Glamour – This is What a Panic Attack Looks Like

Photo: Twitter

Describing what a panic attack looks like is exactly what a British woman, Amber Smith, is doing via Facebook to raise awareness, and compassion, for people suffering from anxiety disorders. The images of herself before and after a panic attack, aim to combat mental health stigma, that can be additionally debilitating to people suffering. Not surprisingly, the post has gone viral.

Glamour asked me to weigh in on the prevalence of anxiety disorders, how to identify a panic attack, and what to do if you are a sufferer. I was very pleased to help out with this great piece by Korin Miller. To read the full piece, CLICK HERE.

Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of anxiety, says that panic attacks happen more than you’d think. “Anybody who is prone to anxiety is at risk of a panic attack,” she says.

But how do you know if you’re suffering from a panic attack or are just feeling anxious? Clark says there’s a definite difference. People who suffer from a panic attack may experience a racing heart, sweating, ringing in their ears, and blurred vision. “The hallmark of a panic attack is often the experience of thinking you’re dying,” Clark says. “A lot of people mistake it for a heart attack.”

Panic attacks can be triggered by anything, Clark says, and people often get into trouble because they try to fight anxiety that they feel coming on, rather than accepting it. “A panic attack is serious and it’s deeply uncomfortable, but when people fight it, they make it worse,” she says.

While Smith has been told that she’s too young to have panic attacks, Clark says that’s not the case. In fact, she says, “most major mental illness presents from late adolescence through your late 20s—that’s when, if people are going to be anxious, they start seeing significant symptoms.”

If you suffer from panic attacks, Clark says it’s important to get help from a medical professional. “There are great treatments out there, and therapy and medication can be helpful,” she says. “We have a solid understanding of panic and anxiety—there is help.”


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Alicia H. Clark, PsyD