Can I pass out when having a panic attack?

QUESTION: My panic attacks really scare me. Could I pass out due to a panic attack?

DR. DEBRA KISSEN'S RESPONSE:

DR. DEBRA KISSEN'S RESPONSE: Thank you for this important question. You are not the only panic disorder sufferer who fears they will pass out when having a panic attack. On the contrary, it is common fear. Several panic symptoms, such as dizziness, difficulty focusing, tightness of chest, feelings of depersonalization and derealization, often lead one to fear they are about to pass out. Unfortunately, this fear that one might pass out, creates additional panic sensations, and one is therefore stuck in a panic cycle. In reality, if one is having a panic attack, it is actually impossible to pass out ( with the exception of blood phobia and in this unique situation, one's blood pressure drops, which could lead to passing out ). When one is having a panic attack, the sympathetic nervous system kicks into full gear and breathing rate as well blood pressure increases. These physiological shifts are 100 percent at odds with passing out, which entails a rapid decrease in blood pressure. Therefore, the next time you are having a panic attack remind yourself "just because it feels like I am about to pass out does not mean I am going to pass out. In reality, it is impossible for me to pass out and have a panic attack at the very same time.". Be well and take care. Warmest regards, Dr. Debra Kissen, Clinical Director, Chicago Anxiety Management Associates