Apple Watch may soon be able to detect panic attacks before they happen

Apple may be gearing up to add new functionality to its wearable, building upon its existing heart features. According to a new leak, Apple is preparing to release a new watchOS feature that will enable the next-generation Apple Watch to detect when the wearer is about to experience a panic attack, an extreme form of anxiety that can be mistaken for a heart attack by sufferers who are caught off guard.READ: Apple Watch Series 5 Review: Always-on makes all the difference

The leak was dropped by Jon Prosser during his recent participation in an episode of the podcast 'Geared Up.' According to Prosser, Apple plans to offer a mental health functionality on the next iteration of its Apple Watch wearable, one that will leverage a future 'watchOS 7' software feature and the anticipated blood oxygen sensor to detect whether the wearer is hyperventilating.

Prosser claims that the Apple Watch will monitor the wearer's heart rate and blood oxygen levels in order to anticipate the potential for a panic attack, allegedly enabling the wearable to alert the wearer that they may be about to have a panic attack. This feature could be particularly useful for individuals who suffer from generalized anxiety and are prone to random panic attacks.

One example of the usefulness of this warning is being able to guide the wearer to stop driving if they're at risk of having a panic attack; it could also enable the wearer to excuse themselves from a room ahead of time in order to calm down or get some privacy. It's unclear whether the feature will require new hardware or if the functionality could be brought to existing Apple Watches.

Prosser hopes this feature will be revealed at WWDC 2020 this summer, but that's yet to be seen — Apple has neither commented on nor confirmed the rumor, of course. The leaker claims that Apple may release it this year, but if it doesn't, Apple Watch owners can reportedly expect to see the panic attack detection functionality arrive in 2021.

You can find the full Geared Up podcast episode featuring Jon Prosser here; skip to around the 1:04:00 time for the chat about watchOS 7.