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What Are Panic Attacks and How to Deal With Them?

Panic attacks

Panic attacks are sudden, intense moments of fear or anxiety. They can be very alarming and upsetting. This extreme anxiety can hit without warning, seemingly out of the blue. They often show up with physical signs like a racing heart, feeling dizzy and sweating, as well as strong emotions such as fear of dying.

Even though panic attacks feel overwhelming, remember they won’t physically hurt you. It’s important to talk to a doctor about how you’re feeling. They can help you find ways to handle these moments and the anxiety that might be causing them.

Key Takeaways – What Are Panic Attacks

  • Panic attacks are sudden, intense surges of fear or anxiety that can be very distressing.
  • Panic attacks involve a range of physical and emotional symptoms, including a racing heartbeat, feeling faint, and shortness of breath.
  • Panic attacks are not dangerous and will not cause physical harm, but seeking professional help is recommended.
  • The frequency and duration of panic attacks can vary greatly from person to person.
  • Panic disorder can lead to other mental health conditions if left untreated, such as agoraphobia or substance abuse issues.

Understanding Panic Attacks

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder known for causing sudden and often frequent panic attacks. These attacks bring on overwhelming feelings of fear or anxiety. This comes along with many physical and emotional signs.

Such signs may include a fast heartbeat, feeling like you might pass out, and strong feelings of fear. Other symptoms can be sweating, feeling sick, and chest pain. They can also make you feel like reality is not quite there.

Panic attacks usually reach their worst point in just a few minutes. They might last for about an hour. Even though these attacks are really scary, they’re not dangerous. They will eventually go away.

Defining Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are considered the most intense form of anxiety. They can happen suddenly and without an obvious cause. They usually start in late teens or early adulthood and affect more girls than boys. The chances of getting panic attacks might be higher if they run in your family.

Symptoms of Panic Attacks

Panic attacks come with a set of symptoms that include fast heartbeats, sweating, and feeling really scared. They often last between five and twenty minutes, though sometimes they can go on for an hour. How often they happen can be different for everyone. Some people have them once in a while, while others get them a lot.

Physical and Emotional Manifestations

During a panic attack, you might feel like danger is close and that something really bad is about to happen. You might also feel like everything is unreal. Physically, you could have a fast heartbeat, sweat a lot, and feel dizzy.

If not treated, panic attacks can lead to other serious issues. These might be phobias, depression, or more anxiety disorders, like PTSD. Some studies show panic attacks might be the body’s way of reacting to danger. Big, stressful life events can also raise the chance of getting panic attacks.

Causes of Panic Attacks

The exact cause of panic disorder is not fully understood. However, a mix of factors is probably involved. Traumatic or highly stressful life experiences, like losing someone, might add to panic disorder development. Also, if a family member has panic disorder, there might be a link through genetics. An issue with neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers, could also be a cause of panic attacks. We’re not certain of the exact causes yet, but these mixed elements can bring on the sudden and frequent panic attacks in panic disorder.

Traumatic Life Experiences

The death or severe illness of someone close is a known factor in panic disorder beginnings. This can spark the body’s response that prepares us to flee or face danger, causing panic attacks.

Genetics and Family History

Studies hint at a genetic link to panic disorder. If you have a family member who has gone through panic attacks or has the disorder, you might face a higher risk too.

Brain Chemistry Imbalances

Issues with the brain’s neurotransmitters, like serotonin and norepinephrine, could be involved in panic attacks starting. This imbalance might affect how the body handles the fight-or-flight response, causing sudden and strong fear or anxiety in panic disorder.

Panic Attack Triggers

Many things can trigger panic attacks. This includes both how we feel and what happens around us. Feeling stressed and anxious a lot can make panic attacks more likely. This happens because our body’s stress reaction is easily set off. Ever been in a tight or packed area? It might have made you feel like you couldn’t escape. This feeling can bring on a panic attack. Also, doing things that stress us out, like speaking in front of a crowd or worrying about money, can start a panic attack if we’re already prone to them. To cope, it’s good to spot and stay away from what makes us feel this way.

Stress and Anxiety

Feeling stressed or anxious a lot can be big reasons for panic attacks. If our body’s stress system is quick to react, we might find panic and anxiety creeping up on us. Changing our lifestyle to lower stress and using ways to relax are key to keeping panic attacks at bay.

Enclosed Spaces and Crowds

Places that feel small or packed with people can also lead to panic attacks. This is because they might make us feel like there’s no way out or too much to handle. For those with panic disorder, dealing with these areas can be hard, causing more anxiety and possibly a panic attack.

Financial Worries and Public Speaking

Big life stresses and events can also trigger panic attacks. Job worries or not being sure about our finances can really increase anxiety for those affected. Even talking in front of a lot of people can be a trigger. It’s key to have ways to cope and to get help from professionals to deal with these issues. These steps can make a significant difference in handling these triggers.

Panic Attacks

Recognising a Panic Attack

Spotting the signs of a panic attack is a big first step. You might notice a racing heart, trouble breathing, sweat, shaking, and feeling not quite there. Remember, despite feeling scary, panic attacks won’t hurt you and will end.

Coping Strategies During an Attack

When a panic attack hits, deep breathing can really help. Take in slow breaths and let them out slowly to avoid hyperventilating and reduce stress. Staying cool, thinking of happy things, and telling yourself the attack will end are also great ways to help yourself.

Deep Breathing Techniques

Deep breathing is a top technique for dealing with panic. Breathing slowly and deeply helps keep your breathing steady, fights off hyperventilation, and eases the panic attack’s symptoms. This can make your body feel less stressed and more in control, helping you relax.

deep breathing

Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques are great for handling panic attack symptoms. They shift focus back to the present moment. These methods use both physical and mental activities to draw attention away from anxiety.

Finding a Peaceful Spot

A calm, quiet place can lower stress and external triggers during a panic attack. It helps ground people by making them focus away from negative thoughts.

Focusing on Objects

Looking at a single, known object or the surroundings can calm and refocus the mind. It uses the sense of sight and keeps you in the present.

The 5-4-3-2-1 Method

The 5-4-3-2-1 method uses the senses to stay mindful. It guides you to see, touch, hear, smell, and taste things around you. This helps feel in control and present during a panic attack.

These techniques fit easily into daily life to manage strong emotions. By tuning into what’s around you, they act as shields against panic attacks. They help you stay calm and present.

Relaxation Strategies

Using relaxation methods helps lower the chance of having panic attacks. These exercises work to make you less anxious and tense over time. You can try things like muscle relaxation, yoga, or slow breathing every day or several times a week. The aim is to reduce anxiety and tension in your body over time.

Repeating a Mantra

Saying a calming mantra, like “This too shall pass,” can calm your mind. It can make you feel peaceful inside. Some herbs, including lavender and valerian, might ease anxiety, a recent study suggests.

Muscle Relaxation Exercises

Practising muscle relaxation lets you release physical tension linked with panic attacks. It’s most effective when combined with other CBT techniques, like changing how you think and facing your fears.

Visualisation Techniques

Imagining a quiet, serene place can help reduce panic and bring relaxation. Deep belly breathing, another CBT method, is great to do daily for peace and calm. Practise it twice a day for 10 minutes for the best outcome. Experts also recommend mindfulness to keep your emotions in check and your mind calm.

Lifestyle Changes

Changing your lifestyle can really help with panic disorder. It lowers the chances of having a panic attack. Adding regular exercise like yoga or even walking can lessen stress. It can make you feel better and boost your mood. Meditating and being mindful are also great. They teach you to relax your mind and body. This is super useful when you feel anxious.

Regular Exercise

Doing regular exercise, such as yoga or running, is good for panic disorder. It eases stress, lifts your mood, and makes you feel good. This helps you handle panic attacks better.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Practising meditation and mindfulness can really help with panic disorder. They give you tools to calm down. This is key for dealing with anxiety or panic attacks.

Healthy Diet and Hydration

Eating well and drinking enough water are also important. They help avoid things that can trigger panic attacks. For breakfast, try foods rich in protein to stay full and keep your energy stable. Foods like complex carbs can boost your mood by increasing serotonin. This helps you stay calm. It’s best to stay away from caffeine and alcohol. They can mess with your sleep and make you feel on edge. Drinking plenty of water is vital too. Even a little dehydration can affect your mood.

Seeking Professional Help

If panic attacks impact someone’s life, they should consider seeking professional help. One helpful method is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It teaches people to change their negative thoughts and behaviours. This reduces panic attacks effectively.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of therapy that looks at how thoughts, feelings, and actions are connected. In CBT, a person and their therapist work together. They find new ways to cope and learn skills to handle panic better. This approach works really well for managing panic attacks.

Medication Options

Doctors might also prescribe medications like antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. These help with the symptoms of panic disorder in the short or long term. They manage stress responses in the body. This lowers the risk and intensity of panic attacks.

Support Groups

Joining support groups can be a big help too. It lets individuals meet others with similar experiences. They exchange coping strategies and support each other. Support groups offer a place where people feel understood and get practical tips for handling panic disorder.

Getting help from a professional lets someone find the right resources. This helps them take back control from panic attacks. Using treatments like CBT, medication, and community support is a strong approach. It helps overcome the difficulties of panic disorder.

what are panic attacks

Helping Others During a Panic Attack

It’s crucial to stay calm when someone has a panic attack. They may feel like they’re having a heart attack. Symptoms can include fear, sweating, a fast heart, and chest pain. The causes aren’t always clear, which can make people fear more attacks, especially in public.

Remaining Calm and Supportive

Encourage deep breaths or help them find a quiet space. Using grounding techniques can also aid in calming them. These include physical touch and calming phrases.

Guiding Them Through Coping Techniques

Help them use strategies like repeating a calming phrase or imagining a peaceful place. It’s vital to know how to support them if they can’t speak clearly during an attack.

Seeking Medical Assistance If Needed

If a panic attack is very severe, or if someone struggles to calm down, it might be time to get medical help. After a panic attack, they might feel drained and unable to do much.

In the UK, one in four people has a mental health disorder, and panic attacks are on the rise. These episodes usually last 20 to 30 minutes. Helplines like Samaritans and support from apps like Headspace are available day and night.


Panic attacks can feel like a huge obstacle in life. Yet, with the right help, they are manageable. Knowing what causes panic attacks and their symptoms is key. It lets people fight back against panic disorder. Changing your daily habits helps a lot too, like moving more, calming your mind, and eating well. These things can make panic attacks happen less often and not as strong. Getting professional advice, including talking therapy or medicine, gives even more ways to deal with panic disorder.

Taking on panic attacks from all sides is important. With the help you need, life slowly starts feeling stable and good again. Panic attacks can really shake you up. But, facing them the right way brings hope. It lets people improve their lives and stand up stronger against the challenge of panic attacks.

The journey to handle panic attacks is tough, true. Yet, knowing why they happen, using smart plans to cope, and getting expert help makes it better. Being committed to looking after yourself is crucial. It helps lower the terrible effects of panic attacks. Then, you can focus on living your life well and being happy.


What are panic attacks and how can they be dealt with?

Panic attacks are sudden feelings of intense fear or anxiety. They can be very frightening. Panic attacks are the most severe form of anxiety. They often come on without any warning. They can make your heart race, make you feel faint or sweaty. You might feel chest pain or like you can’t breathe. But remember, they won’t harm you physically. Talking to a doctor about them is a good idea. They can help you understand your anxiety and how to deal with it.

What is panic disorder?

Panic disorder is a kind of anxiety problem. People with this disorder have unexpected panic attacks often. A panic attack comes with sudden intense fear or anxiety. Your heart might race, and you could feel like you can’t breathe. You might sweat a lot or feel dizzy. Even though these attacks are very scary, they don’t hurt you physically and will go away.

What causes panic attacks?

The exact reasons behind panic disorder are not fully known. But, very stressful life events can play a part. If someone in your family has panic disorder, it might be more likely for you to get it too. Chemicals in the brain might also cause it. These chemicals help the brain send messages. Even though we’re not sure of all the causes, we know these things can lead to panic attacks happening often and without warning.

What can trigger panic attacks?

Many things can set off a panic attack. Stress and anxiety make the body’s stress system work too hard. This makes panic attacks more likely. Places like crowded rooms or tight spaces can cause panic attacks. So can things like speaking in public or money worries. Knowing what triggers your panic attacks can help you avoid them or cope with them better.

How can someone recognise a panic attack?

Recognising a panic attack is the first step to managing it. Panic attacks come with signs like a fast heartbeat, feeling like you can’t breathe, or sweating a lot. It’s key to know these attacks won’t harm you. They will stop. To help, try slow breathing. Breathe in deep and then out slowly to calm your body.

What are some grounding techniques for panic attacks?

Grounding techniques help manage panic attacks. They bring your focus back to the present. Find a quiet place to sit. Then, focus on something around you. This can be anything you feel or see. Another method is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Notice five things you see, four you can touch, three you hear, two you smell, and one you taste. This helps bring you back to now.

What relaxation strategies can help with panic attacks?

Relaxation methods can make panic attacks less intense and frequent. Use a calming phrase like “This too shall pass” to focus. Tense and relax your muscles one by one. Visualise a peaceful place to distract yourself from panic. These strategies can keep you relaxed.

How can lifestyle changes help manage panic disorder?

Changing your lifestyle can help control panic disorder. Regular exercise and yoga reduce stress. Meditation and mindfulness calm your mind. A good diet and avoiding caffeine and alcohol are also important. They lessen physical triggers and promote health.

When should someone seek professional help for panic attacks?

If panic attacks disrupt your life, it’s time to get help. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is great for panic disorder. It helps change your negative thoughts. Medicines might also be used. Support groups are helpful. They let you learn from others with similar experiences.

How can others help someone experiencing a panic attack?

When someone has a panic attack, stay calm and support them. Help them with their breathing or find a quiet place. Using relaxation techniques like a calming mantra can also help. If the attack is severe, getting medical help shows you care about their safety.

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