Myth vs. Reality: What Does a Panic Attack Feel Like?
There are many misconceptions about what panic attacks look like. To reduce the misconception about these attacks is to explore what panic attacks look like and separate the truth from the myths surrounding them.
Myth 1: All panic attacks have the same symptoms
Fact: Panic attacks can vary from person to person, and are largely dependent on one’s personal experiences.
Common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
- A feeling of losing control or safety
- Chest pain
- Nausea and dizziness
There are many different symptoms and it is possible to experience some, but not all, symptoms.
Myth 2: Panic attacks are a deliberately dramatic overreaction
Fact: Contrary to misconceptions, panic attacks are not something people can control.
We don’t know exactly what causes panic attacks, but we do know that they can often result from stressful events, triggers, or nonspecific changes in the environment.
Instead of seeking attention, most people who suffer from panic attacks develop internal stigma and hate having panic attacks in public.
Myth 3: People with panic attacks need medical help or attention
Fact: It can be scary to notice someone having a panic attack, but it’s important to remember that they are not in immediate danger. The best thing you can do is stay calm.
While it is important to be able to help someone distinguish between a panic attack and a heart attack. People who experience panic attacks are often able to tell the difference.
If you are around someone who is having a panic attack and have already asked them if they need support. The best thing you can do is respect their answer, and be honest if they say they can take care of it themselves.
Myth 4: Only people with mental illness have panic attacks
Fact: Anyone can have a panic attack, even without a diagnosis of mental illness.
However, some people are at greater risk of having multiple panic attacks throughout their lives, including people with a family history of panic attacks or trauma.
A person is also at greater risk if they are diagnosed with:
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
People who don’t meet these criteria are still at risk — especially if they’ve experienced a traumatic event, are in a stressful work or school environment, or don’t get enough sleep, food, or water.
For this reason, it’s a good idea for everyone to have a general idea of what a panic attack looks like and the best things they can do to return to feeling calm.
Make an appointment with a specialized doctor if you’ve experienced signs or symptoms of a panic attack.
You can book an appointment with a Mental Health practitioner by clicking here
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