panic attack

Therapist explains panic attacks and how to control them.

It seems since therapy has become more acceptable to talk about, people are becoming more open about their mental health challenges. But there's also been an increase in self-diagnosis, which in some cases can be helpful, while in others can lead to a bit of misinformation.

Self-diagnoses have also caused confusion around anxiety and panic attacks. That's where Dr. Julie Smith comes in. Smith, a clinical psychologist, takes the time to differentiate between anxiety, anxiety attacks and panic attacks. (Psst...anxiety attacks aren't a thing. It's a misunderstanding around the term, and Smith does a great job sifting through the use of the term.)

"An anxiety attack is a term that's being used more and more online and on social media, often to mean slightly different things," Smith says. "And the reason for that is because it's not a clinical disorder or a diagnosis, so it's not a term that's recognized or used by professionals to mean anything in particular."

Due to the misinformation on social media, Smith says she sees it used a lot to mean the build-up of anxiety before an event, which is not the same as a panic attack.

"A panic attack is this abrupt surge of intense fear and discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and then during that time, you experience a range of intense symptoms," Smith explains. "So while you can be in a pretty high state of anxiety, a panic attack is where that anxiety really peaks to such an intensity and the symptoms are so intense, you start to think you might be dying or you could be completely losing control."

Smith breaks panic attacks down even further, providing a visual chart to show the circular existence of panic attacks in some people. She also explains how to try to get them under control and when to call a doctor in the video below.