Panic attacks, “a sudden overwhelming feeling of acute and disabling anxiety,” are often described in terms of their physical symptoms.
An individual might experience a racing heart, tingling or numbness in their hands or fingers, nausea, chest pain, dizziness, weakness, difficulty breathing, feeling sweaty or feeling like they might faint.
Most people can say they’ve experienced something like this at some point in their lives. Perhaps it was before speaking in front of a group of people, going on a first date, or even just out of the blue late on a Tuesday night while struggling to sleep. Simply, these symptoms are the physical manifestations of anxiety.
But there is another side to panic attacks that we rarely talk about.
Rachel Gearinger, a panic attack sufferer herself, writes for The Mighty, “What people don’t realise is the physical experience of panic attacks isn’t always the worst part. There are some pretty terrifying things that can go on inside your head. Some of my worst panic attacks involve two symptoms no one really talks about.”
Those two symptoms are derealisation and depersonalisation.
Simpy, derealisation feels as though you are entirely detached from a situation and yourself. Your environment might seem foreign, and suddenly you cannot process any information from the world around you.
“The people I love feel like strangers to me during panic attacks,” Gearinger says. Some people in the midst of derealisation will feel as though they’re watching the world through a television screen, emotionally withdrawn from what they’re encountering.
Listen: We are living in the Age of Anxiety. Mia Freedman, Monique Bowley and I discuss on Mamamia Out Loud. (Post continues below…)