Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


This is what a panic attack looks like

18 April 2016, 14:51

Recently, a 22-year-old woman named Amber Smith from the UK shared two images on her Facebook page showing what she looked like before and after a panic attack. She meant it as a way to start a discussion and I doubt that she realized it would soon have been shared by over 26 000 people.

I applaud Amber’s bravery and willingness to show the world what it looks like when your body turns against you, because I know exactly what that’s like. I have GAD or Generalised Anxiety Disorder. This means that my brain handles anxiety really differently than most people. I scare easily, I sometimes feel panicked for no reason, and some nights I wake up terrified from a nightmare with my heart pounding and head racing.

Did you know that, according to SADAG (the South African Depression and Anxiety Group), 2-4 % of the population will suffer from a panic disorder at some point in their lives? And that it is twice as common in women than it is in men? Or that 20% of the population will become depressed at some point in their lives?

Yet there’s still this massive stigma and misunderstanding around mental illness.

In her Facebook post Amber says: “I'm so sick of the fact that it's 2016 and there is still so much stigma around mental health. It disgusts me that so many people are so uneducated and judgemental (sic) over the topic,” and I have to agree. It angers me that people know so little about depression and anxiety and that I still get told things like “Just be happier.” Or asked “Why do you need pills when you can decide to be more positive?”

These are the images Amber uploaded to show what it looks like to have a panic attack Image:Facebook

What brings on panic attacks? For me, it’s sometimes simply being so overwhelmed by things that I break down. Sometimes it happens when I am triggered. I’ve written about the need for trigger warnings before, but the issue came up again when I discovered this article where Stephen Fry speaks out against the “infantile” culture of triggers and safe spaces on a (now former) friend’s Facebook page.

While I agree that removing the word “rape” from a piece of text or something similar might detract from the message or essence of a piece of writing or a play, adding a trigger warning before said piece does help people like me who have triggers avoid something that could lead to a panic attack.

Anxiety and depression isn’t fun and it’s often a very lonely journey. When the sads hit, you often feel like you can’t talk to anyone and no one understands why you don’t want to get out of bed, or when your worry about things so much that you’re constantly tense.

We need to talk about this. We need to say to our friends and family who have been affected by mental illness that it’s okay, that there is treatment, that there is hope. Breaking the silence is the only way we’ll ever get over the stigma of it all.

Do you or have you suffered mental illness? Is someone close to you affected by it? Tell us your story.

If you or anyone you know seems to be struggling, contact one of these numbers:

Suicide Crisis Line
0800 567 567
SMS 31393

SADAG Mental Health Line
011 234 4837

- Women24


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
S Mbinya
Kenyans demand action after femal...

This comes a few days after a female passenger was drugged and then robbed in a matatu plying the Kenyatta – Kencom route. Read more...

Submitted by
S Mbinya
Natural aphrodisiacs to boost lib...

It is advisable to take them before sex in order to achieve maximum benefit. Read more...

Submitted by
Man defiles girlfriend’s daughter

The two-year-old girl sustained serious injuries due to the forceful penetration. Read more...

Submitted by
Bernard Lugagah
How your birth order affects your...

Mismatched birth orders may be the simple reason you and your significant other don’t seem to get along.  Read more...

Submitted by
Jayne Zack
Raila has lost his remaining bull...

He added that Jubilee and Cord are like day and night. Read more...

Submitted by
Gabriel Ngallah
Changamwe OCPD collapses, dies in...

He had complained of some pain in his body around 11am. Read more...