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When someone loses what is so important to him/her, can we say (s)he has an "emotional attack"?

For example, when we lose an important friend or a member of family, can we say:

It gave me an emotional attack.

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    Is anyone stopping you? There are other terms that might be more appropriate in given circumstances, but "emotional attack" is perfectly fine in the right context. – Hot Licks Sep 28 '15 at 12:11
  • If there are better terms, please let me know what they are. – user2326844 Sep 28 '15 at 12:14
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    "Emotional breakdown" is often used. So is "hissy fit", though it spans a range of meanings. There are many different manifestations that might be described, and it's impossible to pick the right term without knowing the specifics. – Hot Licks Sep 28 '15 at 12:16
  • Before reading your explanation, I had not idea what you were talking about. The default meaning of "attack" is something you perform, not something you experience. A heart attack is the odd one out, so the desired connection to it does not work. An emotional attack evokes the image of you performing an attack on someone else in an emotional manner. It does not evoke the image of yourself suffering from an emotional breakdown. Especially since there's already a universally used and understood term for that: emotional breakdown. – RegDwigнt Sep 28 '15 at 12:29
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    @Rathony: yes, I can only repeat myself. That's an odd one out. Whether or not "emotional attack" should be understood in that sense, is irrelevant. The question here is whether it is understood in that way. And the answer to that is no as soon as there is one person that does not understand it that way. I am one such person. – RegDwigнt Sep 28 '15 at 13:36
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It doesn't quite fit to my ear, probably because it's an unusual phrase and therefore hard to determine quickly how the words 'attack' and 'emotional' are being used.

Using the construction 'had an emotional attack' makes it sound like attack is intended to have its sense of 'seizure' (cf. had a panic attack, heart attack, attack of remorse) rather than its more usual combative sense (cf. missile attack, rhetorical attack). However, the second sense is not out of the question.

Meanwhile, using 'emotional' to modify 'attack' creates some vagueness. Possible conflicting meanings evoked are:

  • the attack is striking at the emotions (His attempt to make me feel pity was an emotional attack)
  • the attack is performed with great emotion (He greeted me at the door with an emotional attack, kissing and hugging me until we were breathless)

The meaning you want can probably be construed from the phrase, but there are competing interpretations that make it a less effective choice than some of the others suggested here.

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I would prefer using "emotional trauma" or just "trauma".

"Psychological trauma" seems to be the word used by psychiatrists which means.

a type of damage to the mind that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event. Trauma is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one's ability to cope, or integrate the emotions involved with that experience

[Wikipedia, www.helpguide.org]

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