Panic attacks are sly thieves that rob you of your breath and make the world feel like it’s falling around you. As you struggle to catch your breath, the thought crosses your mind that you might not make it out of the attack alive. However, having a panic attack in the middle of the office isn’t going to kill you, even though it may feel like. At most, hyperventilation (breathing too quickly) may cause you to faint, per WebMD.
To understand why a panic attack isn’t going to kill you, it’s essential to look at the mechanisms behind it. At its core, panic attacks are a stress response that is meant to keep you alive. When you experience a panic attack, your amygdala sends out the body’s distress signal, causing your heart to beat faster, blood vessels to constrict, blood to surge into the muscles, your lungs open, and your senses become more acute, states Harvard Health Publishing. Your body is ready to act, but there is nothing to act on. Therefore, you’re flooded with symptoms like trembling and sweating, lightheadedness, dread, racing heart, tense muscles, and dry mouth, per Better Health Channel.
It also takes a while for your body to come down off the adrenaline surge, so panic attack symptoms can last a while. However, your body will eventually calm down and return to normal.