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  1. #1

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    Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    I'm a huge fan of thrill rides, and even on the most intimidating ones I've always been what I would humbly consider a "trooper." So when I was finally coerced by my friends to go on Tower of Terror for the first time, I expected to enjoy or at least tolerate it. Well, so much for that. Maybe it was just because I'd been spending so many years looking up at the tower knowing it was one of the very few attractions I had never ridden, maybe because the most I've heard about it were horrified accounts from my best friend, who is always forced on it and ends up in tears - but from the very first moment I got to the indoor portion of the queue, I was practically shaking with nerves.

    Fast forward and I'm on the ride, front row. Now, at around this point, I start finding it pretty hilarious that I'm freaking out so much, so my whimpers are mixed with intermittent snorts and chortles. The ride starts, and I can no longer tell if I'm genuinely scared or if I'm just scared because I had always expected to be. Well, the ride didn't go well. I quickly found myself in full panic mode. I wouldn't say I normally have full-on anxiety, but I've had a few panic attacks in my time, and this was a bad one. I was clutching onto my neighbors for dear life, dry sobbing, and soon... actual sobbing. I was crying! I was crying on a ride at a Disney park! I was crying, sweating, shivering, and I couldn't think straight. I couldn't believe myself. I started laughing again even though I was crying hysterically, but the experience got me thinking.

    The times I have had panic attacks in the past were generally spurred on by stress as well as feelings of claustrophobia or an inability to escape. The parts of ToT that were worst for me were the very beginning, when I was feeling a little too immersed by the effects and backstory and starting thinking about the fact that it was too late to get off the ride and if anything urgent happened I would have no way out, and the blind drops in the dark, which left me feeling hopeless and frankly in complete sensory overload.

    I have talked to a couple other people who have had similar experiences on the ride, and none of us have any severe phobias or anxiety disorders. I can only imagine how potentially traumatizing it may be to people who do suffer from severe anxiety.

    Has anyone else had a similar experience, or talked to someone who has? Furthermore, do you think it might be prudent to consider adding warnings for people with mental/emotional disorders at the beginning of attractions, rather than just for those with physical conditions?

  2. #2

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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    I don't think extra warning are necessary. As people often point out, it's called the Tower of Terror. It is a drop ride - both shorter and milder than most located around the country, including Knott's or Magic Mountain - with some extraordinary dark ride scenes around it. If the idea of an elevator drop ride in the dark sounds like something that would trigger a person's known anxiety disorders, he or she would probably know better than to try.

    In your case, I'm sure you had inadvertently worked yourself up. I just had the pleasure of riding with a first-timer the other day - before the ride, she was clammy, quiet, and very obviously distressed. Afterward, she was not. It's a matter of building it up in your mind. Words like 'terror;' an old hotel; the dramatic build-up; your friend's panicked recollections of it; as you said, looking up at the building for years and telling yourself you'd definitely be terrified on it. Things like that create a startling experience more so than the ride (again, a very simple, mild drop ride) ever could.

    After a few eerie effects, the ride drops maybe fifteen feet, then another fifteen feet, raises up maybe a hundred, then falls halfway down the tower, etc etc... In other words, it's about as "mild" as an adult drop ride can get, so any anxiety around it is more than likely from the anticipation and eerie atmosphere (the former of which is shared with every drop tower on Earth, the latter of which being what sets the ride apart).
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  3. #3

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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    I had an anxiety attack as well on the TOT. Especially in the library with the thunder/lightning and the building drama from the video. On the ride I was still nervous and I held on the handles as hard as I could and constantly asked my friend for reassurance. When the dropping got underway, I was fine and having a good time. I think it is the story elements that truly create the thrill of this attraction.

  4. #4

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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    I'm OK once I am seated and strapped in for my ride on the TOT. I just tell myself "this whole thing is going to be over in about 40 seconds". But the minutes in line and especially waiting for the elevator door to open - panic city. Sometimes its best not having time to think about things.
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  5. #5

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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    The only time I get panicky on a Disney ride is when I'm stuck at the very top of the fun wheel, when they're letting people on and off the ride at the bottom. I see the height and my mind starts to wander -- "what if there a huge earthquake right now?" "What if a bolt holding up this car suddenly breaks off?" "What if the bottom of the car suddenly falls off from beneath me?" The result is me holding on to my seat so hard I swear my hand makes indentations in the metal. I also had similar fears on Maliboomer -- most likely it was the fear of the restraint coming loose and me falling off it near the top.

    But what's funny is that I don't ever get this feeling in TOT. I think it's because I am enclosed within the building so my reference points of how high I really am are diminished. And perhaps the feeling of security that I am enclosed (and therefore protected) versus out in the open might have something to do with it as well.

    Needless to say I don't want to ride the fun wheel again. And I'm happy I don't need to worry about the Maliboomer anymore.

  6. #6

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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    For reasons that have been mentioned, i wont go on TOT. When i was young, heck yes ! But not now. The only panic attack ive ever had at a Disney park ride, was on the People Mover at WDW. A girlfriend told me she was pregnant. Attack left when she told me it wasnt mine. I always wondered if she got home safely that day .

  7. #7

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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    i rode ToT at WDW when i was 10. i cried like crazy, and it is what started my fear of elevators. i have nightmares about elevators dropping all the time! i went on in 2005 at DCA, and i survived, but i felt sick and anxious the whole time. as much as i love the rest of the ride, i can't handle the drops.

  8. #8

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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    Wow, that sounds terrible! I have panic attacks with agoraphobia and don't actually go on any of the rides at Disneyland, although I have taken my meds and gone on a few (and had a terrible time). Some rides are just tough though..small, closed in, etc. Bleh!!

  9. #9

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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    fun wheel kinda gets to me but somehow i end up just fine. all you gotta do is relax and breathe.

  10. #10

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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    On a somewhat related note--isn't there a safety system in place on ToT that resembles an actual elevator shaft's? I remember reading or watching somewhere that said if the mechanics for the ride did break or whatever, that there was a counterweight that would prevent the ride from plummeting into the ground. Is this true?

  11. #11

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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    Quote Originally Posted by redrhino54 View Post
    For reasons that have been mentioned, i wont go on TOT. When i was young, heck yes ! But not now. The only panic attack ive ever had at a Disney park ride, was on the People Mover at WDW. A girlfriend told me she was pregnant. Attack left when she told me it wasnt mine. I always wondered if she got home safely that day .
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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    First time I went on it, terrified. Other than that, this has become my absolute favourite attraction at DCA.

  13. #13

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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    I haven't had that at Disney, but at other places I've ocasionally been struck with acrophobia. I was on top of the Stratosphere in Vegas when all of a sudden I was feeling the same feelings of panic. The thing was I knew it was irrational while it was going on, and was laughing the same time. The same thing happened while walking accross the Golden Gate Bridge, once. We can't control when or if these things happen, but we can do our best to keep our wits about us, and not go into full blown panic. The fact that you were laughing while this was going on shows that you understood that at some level it wasn't rational.

  14. #14

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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    I really think it's all of the theming that creates the thrill for the attraction. I was a bit nervous before the first time I went on it, (i had never ridden on a real ride before), but I fell in love with how immersive it was. And it's probably one of my favorite rides ever. Everybody is different!

  15. #15

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    Re: Panic Attacks on Tower of Terror?

    No shame in knowing you could have trouble on an attraction, kudos for actually trying it. It certainly is not fun to have an anxiety attack. I usually have one at 2:00 AM. That's when a thought will stick in my mind and I get totally freaked out that something will go bad. It has happened that my daughter got sick at this hour a few times, so at least I have some reason for it. To this day, Splash Mountain keeps taunting me for not riding it, and I don't think I'd even want to try ToT. For some odd reason, Screamin' kind of feels ok to me but I haven't yet conquered it.

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