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Unresponsive/Not Breathing - Panic Attack
An_250338 posted:
I had dealt with panic attacks with a close friend before, however a night ago one occurred where my friend stopped breathing and was unresponsive for what seemed like 10-20 seconds. With my medical training, I immediately initiated rescue breathing. After 3-4 rescue breaths, she resumed breathing on her own, however this occurred 2 times after. Luckily I was able to rummage through the medicine cabinet and find her medication. She said it was "normal," and I shouldn't worry, however with a first aid training through my whole life, I cannot watch any loved one stop breathing and not feel overwhelmingly compelled to act. Is this in fact a "normal symptom?" Is there a way to keep the attacks from escalating to that level? After that we were both rather traumatized.
normg responded:
Panic attacks cannot stop a person from breathing. In a super huge attack they might hyperventilate to the point they pass out (faint), but not stop breathing. If she stopped breathing, there may be other medical issues involved and she should see a doctor. A person can hold their breath for a long time. Generally a panic attack leads to hyperventilation and it may appear they are short of breath...the opposite is true. Not to pull an Ann Landers on you, but if this is normal with her and she is o.k. with it, and has apparently dealt with it with a doctor, then I suggest you accept her advise to not worry about it. By focusing on it, you could be making her more anxious than if you just go with it. I am not a doctor, just a person a little familiar with anxiety....personally and with a friend.
Patricia Farrell, PhD responded:
I have never heard of anyone with panic attacks stopping breathing for 10 to 20 seconds. I would also wonder how your friend came to think that this is normal and what type of medication she takes for it. What exactly is her diagnosis?

I can imagine this was an extremely upsetting situation for you and one which neither you nor she would want to have happen again. Whoever is treating her should the investigating what is happening and what is causing this. The brain does have a mechanism that will cause someone to become unconscious if they fail to breeze for a sufficient length of time. We often see this in some children who hold their breath to the point of passing out. Of course, they are trying to frighten their parents into giving them whatever they want. I'm not saying that this is what your friend did, but it is not normal.

I'm not an M.D. and I would strongly recommend that she contact her treating physician and have this evaluated ASAP. Since you are a good friend, I believe she may wish to discuss her physical problems with you regarding this breathing difficulty. It may help both of you.

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