During a panic attack, a person experiences overwhelming anxiety. They may feel their heart is racing, they cannot breathe, or they are going to die. However, panic attacks cannot kill a person directly.
This article explores the possibility of dying from a panic attack. We also outline some potential health effects of repeated panic attacks or panic disorder. Lastly, we look at ways to reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks and when to speak with a doctor.
Can you die from a panic attack?
A panic attack may be frightening, but it is not fatal.
During a panic attack, a person becomes overwhelmed by feelings of fear and anxiety, which causes the body to react as if it is in danger. It goes into “fight or flight” mode, increasing a person’s heart rate and breathing rate.
These temporary changes can feel uncomfortable and frightening, but they will not kill the individual.
Some people may breathe rapidly, or hyperventilate, during a panic attack. Hyperventilation lowers carbon dioxide levels in the blood, which may make a person feel lightheaded. In rare instances, the individual may faint.
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It is important to note that panic can actually mobilize resources and make people hyperalert. In a technique called exposure therapy, a therapist will recommend that a person keep going as usual, to help them learn that panic goes away on its own and bad things do not happen.
Longer-term health complications
An older study from 2005 suggested panic attacks may worsen heart problems in people with coronary heart disease (CHD). This disease has characteristic narrow or blocked arteries that supply the heart muscle.
The above study included 65 people with CHD. Of these, 35 had panic disorder (PD), while 30 did not. PD is an anxiety disorder in which a person experiences regular panic attacks.
Researchers induced the physiological effects of a panic attack by asking participants to inhale a gas containing 35% carbon dioxide and 65% oxygen. Each participant then received a heart scan. Those who had PD were more likely to experience a panic attack than those who did not.
Among all participants who experienced a panic attack, those with PD were more likely to develop a temporary myocardial perfusion defect, where certain areas of the heart receive reduced blood flow. ……………….. ……………….. Continue Reading ……………….. ………………..