Brave woman shares 'before' and 'after' panic attack pictures

Apr 7, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. ET

People who suffer from anxiety, depression and other "invisible" illnesses know that the face they present to the world only tells half the story. Because someone doesn't look ill some people simply don't accept that they are — while, in reality, they could be struggling to cope with some of the most awful health conditions.

More: Why I overshare my mental illness

One young woman, Amber Smith from Warwickshire, has inspired thousands this week by sharing an extremely personal selfie of herself on Facebook, taken only minutes after she suffered a debilitating panic attack.

Smith shared the image alongside another "normal" selfie, the sort we’re all used to seeing again and again on our social media feeds — a happy, shining face, seemingly without a care in the world.

She wrote in the caption: "Top picture: What I showcase to the world via social media. 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."

Smith went on to say that she hoped to reveal some "home truths" about the reality of living with anxiety and depression. "I'm so sick of the fact that it's 2016 and there is still so much stigma around mental health," she wrote. "It disgusts me that so many people are so uneducated and judgemental over the topic."

More: How I learned to show my anxiety who's boss

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It's incredibly courageous of Smith to share her experience and perhaps those who also suffer from anxiety disorders will be inspired to speak up and help dispel the stigma.

One in three of us will experience a form of mental illness at some point in our lives and sadly many of us suffer in silence. Having the strength to ask for help, regardless of the judgement you may be facing, is the key to recovery.

This has been an important part of the process for Smith — learning to put her own health over the public misconceptions about mental illness.

"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'," she wrote. "F*** YOU. F*** 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."

A panic attack is described by the NHS as "a rush of intense anxiety and physical symptoms." Common signs of a panic attack are a racing heart, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, a choking sensation, nausea, dizziness, tingling fingers and ringing in your ears.

They typically last between five and 20 minutes and, although they can be very distressing, they aren't dangerous and shouldn't cause any harm.

For more information visit www.anxietycoach.com.

More: 7 steps to ease your panic attack ASAP

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