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Dealing With Panic Attack Symptoms: Here's What To Do

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Angeli Del Rosario · Updated May 11, 2022

Dealing With Panic Attack Symptoms: Here's What To Do

Have you ever felt a sudden unexpected wave of anxiety or fear? Chances are it was a panic attack. Learn more about panic attack symptoms, causes, and treatment here.

What Are Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks are intense feelings of overwhelming fear that usually occur unexpectedly.  When they occur, you might experience the following:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hopeless feeling
  • Feeling that you are losing control

Depending on the person, panic attack symptoms may vary. However some severe episodes can weaken or immobilize a person completely.

What Causes Panic Attacks?

The cause of panic attacks varies depending on the person. It can be triggered by specific anxiety-inducing situations such as public speaking or being alone. Usually, the events that cause panic attack symptoms cause you to feel hopeless or in danger, which then triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response. Anxiety is not the only way it is caused, however. Some panic attack symptoms may be triggered by physical conditions.

Panic attacks may also be caused by:

  • Genetics
  • Psychological disorders such as social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Ongoing or chronic stress that heightens the amount of stress chemicals in the body
  • Acute stress that is triggered when reliving a traumatic situation
  • Excessive hyperventilation
  • Excessive caffeine intake
  • Sudden environment changes

How Long Do Panic Attacks Last?

In most cases, panic attacks stop when the stressful event you are going through ends. Most people have experienced having panic attacks at least once or twice in their life, but some have frequent, recurring episodes— this condition is known as panic disorder. Panic attacks vary in intensity and you may be left feeling exhausted and fatigued when it ends.

Panic Attack Symptoms To Watch Out For

Panic attack symptoms may occur all of a sudden, reaching peak intensity in about ten minutes. Signs of a panic attack include:

  • Intense heart palpitations
  • Excessive perspiration or sweating
  • Trembling of the body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling nauseous or dizzy
  • Stomachache or abdominal discomfort
  • Feelings of choking
  • Strong feelings of losing control
  • Fear of dying

It is important to note that several of the listed symptoms above may occur at the same time during the same panic attack episode. Some people experience stronger attacks, which contain fewer signs but feel more intense.

Treatment for Panic Attacks

Getting treatment helps decrease the likelihood of panic attacks, or lessen their intensity.

Unfortunately, there is no fool-proof way of completely preventing panic attacks. However, these three recommendations may help in treating and preventing strong breakdowns.


This may be the most effective form of panic attack treatment, and even short periods of treatment may help.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may be helpful since it focuses on panic attacks triggers. Through this process, you can analyze the way you think in a logical, realistic manner. When you start to learn and accept that nothing terrible is likely to occur, you will be less prone to panic attacks.

Exposure Therapy enables you to feel the actual sensations you experience during a panic attack, but in a safer, more controlled setting. This type of therapy allows you to explore new and healthy coping methods through different exercises. Going through each exposure repeatedly will help you become less afraid of the sensations, and allows you to gradually have more control.

Self-Help Method

It is necessary for you to know how to deal with panic attacks on your own when the situation occurs. The following may aid with panic attack symptoms:

Read about panic attacks. Learning about anxiety, panic disorder, and other causes of panic attacks will help you understand that what you are feeling is normal. This may relieve some of your discomfort.

Control your breathing. Hyperventilation causes many panic attack symptoms to rise. Controlling your breathing will not only calm yourself down but also prevent further panic attack symptoms from occurring.

Avoid taking stimulants. Be careful when taking diet pills or non-drowsy medications. These can increase anxiety and cause a panic attack episode.

Do not smoke or drink too much alcohol or coffee. Regulate your habits when it comes to smoking or drinking. These substances may cause anxiety or panic attacks.

Take care of yourself. Self-care is one of the few, long-term ways you can help yourself. Exercise and getting plenty of sleep are great ways to reduce the likelihood of panic attacks since they are natural anxiety relievers. Take the time to relax as well to maintain a calm composure through meditation or even yoga.

Taking Medication

Medication can temporarily stop or reduce panic attacks, but it does not completely treat it. Medication can be used to treat more severe cases of panic attacks but should be used simultaneously with therapy or other treatment method.

Antidepressants and benzodiazepines are a few examples of medication that may stave off panic attack symptoms, though it may take a couple of weeks for its chronic effects to start.

How To Help Someone Exhibiting Panic Attack Symptoms

When someone is going through an episode, it is important to stay calm yourself. When someone is going through a panic attack, try the following approaches:

  • Tell them to focus on their breathing
  • Ask them to do something physical such as stomping their feet to relieve some stress
  • Talk to them about something soothing that will take their mind off of it, like their interests or good things that happened during their day.
  • Once the panic attack symptoms subside, encourage them to seek professional help for their condition.

Key Takeaways

Panic attacks are abrupt feelings of intense fear which may make you incapable of walking, acting or thinking straight. Some triggers are threatening or anxiety-inducing situations. Common panic attacks symptoms include intense heartbeat, sweating, feeling dizzy and the feeling of losing hope or control.
There are no fool-proof ways of completely preventing panic attacks from occurring, but panic attacks can be treated to lessen their frequency and intensity. Professional therapy, self-help, and medication can aid in preventing the likelihood of recurring attacks. When dealing with someone going through a panic attack, it is important to remain calm because any irrational thinking may worsen the situation.

Learn more about Anxiety Disorders here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


Written by Angeli Del Rosario · Updated May 11, 2022

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