The Panic Train Analogy

The Panic Train Analogy

Panic attacks are horrible and it can be hard to help someone understand what it is like if they haven’t had one before. During the late winter and early spring of last year I was frequently having panic attacks and the rest of the time felt like I was constantly on the verge of one. To try to help people understand what was going on and why I was so afraid of having another panic attack I was given an analogy by a therapist. This is the best panic attack analogy I have heard to explain one to someone who has not experienced it themselves. I call it;


The Panic Train

Pretend you are lying down on train tracks. Now imagine the tracks shaking and hearing the whistle of a train. You look up and see a train racing towards you. You are not able to get up. You are trapped waiting for this train to run you over; you become more tense and frightened the closer the train gets. The train runs you over… and then you blink realizing it was a hologram and not a real train.

If you’ve had a panic attack before you probably know somewhere deep inside that the train coming is a hologram. But the sounds, feel of the tracks shaking and the train speeding towards you are so realistic you still question yourself as to whether or not it is a real train.

Basically it’s like waiting for something that feels like it might kill you to pass.

Basically it's like waiting for something that feels like it might kill you to pass. Click To Tweet

Panic Train Analogy

photo credit: @Varanasi via photopin (license)

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Lives in a cozy 2 bedroom apartment, with her boyfriend and cat, in Nova Scotia. When she is not working to pay the bills she enjoys reading, crafting, trying to keep plants alive, fuzzy socks, tea, avocados, thinking about making healthy food, curling up with her cat to watch a good show and occasionally yoga. Perfectionism be damned, this girl is going to write a blog with the help of her cousin deer.

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  • YES! I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life. I’ve been blogging about it for the last few months. I have really struggled to describe it; this is perfect.

  • Jess says:

    This is a really great post (and loving the new layout by the way – very swish!)

    The panic train really does do really well in explaining how a panic attack feels like. It’s terrifying and definitely not something I’d wish on anyone. Great post as always ladies!

    • Joce Deer says:

      Thank you Jess!
      They are absolutely no fun at all. This analogy (and other great ones people have shared with us) has really helped me explain it to people who haven’t had one before.

  • As a person who lives with anxiety, this analogy is perfect. I find it hard to describe anxiety to people who ask about it. They assume I’m just uptight and unable to be flexible. Which is quite the contrary. I WISH I could be laid back and not worry, but that’s not my make up. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Dave says:

    Great analogy! I used to get terrible panic attacks when I was younger, that description rings so true to me.

    • Joce Deer says:

      Thank you! I am always looking for different ways to describe things as we all have such a different way of understanding the world.

  • Terra Dawn says:

    I’ve never had a panic attack…but my sister has suffered from them since we were kids! I’ll send this article her way! Thank you so much for the great info!

  • Jenna says:

    Thank you for sharing. I live in a life of anxiety. Writing the blog has actually helped me tame it and keep me positive, but there are outside forces that can’t and won’t go away.

    • Joce Deer says:

      It is great to find an outlet that can help you deal with anxiety! So far I have found a little extra anxiety in writing this blog but mostly the rewards have out weighed the anxiety and I see it as a positive thing as well. Thank you for sharing!

  • I have anxiety and suffer from panic attacks and i’ve never thought about the train analogy. I agree that it is so hard to explain what it’s like to people who have no idea. The idea, that you can just stop it at anytime are so far from the truth. THanks for sharing! It’s so nice to have support out there where other women are supportive and talk about this openly.

    • Joce Deer says:

      Exactly! A lot of the time when people have not experienced one themselves they cannot understand why you can’t just make a panic attack stop. I am sure we all wish we could but as you said that is far from the truth! Thank you for sharing! I always hesitate to hit publish on the more personal posts, but they can also be the most rewarding when there are responses from great people like yourself!

  • Daniel says:

    Having had frequent panic attacks during certain eras of my life, I’ve come to question not only the train but the world around me. It’s gotten to a point where social interactions (which give me panic but are something I must engage with to work (I work in a department store), have friends and to have a happy marriage) appear pointless, a pain that I have to engage, but why engage in pain? The other side I find loneliness equally disturbing, the idea of living and not being a part of life, simply waiting for death is more terrifying because the train is real and may come at any time.
    Thank you for sharing, it has made me think quite a bit about anxiety as a whole. The rabbit hole appears so deep that it may never end or the other side may be more confusing than the issue in question.

  • Kim Burgess says:

    A great analogy!

  • Celeste says:

    Panic attacks are terrifying! I do love that analogy with the train. I may have to use that. Normally I explain it like I’m being submerged underwater and there’s no way out. Thanks for sharing!

    • Joce Deer says:

      That is a great one too! I used to say it felt like I was having a heart attack and people would say but you are not, so you should be fine. It was frustrating! I was so glad to have a different way to explain it so people could better understand what I meant. It is always good to have a few different ways to explain things up your sleeve, Thank you for sharing!

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Tracie and Joce

Two friends sharing a cup of tea, over skype, and blogging about life! With honesty, sarcasm and a dash of humour -sharing the good, the bad and the yummy!

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