I could just find someone to be with me 24/7 who likes talking about swaying trees and falling snow (which sounds beautiful, by the way)...

Anyway, I'm going to do more reading about many of the things mentioned in that article that seem to link back to my PTSD and traumas. I don't want to do what the article suggested happens often - Experience trauma - Develop PTSD - Experience more trauma or never deal with original trauma - Develop hypervigilence or phobias - Then receiving a "new" diagnosis - Now have a new focus - And then overlooking the trauma completely (or at least that's what I thought they were saying). An example of me doing this could even be my posting "Temporary Paralysis" in "panic disorders" instead of in "PTSD". Especially since (and I haven't done a ton of research) I understand panic disorder to not be triggered, but seemingly not preceded by any related stimuli??

Od geeze. I've done it again...I've written a mini novel. Well, as you can tell, I'm still anxious. And to update you...both last night and today I feel like I've been trying to prevent a full blown flashback by actually doing something physical. Today was better - I just kept doing pushups, sit ups and squats - anything - when I felt like I was going into freeze or hyperventilation mode. I felt very anxious all day, but I only had 2 real "almost" panic attacks today and they weren't as bad as yesterday.
Hi Healthbound,

Yes, I do have contact with my friend and we spoke just recently. She is doing much better. She told that she does not have the paralysis any more.

Healthbound...I am so proud of your courage to confront this situation you find yourself. I realize the strength and dedication it takes. Your member name is so fitting as you are "health bound."

What my friend learned to do (even when I was not there) was watch the trees and whatever weather condition taking place and was able to over time be able to reduce these symptoms to the point where she could manage them. Soon they did disappear. Did take a while though and everyone's experience is going to be different.

Remember the symptoms of PTSD are a means to an end. It is like the fight or flight response gone into overdrive. It is attempting to "save" you from what happened to you. Kind of look at like when you have a cold you have a fever, coughing and such...those are the body's attempt to get well. It is the symptoms of healing that have less that desirable sensations. Therapists can help you work through the situations that have these symptoms that have such a paralyzing effect on you. There is hope but it will take time and work with a therapist as well as a good support group. Although we may not be face to face...we here are part of your support group! We are just as we were yesterday and will be tomorrow HERE. Take care and best wishes,

Thank you very much for your support and encouragement. Thank God for this forum and thank God you read my post. It's comforting (and maybe that's why your member name is so fitting :)) to learn about possible "medical" explanations as well as to hear about someone who's actually had similar reactions. I feel like less of a "freak" if I can understand what's going on as well as know that I'm not the only one that experiences this.

And you are right about my member name - I AM health bound. I find all that I experience to be both extremely disturbing AND intriguing. It is absolutely amazing how our minds and body's react to extreme circumstances. And even further - why different people have different responses to extreme circumstances.

I'll keep you posted on how I progress.


Healthbound, I have had depression for most of my life and I have learned to handle it very well with positive self-talk and positive coping methods. Recently though I had a very life-altering issue and I was caught in between my depression and for the first time in my life I had a panic attack. It was so severe I could not believe it was happening I couldn't even make sense of what was happening until well after the incident. I am not and don't think I will ever be someone prone to debilitating anxiety however this episode was so severe I too went under a type of progressive temporary paralysis. So you are not alone... I too have only heard about people with PTSD having this symptom and it honestly scared me to death. I've always been someone with an intuitive sense for life. I know how my brain and my body work and I have devoted the majority of my college credits towards psychology so I can say with confidence that I know that this is very real and can be very scary. I started with my hands and feet feeling very tingly and cold however I noticed that I couldn't have been cold because I was hyper-ventilating and my heart was pounding out of my chest. After the climax of the panic attack I became more aware and notice the tingly numbness had spread throughout my entire body and I could not move, and I could not even talk. My hands were the worst. They were bent back and spread out (imagine stretching your fingers as far away from each other as you can) and not only could I not move but when I tried I got a sensation that wasnt quite pain but it was like my hands had solidified and when someone finally got there and I got my mind together I forcibly put my hands together and forced them to bend. It was so bizarre. I felt like they had been like hardening candle wax and I felt like my hand(the hard wax) crumbled apart as I tried to relax. Ive been looking for people with this similar experience I you are the only one who has related it back to panic attacks. You offered me the relief of knowing what happened was not just me so I had to register and let you know that you are not alone.
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