Author Question: Panic Attacks

Becky asks:

My MC’s ex-boyfriend to come back with not-so-good-but-not-outright-

bad intentions to try to force her to take him back. He’s been leading a high-stress life-style (Dental School, top of his class, used to be an cyclist but stopped exercising, angry about no perfect job post school, turned-mean, etc.) and then she leaves him because he’s so awful and after almost 9 years of waiting to get married and live happily ever after, he tell her he doesn’t know if he really wants to be with her. Okay. That’s the back story on him.

Basically, he shows up in the throws of a nervous breakdown/panic attack that looks a lot like a heart attack. And that’s my question: Can a panic attack have similar/same symptoms of a heart attack? I want him to be hospitalized at least over night, so it needs to be bad enough to have to be monitored for 24+ hours, but not bad enough to kill him or leave him there long-term.

Jordyn Says:

As far as the scene, it can work medically. I think instead of a panic attack– you should go with an arrhythmia called SVT (supraventricular tachycardia.) I’ve included some links for you. At its simplest, SVT is a super fast heart beat. For an adult– it would be a sustained, unwavering heartbeat over 180 beats/min.

The reason to change it to this type of medical condition is if the medical team determines he had a panic attack– he will not be observed overnight. However, if he had an arrhythmia for which he was hemodynamically unstable (low blood pressure)– then observing overnight is warranted– particularly if they converted him out and he went back into it.

When you have SVT– it can feel like you’re having a heart attack. Many of the symptoms can be the same. Chest pain. Pain down the left arm. Jaw pain. Difficulty breathing. Low blood pressure. Sweating (diaphoresis). Pale, cool, clammy skin.

I don’t know if this is the direction you want to go but would be my suggestion.

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