A panic attack is the sudden onset of intense fear that generates in individuals, accompanied by symptoms that can be frightening (unable to control the situation) all the while maintaining clarity and consciousness. These episodes can occur at any time, even during sleep. Panic attacks usually last a few minutes and do not cause any physical consequences. At times, individuals who experience a panic attack may even mistake it for a heart attack. Like with all other illnesses, an individual should receive effective treatment to rule out any worry.

Consulting with a specialist is recommended if the attacks occur repeatedly. An individual may be considered to have a condition known as “panic disorder” and determining the exact cause can help prevent or control episodes in the future. Also, obtaining medical advice on panic attacks can help an individual better prepare physically and mentally for future instances.

What are the symptoms associated with a panic attack?

Generally, an individual feels an overwhelming sense of fear while having a panic attack. Apart from psychological symptoms, physical symptoms of panic may include: rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and nausea, chest pain, sweating, and trembling. These symptoms in turn may cause danger to an individual’s health. As the body tries to take in more oxygen to help the breathing process, it also releases hormones, such as adrenaline. This causes the heart to beat faster and the muscles to tighten.  Due to the fact that many of these symptoms mimic other diseases such as heart disease or thyroid problems, seeking medical attention is advised in order to rule out any life-threatening issues and prevent further attacks from occurring.

What to do

In the case of a panic attack, keeping calm and concentrating on breathing is very important. If an individual is in a closed or crowded space, it is advisable that they leave the area and go outside to take in a breath of fresh air. Breathing in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth can help slow down breathing. Even taking a walk can help. As the level of carbon dioxide in the blood returns to normal, a regular heart rhythm should be restored and symptoms should pass.

Steps that can be taken to prevent panic attacks from occurring in the future include the following:

  • Keeping calm and focusing on positive thoughts
  • Learning relaxation techniques (meditation, muscle-strengthening exercises, deep breathing exercises, yoga, pilates, stress management)
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol intake as well as smoking
  • Maintaining a well balanced diet and eating regularly to help stabilize blood sugar levels
  • Taking certain medications (anti-anxiety) if necessary
  • Undergoing specific forms of psychotherapy
  • Consulting with a specialist to determine the most appropriate form of treatment

What not to do

Pretending to ignore or belittle a panic attack is one of the key factors of what not to do in the instance of a panic attack. It is important to acknowledge the situation, accept it and deal with it through practical steps that can help control or prevent panic attacks from occurring in the future.


Disclaimer: The information in this article does not in any way replace the intervention or signs associated with this type of emergency, but rather only provides simple tips as how to keep the situation under control while waiting for a medical rescue team to arrive.