Your palms are sweaty, your heart is racing, you're getting dizzy, and you can't focus—you may be having a classic panic attack. While it may seem like you're about to die ("impending doom" is another symptom), long-term effects are unlikely if you are indeed having a panic attack.
The tricky thing about panic attacks is that they are a physical manifestation of what's going on inside your head and can feel like another acute health event, like a heart attack. "We underestimate the role that our physical health plays in anxiety and panic. Panic happens when the body is in a stress response," said Ellen Vora, M.D., a holistic psychiatrist who offers a class on mbg about controlling anxiety. "Factors that contribute to physiological stress, like caffeine and blood sugar crashes, also lower the threshold for panic attacks," she said.
According to functional medicine expert and mbg class instructor Will Cole, D.C., who has experienced panic attacks firsthand, inflammation and genetic predisposition can be part of the equation as well. "There is a whole field of research referred to as the cytokine model of cognitive function. In non-nerd talk: how inflammation hurts our brain. I see it often clinically. Some genetic aspects to anxiety can be methylation impairments to genes like MTHFR (which I have)," Cole said.
Most of our experts agreed that panic attacks in themselves may lead to a fainting episode at worst, but the physical symptoms themselves are not likely to cause long-term health issues.