8 Symptoms Of Silent Panic Attacks You Should Know How To Recognize
Considering the dictionary definitions of "panic" and "attack," it's no surprise that when many people think of a panic or anxiety attack, they automatic picture the super noticeable symptoms associated with panic, like shaking, sweating, crying, or hyperventilating. However, the term "panic attack" is somewhat of a misnomer: While some people who experience panic attacks do have symptoms that are very apparent, others can experience silent panic attacks. This is when someone who is diagnosed with a panic or anxiety disorder has a panic attack without displaying any outward symptoms whatsoever. Someone who has silent panic attacks could have them in public, at home, in the office, or virtually anywhere without anyone noticing, or realizing that something was wrong.
The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates around three million people in the U.S. have some type of panic disorder, and another 37 million Americans have some other type of anxiety disorder. And while they may be less likely to draw attention than panic attacks that have visible symptoms, silent panic attacks are just real, valid, and frightening for the person experiencing it. Here's a rundown of eight symptoms of silent panic attacks you should be aware of, especially if you have an anxiety disorder.
1. Feeling Dizzy Or Tingling In Your Limbs
According to Prevention, "When you start having a panic attack, there is less blood in your extremities. In turn, some people feel weaker in their arms, legs, hands, and feet." This decrease in blood flow can also make your feet and hands tingle, or feel a bit numb, as if you stayed put in one position too long.
2. Derealization Or Depersonalization
To put it simply, depersonalization is when you feel detached from your body, while derealization is when you feel disconnected from the world around you, and your surroundings seem distorted. The website Very Well Mind explains that both of these sensations are very common symptoms of silent panic attacks. If you start to feel a little bit out of your body, that's your cue you could be experiencing a panic attack.
3. Your Heart Rate Increases Or Feels Like Its Skipping A Beat
If your heart rate is faster than normal, or you begin to have heart palpitations, it could be a sign of a silent panic attack. It also may be one of the first physiological symptoms you experience with any sort of anxiety.
4. Intrusive Thoughts
One of the hallmark symptoms of both anxiety and panic disorders, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), is intrusive thoughts — which, according to the Calm Clinic, are thoughts that "so deeply occupy your mind that you may not be able to focus on your life, or experience joy from your activities."
Intrusive thoughts are uncontrollable, and often times, conjure up disturbing images that can make the person experiencing them feel afraid to the point of immobility. Though people can experience intrusive thoughts without having a full-blown silent panic attack, they are often a symptom of one.
Science has shown that there's a bilateral link between anxiety disorders and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). So, it's probably not surprising that a person suffering from a silent panic attack may start to get a stomach ache, or experience other gastrointestinal upset.
The Mayo Clinic reported that a typical symptom of a silent panic attack — that may "peak within minutes" — is a headache. Considering all the physical tension and anxiety that builds up during them, it's no surprise a panic attack may cause your head to pound. In fact, according to the National Headache Foundation, research indicates "panic disorder is the anxiety disorder most often associated with migraine."
7. Your Throat Closes Up
8. Changes In Your Vision
Blurred vision, eye floaters, and light sensitivity are just a few ways that Silverstein Eye Centers reported silent panic attacks and anxiety can impact your vision. Of course, you should rule out that you don't actually have an optical disorder. However, chances are, if you are experiencing vision issues only when these other symptoms crop up, it's caused by panic.
Being aware of the invisible, physiological symptoms that can occur during a panic attack is super important for people who have anxiety disorders. It may even help you stop a panic attack it its tracks.