Actress Emma Stone, 24, appears lively and confident on the red carpet and onscreen. However, she isn't always that way. She recently revealed her history of panic attacks.
"I was a really anxious kid," Stone told Vogue magazine. At age 8, she had her first panic attack. A panic attack is a period of sudden, unexplained fear or discomfort in the absence of real danger.
Having anxious thoughts about a stressful situation is normal. But feeling intense anxiety during everyday situations can be crippling to your health.
"I was just kind of immobilized by it," Stone said. "I didn't want to go to my friends' houses or hang out with anybody, and nobody really understood."
According to the American Psychological Association, signs of a panic attack include:
- A racing heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing or feeling like you can't get enough air
- An almost paralyzing terror
- Feeling dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous
- Trembling, sweating or shaking
- Chest pains
- Hot flashes or sudden chills
- Tingling in fingers or toes
- Fear that you're going crazy or dying
Panic attacks usually last a few minutes. Though an attack is scary, it alone is not dangerous. It becomes more serious when it is linked to panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder.
Not everyone who suffers from panic attacks has panic disorder. A key indicator is if you have repeated attacks with other symptoms, including:
- Feeling of being out of control during a panic attack.
- Intensely worrying about when the next attack will happen.
- Fear or avoidance of places where past panic attacks have occurred.
One out of every 75 people might have panic disorder. It often develops in the late teens or early adulthood. It is more prevalent in women.
If you think you have panic disorder, make an appointment to see your family doctor. A physician can evaluate whether your symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder or another medical condition. He or she can also direct you to suitable treatment, which may include medication, therapy or both. While medication can be helpful, try working with a therapist on relaxation techniques or deep breathing skills prior to a trial of medication.
After a few years of therapy to ease her panic attacks, Stone started acting in comic theater at age 11. It helped her better cope with her anxious thoughts.
"It gave me a sense of purpose. I wanted to make people laugh," Stone told Vogue. "Comedy was my sport. It taught me how to roll with the punches."
She still gets panic attacks on the set, including during the filming of "Crazy, Stupid, Love." Stone learned to channel her anxiety into creative work and other activities, such as baking.
"I think I felt really out of control of my surroundings," she said of filming "Spider-Man." "I was just baking all the time … It seemed like it made me feel, if I put these in, I'll know what the outcome is."
Panic attacks are unpredictable, which can make you feel more fearful. But know that they are highly treatable. If you have multiple panic attacks or think you have panic disorder, don't be afraid to seek help. Those with panic disorder can lead normal lives if they get the right treatment.
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