Medical Questions > Mental Health > Panic Attacks Forum

Strange Panic attacks at altitude

While trekking at altitude some years ago I had a severe panic attack which came out of nowhere - I'd never had one before and don't get then unless I go to altitude. It was so bad that I had about 6 hours of horror - all night sitting up struggling to breath and on the point of hysteria. A horrible experience. I have been back to Altitude sice and I feel the possibility of another one is always there which makes me a little anxious.

Where did it come from? Why did it last six hours?

I am healthy, fit and adjust to altitude well and don't smoke.

I have read up on the subject and it seems people do get sleep disorders when at altitude but not this severe. Is there something I can do about it? I also suffer from not needing much sleep which may not seem a problem but people in Nepal like to be in bed by 9 and don't get up until 7 and I like to get about 6 hours a night which means I wake up at three in the morning and just have to lie in the darkness until the house stirs - I want something to keep me under for about 8 hours - I have tried anti-histamines and they don't seem to do anything. My first post so here's hoping Smile
Andy
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replied August 16th, 2010
Experienced User
Hey Andy/Taupo

The thin air at altitude is likely to have caused a strain on your breathing. This may have triggered the panic attack. Six hours is a long time for a continuous attack, though, and is not characteristic of a panic attack. Were all the other panic attack symptoms present throughout the six hours as well?

Anxiety when you're at altitude is perfectly understandable because of your experience. You have to try and overcome both this anxiety and/or the fear of having another attack.

Your lack of sleep may also be due to anxiety.

Perhaps it is a good idea to see a doctor regarding these problems. They may be able to give the right answers for your specific case. Smile
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