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Embarrassing panic attack on a Embraer RJ145

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Old Jul 21, 09, 8:39 pm
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Embarrassing panic attack on a Embraer RJ145

Hi Everyone,
I had to share this experience with you to see if it's just me or maybe it' s not just me. This morning, I had just boarded an Embraer RJ145 on a flight from Chicago's O'hare to Savannah, Georgia and, after glancing down the narrow fuselage and sitting in my seat I started having what best can be described as a panic attack. I am not used to flying on such a relatively small plane (compared to, say, a Boeing777). There I was, sensing a bout of hyperventilation coming on, feeling like the curvature of the plane was closing in on me.

I called the flight attendant over, "Psst.. I think I'm having um...I mean, I'm feeling sort of claustrophobic." She said, "You are? (Me:"yes").. Well, why don't you step outside the door for a second to get some air." Long story short, after a second try at sitting in the plane, I just had to get out. This, despite the fact that the stair ramp had already been pulled away. Very embarassing.

So, the flight personnel were quite good about it, had the stairs returned and I disembarked and they de-luggaged me as well (i.e. gave my checked suitcase back to me via the baggage pick up area).

I'm wondering if anyone has experienced something the same or similar in their lives or know someone that has. It was the weirdest thing. I may have had a subconscious reaction to a very turbulent ride I had many years ago in another relatively small plane where the pilot, upon landing, said these memorable words, "Ladies and Gentleman.. that was a flight from Hell. Thanks for choosing Southwest." Any comments or suggestions to deal with this problem are appreciated. Thanks.
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Old Jul 21, 09, 8:54 pm
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First of all, welcome to Flyertalk.

Second, There are many, many people who have it much worse than you. My father has only flown one round trip in his life. Like you he had a rough flight back in the 70's and hasn't been able to get on a plane since.

You have nothing to be embarrassed about.

Are you claustrophobic on other locations as well?

The question is, what are you going to do now. Avoid RJ's for the rest of your life? I suggest you talk to your doctor as if you have a mild case of anxiety you might be able to use a low dose of an anti-anxiety medication and be able to fly a smaller plane with ease.
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Old Jul 21, 09, 9:02 pm
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Originally Posted by MKEbound View Post

Are you claustrophobic on other locations as well?
What is claustrophobic does this mean? I didn't see it for which kind of the human body is that. If he had any his diagnosis or disease any kind of his medications from doctor.

PS. I found the website of claustrophobic:

http://www.answers.com/topic/claustrophobic
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Old Jul 21, 09, 9:27 pm
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My father experienced the same exact thing as you. He's mildly claustrophobic, which didn't develop until his 60s. The first time on a regional jet he just had a to get out. The FA was extremely helpful and suggested he try sitting in the first row. Somehow not seeing the entire length of the cabin, or lack thereof, helped him and he made it through the flight. Unfortunately, he won't go near a regional jet anymore, which makes planning his travels a little tricky in this day and age. He has no problem with full size aircraft.

Maybe sitting near the front helps. Who knows.
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Old Jul 21, 09, 10:27 pm
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Several years back I was going through a fair amount of stress and would experience mild panic and shortness of breath at times. Then I had to commute home on my first full RJ where we sat out on the ramp for quite a while before we could take off. I thought I was gonna die! I'm a flight attendant, and am on full planes all the time, but I work much bigger planes. I guess the small cabin, which I wasn't used to yet, and everything else going on in my life just all came together and really got to me. I managed to get through it by closing my eyes, imagining I was really on a 737, and taking deep breaths!

I dreaded getting on those things for awhile, then I just got used to them. (And the other stuff got better, too!)

One of my worst fears, though, has always been to be trapped or locked in a small, enclosed space that I couldn't get out of, so I'm sure that added to the panicked feeling.
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Old Jul 21, 09, 10:29 pm
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Originally Posted by MKEbound View Post
The question is, what are you going to do now. Avoid RJ's for the rest of your life?
It's worked pretty well for me. I won't fly on anything but a mainline aircraft. Ever.
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Old Jul 21, 09, 10:30 pm
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I never had a panic attack on a plane before but I still don't like flying very much. I was on a short domestic flight in East Malaysia in one of those small Fokker prop planes back in the early 90's when the pilot engaged the autopilot, went back into the cabin to read the paper. And in those days, you could see the pilot from where you were sitting. It wasn't really a case of panic, but I was growing every increasingly worried. Those were the cowboy days of flying for me.
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Old Jul 21, 09, 11:45 pm
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You poor thing! How distressing. Don't worry about being embarrassed - heaps of people go through similar things.

If you're really concerned, counsellors or psychologists have great success using cognitive behavioral therapy, where you learn to identify triggers for panic attacks and learn to control them.
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Old Jul 22, 09, 12:21 am
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Welcome to FlyerTalk!

I'm sorry you had this issue. I think you have two basic choices... 1) get some type of medical treatment or aid for potential future situation or 2) avoid RJs in the future. Personally, I think 1 is easier than 2 if you travel a lot in the US.

BTW, how did you end up getting to your destination? Or did you end up cancelling the trip altogether?
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Old Jul 22, 09, 12:34 am
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The same thing happened to me last December with an Embraer RJ145 on a flight from Chicago as well, but going to Tulsa.

My problem was compounded as I had just come Trans Atlantic and there there was plenty of snow on the ground.

I've done plenty of long flights in even shorter/narower planes with no problem.

But this time, the flight was full (just before Christmas), plane pulled out of the gate, and then we had to wait just over an hour for the anti-icing to be applied. Half way throught the wait, I had a mild anxiety attack. I actualy thought about getting off the plane, but the problem was that there were no mainline fligths to Tulsa, so I didn't have a choice. So I managed to calm myself down. I was fine while the plane was airborne, but when we landed there was another jet "stuck" near the gate, so we had to wait another 30 minutes before they cleared it to get us to the gate. While waiting my anxiety came back.

I started having anxiety attacks about three days before my return flight just thinking about it.

At the end, I bought some Tylenol PM. It acts as a muscle relaxant while the antihistimine helped me fall asleep. Between that and no delays at either gate, I was fine.

Now, I too try to avoid Regional Jets, which seems harder and harder to do if you are going to a medium sized city. I fly mainline TATL, book a hotel for the night to relax and fly Southwest Airlines who still use real jets for all their flights.
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Old Jul 22, 09, 12:43 am
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Originally Posted by openflync View Post
But this time, the flight was full (just before Christmas), plane pulled out of the gate, and then we had to wait just over an hour for the anti-icing to be applied. Half way throught the wait, I had a mild anxiety attack. I actualy thought about getting off the plane, but the problem was that there were no mainline fligths to Tulsa, so I didn't have a choice. So I managed to calm myself down. I was fine while the plane was airborne, but when we landed there was another jet "stuck" near the gate, so we had to wait another 30 minutes before they cleared it to get us to the gate. While waiting my anxiety came back.
I have a version of this problem as well. I'm fine when we're in the air as I know I can always get up, walk around and crucially, use the restroom. However, when we're stuck on the ground, sometimes I can feel like I'm about to explode due to a (false) need to urinate.

However my two recent ORD-DAY and DAY-ORD flights on UX compounded the problem as turbulence was so bad that the seat belt sign stayed on the whole time, making me feel even more trapped.

I'm thinking this stems from an EMB-120 PDX-SEA flight a couple of years ago where I did have a very real need to use the restroom and almost didn't make it in time. Would not have been fun to do SEA-ICN-HKG in a pair of wet jeans.

As for the OP, I think this thread shows you that feeling panicked or claustrophobic is not as uncommon as it may seem, even on a place like FT where we're all seemingly jet setters. Good luck.
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Old Jul 22, 09, 1:09 am
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If prone to panic attacks, keep a brown paper bag with you. Put bag over your mouth and try to breath normally. This will definitely help.
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Old Jul 22, 09, 3:56 am
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Originally Posted by obscure2k View Post
If prone to panic attacks, keep a brown paper bag with you. Put bag over your mouth and try to breath normally. This will definitely help.
This is reason why he had a medical problems and this is called Claustrophobia. He had a diagnosed since he was childhood. That's why he will be very difficulty time try to get breathe. So here the website where you can readability whole information from his medical information.

http://www.epigee.org/mental_health/claustrophobia.html

This is research where I have more investigations of medical reports. So he will try to get better during the time. He will try to get more breathing better to go outside to take the air for a couple minutes.
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Old Jul 22, 09, 8:20 am
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I have fairly bad issues with claustrophobia myself--I've never had to get off a plane, but I have had to get out of various vehicles due to panic attacks or impending panic attacks (a van full of people where I was stuck in the last row, several very packed subway cars). I am unable to travel if I am in the window seat in a 3-3 configuration, even on a full-size jet--I will willingly swap places with the middle seat holder, just to be closer to the aisle. For me, it's the combination of being confined in a small space (like an airline seat) and being unable to escape to a larger space (e.g. the aisle) that bring on panic attacks.

Panic attacks are unbelievably scary and unpleasant. I will go a long, long way and endure pretty much any level of embarrassment to avoid having one. I don't blame the OP at all for requesting the stairs to be brought back. If you have to, you have to.
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Old Jul 22, 09, 11:13 am
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Thanks

Hi Everyone,
It's really reassuring to hear the empathy and sympathy expressed in the replies to my post. Someone had asked if I'm claustrophobic in other situations as well. I would have to say that in general I'm okay with most reasonable situations. However, I've had a near panic attack when I was stuffed into a London Tube train during rush hour and the train paused for a bit in the tunnel. My face was close to being plastered against the window of the door and I found myself wondering if there was a way out. Not fun.

I'm seeing a doctor today to see what little pill I or techniques I can take/use for any potential future episodes.
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