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“This is what a panic attack looks like”: British woman's anxiety selfie goes viral

amber smith.JPG

Earlier this month, Amber Smith had a panic attack. This wasn't an unusual experience for her: the 22-year-old from Rugby suffers from debilitating anxiety and depression. But this time, once her panic began to subside, Smith took a photograph of herself - and posted it on Facebook, alongside a "normal" selfie.

"Top picture: What I showcase to the world via social media," she wrote in the post. "Dressed up, make up done, filters galore. The 'normal' side to me.

"Bottom picture: Taken tonight shortly after suffering from a panic attack because of my anxiety. Also the 'normal' side to me that most people don't see."

Amber Smith

"I'm so sick of the fact that it's 2016 and there is still so much stigma around mental health." Photo: Amber Smith/Facebook

Smith said she was moved to write the post to break some of the stigma that surrounds mental health issues.

"It disgusts me that so many people are so uneducated and judgemental over the topic," she wrote. "I've been battling with anxiety and depression for years and years and there's still people that make comments like 'you'll get over it', 'you don't need tablets, just be happier', 'you're too young to suffer with that'.

"FUCK YOU. Fuck all of you small minded people that think that because I physically look 'fine' that I'm not battling a monster inside my head every single day."

She went on to say that although she has experienced her "fair share of crap", she knows she will be fine. "I have the best family and friends around me and I am thankful everyday that they have the patience to help and support me."

Panic

A panic attack can result in physical symptoms, including shaking, nausea, rapid, irregular heartbeats, sweating and dizziness. Picture: iStock

Smith's post quickly went viral, with over 26,000 people sharing it on their own walls. 

It's unsurprising that it struck such a chord. Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health conditions in the UK. In 2009, when the last comprehensive survey of mental health in England and Wales was conducted, some 20 per cent of adults were suffering from some kind of anxiety or depressive disorder. In England, women are almost twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with anxiety.

Despite it being incredibly common, the vast majority of people who have experienced a mental health problem - a staggering nine out of ten - say that they have faced stigma and discrimination. 

But attitudes towards mental health in the UK are gradually improving. In 2015, the National Attitudes to Mental Illness survey showed that the British public was less prejudiced against mental health problems than ever before.

"To anyone who is going through the same, please do not suffer in silence," Smith wrote in her Facebook post. "There is so much support around - Don't be scared to ask for help."

Anxiety and panic attacks are very common, and there are lots of online resources available if you are struggling. For support and advice, visit NHS Choices, Mind, Anxiety UK or No Panic.

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