Panic Attacks After Tonsillectomy?

I was recently asked by a person a few days out from surgery if panic attacks after tonsillectomy were common. She had had one, but never had before. She wondered if perhaps the pain medicines had caused the panic attack.

It got me thinking. After reading thousands of stories from people recovering from tonsillectomy surgery, I know that panic attacks are not unusual. I always assumed that they happened to people with a history of anxiety and/or panic attacks. But here was someone with no history of such.

Panic attacks after tonsillectomy
Panic attacks after tonsillectomy

I dug around a little and really did not find any compelling evidence of a link between common pain medicines and panic attacks or increased anxiety, though there certainly are anecdotal cases.

My next step was to go to my readers. a few hundred veteran tonsillectomy patients follow my Face Book page, MyBigFatTonsillectomy. These people have been an extremely valuable resource for questions like this. I asked the question: Did you have a panic attack(s) while recovering? Had you had them before?

Here’s what people had to say:

Panic Attacks After Tonsillectomy?

Tonsillectomy Resources
2 hours ago
Did you have a panic attack(s) while recovering? Had you had them before?
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April  and Chente  like this.

Ashley  I didn’t have panic attacks while recovering and I’ve had them before. But I have woken up in the middle of the night worried that my monster tonsils grew back!
2 hours ago · Like · 2

Christy I just felt like this must be what starving to death feels like…unable to eat, drink water, horrible unrelenting pain until about day 8 or 9
2 hours ago via mobile · Like

Brandi  Yes, I had gotten sick a couple of times and then felt like I could not breath from the swelling. Called my doctor and he said it was a panic attack. After I calmed down, I was much better. Scary stuff though!
2 hours ago · Like

Maja  I didn’t have them before but I experienced 2 or 3 during my recovery period. I was surprised how intensive and scary it was, I felt like jumping out of my skin from fear, pain and over-excitement. This operation is really a nasty one.
2 hours ago via mobile · Like · 1

Lucy  I had a panic attack & in doing so somehow made my tongue swell. It was so bad I could hardly breath, I couldn’t swallow so I couldn’t take any pain killers & was just dribbling constantly. I went to the Dr’s but he couldn’t see anything wrong so went home, lay down & concentrated on my breathing & after 20 mins was fine again!
about an hour ago · Like

Sarah  I had a panic attack in the ER on day 3 post-op… I went to the ER for fluids because I hadn’t been able to drink anything since the surgery due to the pain. Even the IV morphine didn’t help the pain all that much! The nurse who put the IV line in my …See More
about an hour ago via mobile · Like

Nicole No panic attacks but the narcotics gave me a lot of weird dreams and I’d wake up kinda freaking out, my cat would sleep with me a lot and I’d wake up and think she was dead so I’d wake her up too, poor kitty. And no haven’t had them before. And I kept …See More
about an hour ago via mobile · Like

Chente The pain meds helped not to have them but after I had to go back into the hospital due to bleeding and stayed 1.5 days I began to have them so I asked for klonopin.
about an hour ago via mobile · Like

April Had my first real panic attack during this surgery when I woke up and couldn’t “feel” myself breathe or swallow. I wasn’t able to use the liquid lidocaine afterward for this reason. I would have rather dealt with the pain than then feeling of numbness in my throat…
about an hour ago via mobile · Like

Amber  I already have huge issues with anxiety and panic attacks, but while I was waiting to be taken back, I nearly had one and it took two doses of anxiety meds to get me calmed down before they took me back.
Also, I had some during my recovery, especially one day when I used throat numbing suckers and physically couldn’t swallow so I was too terrified to sleep because I was sure I was going to aspirate during the night.
30 minutes ago · Like · 1

I’ll continue to research this topic and add information as I find it. I’m interested in how common panic attacks are in tonsillectomy patients and also the causes.

Do you have experience with panic attacks after tonsillectomy surgery? Please help others by sharing in the comments section. Thank you.




  1. Hi I am 39 years old, had my tonsillectomy’s 4 days ago and all of a sudden for the first time ever on my 3rd evening, I am having panic attacks. I feel like I can’t breath, my mind feels tight like I am not getting oxygen and feeling like I am loosing it. I Am kind of hallucinating too, I don’t want to close my eyes because than “I start feeling like my head is really big and my body so small, or feeling like I am seeing stuck of small patterns and big ones”. I have 3 small children Aged 7 , 5 and 18 months and I am literally trying to tell myself to pull myself together for the sake of them because my husband have just travelled. I am now awake as I write this scared to go back to sleep because I feel like If I do I will stop breathing.

    Someone should do a study on this, I think the pain meds , or the operation itself have an effect on adult in terms of these panic attacks.

    Although I have managed to talk myself to calm down, take 3 deep breath, tell myself it’s just in my mind it’s nothing. I still feel like I can’t breath properly. I am still here scared, wondering what’s going to happen next, wondering if I should go to ER but at the same time I don’t know if anyone will understand my explanation of what’s happening to me.

  2. Hi
    I’m 44 years old and I had a tonsillotomy (tonsils partially removed) 45 days ago. Yesterday I experienced for the first time of my life the panic attack symptoms. I felt like suffocated and feeling like removing my blouse and my pressure going down like fainting and difficult to breath. I felt really bad for a few minutes and started to breath and drunk some water and forced myself to calm down. I tryed to describe to my husband these feelings but he didn’t understand it preety clear. I will book an appointment with my doctor and try to find out if this is expected and how long this will take and if it can be recurrent.

  3. Hello my name is Angel, I too agree with Julia. My son had a tonsillectomy and soon after for the first time in his life started having panic attacks. I called his doctor and they explained to me, that they re is not enough research covered or done on this but it is very common for children and some adults to experience panic attacks right after having their tonsils removed. They also told me some children also experience night terrors right after the surgery.. I wish they had disclosed this prior to the surgery. My son since then has had random anxiety attacks and it hasn’t gotten better. I now warn parents to do all the research they can before putting their child through this, I only wish I had known and maybe I would’ve searched for a different alternative…

  4. I had my tonsils out 16 days ago and my uvula in big and I still have a few white spots back of my throat I feel like I have something in my throat like I’m choking
    And yes panic attack I am 42 and I just want to feel better ! I have 2 girls one 4 and I’m useless I feel when I have these attacks !

    1. Yes, I absolutely are having panic attacks because This feeling is not going away n I’m so upset that I’m gonna have to live like this the rest of my life. I’m 52 n 3 months ago I had Tonsillectomy. Went back to my Dr twice. He put the scope down my nose n he said it’s stil a Lil tight n some scar tissue. He said his got better about 4 months later but he was 29. I’m upset n I asked him am I’m gonna have to live like this. Swollen throat n sore, tightness, feels like I’m living with a bad sore throat EVEYDAY. Yes, I have Reflux n allergies. Does anyone know another kind of a Dr that can help me. I NEVER would have got my Tonsils out if I’d known I was gonna have to live like this. PLEASE Any Information I Would be Helpful.

      1. I had my tonsils removed 7 days ago. I’m 33 and normally deal with anxiety and panic attacks. But today I took a bath to try and just relax, all of a sudden I felt like I wasn’t getting enough air. I tried to talk myself through it and nothing was working. I still had to wash my face and hair and I remember when I stood up and closed the shower curtain it felt like I just cut off another layer of fresh air. I dreaded washing my face thinking that was gonna be it. The soap and water in my face made me feel like I was drowning. It wasn’t until I was outta the shower and able to open the bathroom door that I got the relief of being able to breath again. I was home alone for the whole thing too which made the anxiety worse. Since being in recovery this is my worst panic attack experience. I’ve only had one other situation where my alarm woke me up out of a really horrifying nightmare I was having and that experience scared me into thinking if I fell back to sleep anytime soon that Id stop breathing in my sleep. I’m home alone during the days. So I was really un easy the rest of the day.

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