Close your eyes and picture this right now: You’re taking a quiet stroll along the beach, enjoying the crashing sound of the waves against the shoreline and out of nowhere a huge growling black bear comes hurdling towards you. Instantly, your fight-or-flight response takes over. You feel like your life is flashing before your eyes.
Now, picture the same scenario minus the wild animal charging at you, but that same fight-or-flight, seeing-your-life-flash-before-your-eyes response kicking in anyway.
Unfortunately, the latter situation is a common struggle shared amongst panic attack and panic disorder sufferers.
And unfortunately, once more, that this very mental health issue is highly misunderstood and swept under the rug by those who see it no more than “too much stress.”
Here are some panic attack myths that need to be de-mythified once and for all!
1 “Panic Attack” and “Anxiety” Are Both Interchangeable Terms.
Panic Attacks and Anxiety do have a lot of things in common—especially the fact that they’re equally as difficult to deal with.
Anxiety itself is an umbrella term that contains various disorders, including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and more.
More specifically, Anxiety is worrying about something bad that could happen at a future time. The distinction here is when the “panic” starts affecting the individual’s day-to-day life (ex: they start worrying about the next attack, all while avoiding certain situations to prevent it from happening). That is what you would call a Panic Disorder.
2 A Panic Attack = Overreaction to Stress.
“Excessive worry,” “over-analyzing” or “overwhelm” are NOT synonymous with a Panic Attack.
These episodes are absolutely debilitating because a fight-or-flight response is set into motion. That results in feeling like you’re in imminent danger even if you’re not. In fact, the sufferer can feel like the entire world is about to end and they’re going to die. During the episode, their mind and body is reacting to the situation like it is in fact life-threatening.
3 Deep Breaths Will Stop a Panic Attack Dead in Its Tracks or at Least Calm You Down a Bit.
We’ve all heard it before. Someone’s stressing out and another well-meaning person tells them something along the lines of, “Hey, don’t sweat it. Just take some deep breaths and all will be well.” That just might work out for said stressed out person…
But having a panic attack is a whole different ballgame. Many sufferers put themselves into a state of hyperventilation. In this case, deep breaths exasperate the issue. The more carbon dioxide one releases, the more one opens the floodgates to undesirable symptoms like dizziness. This leads to a feeling of suffocation, which then leads to rapid deep breathing.
Think in terms of shallow inhalations and exhalations instead of slow, long deep breaths.
4 If One Avoids What Causes the Episodes in the First Place, then They Don’t Need to Worry about Having Future Panic Attacks.
It seems like common sense to avoid something that hurts you. Chances are that when you were a kid and unknowingly touched your hand on that stove, you never touched it again.
The thing is, at least for Panic Attacks, the polar opposite is true. By avoiding, you also become restrictive in equal measure. Keep yourself cooped up in the house for too long, and that can lead to other issues.
If you don’t avoid those causes, then the individual has the chance to learn something very crucial: there actually isn’t anything to be scared about.
5 Passing Out During a Panic Attack Is Quite Common.
Fainting is actually caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure. During a panic attack, your blood pressure rises.
While passing out is possible, there are other physical symptoms that are far more prevalent. Panic Attacks have a scary way of mimicking a heart attack. Mainly due to high blood pressure, you might experience chest pain, get shaky and/or have a hard time breathing.
Are there any panic attack
myths you can think of?
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