This week's phrase is...
"_____ just gave me a panic attack..."
Before I get started on this just let me explain that I'm not trying to say that panic attacks aren't real nor am I suggesting that they can't be triggered by anything in your environment, this is about using the term panic attack to describe something which, quite simply, is not one.
Let me start this with a quick bit of info on panic attacks from NHS choices, it describes them as "a rush of intense anxiety and physical symptoms" which could be breathlessness, choking, nausea, sweating etc. People often think they're actually having a heart attack because of how intense the experience is and how overwhelming it feels. Although there's no real medical danger as a result of a panic attack they're incredibly scary things to experience!
What I want to discuss is when people use the term panic attack to describe the fact that something frightened them and it raised their heart rate a little bit. Like, you're watching a horror movie and some ghost or whatever jumps out from behind a door and that makes you go "AAAH" and then your heart is beating fast and maybe you're sweating a bit as well- it's not the same thing as the overwhelming and often with no clear reason, experience of having a panic attack.
Feeling a small amount of anxiety at a scary thing is understandable, it's your body activating it's fight or flight response to get away from the danger and it doing it's job properly. Panic attacks are also linked to fight or flight but it's basically in overdrive and isn't useful.
So yeah, just have a think about whether you might use the term panic attack for that small amount of fear, and whether you could switch out the word for something like "_____ just scared the sh*t out of me" etc. Using panic attack incorrectly in that way means people are potentially less likely to recognise or understand when they see someone experiencing one (if they think it's only a very small experience of fear).
Furthermore it sort of increases the stigma surrounding use of the term panic attack as a valid reason not to do something. For example, if you can't make it to uni/work because of a panic attack and the person you have to tell about your absence doesn't think of panic attack as the intense experience but just a small amount of fear they may not see it as truly an acceptable reason to stay at home but they would perhaps be cool with you saying "I've got a bit of a cold I'm not coming in" which if anything you probably should still get your ass there. I'm not sure if I'm making a good example in this or not but all I'm trying to say is that it's even harder to break stigma when people have these misconceptions about what certain mental health related problems actually entail.
Thank you for reading! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and don't forget to have a look at my Question Box and submit any queries/things you'd like me to talk about!