Panic Attacks: Know the Signs

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Young woman in white hoodie posing in the mirror

A panic attack or disorder is categorized as a type of anxiety disorder. It results in panic attacks, which are unforeseen feelings of dread when there is no real danger.

A panic attack might feel as if you are losing control. Some have also reported feeling dizzy.
At this point, please choose to sit down.

You may also have physical signs, such as:

  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Chest or stomach pain or discomfort.
  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • Weakness or dizziness.
  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate.
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling or shaking.
  • Feelings of choking.
  • Nausea or irritable bowel.
  • Feeling unsteady, lightheaded, or faint.

Panic attacks transpire suddenly and without warning. Symptoms start to feel extreme within 10 minutes after an attack starts. However, in long-term cases, it can linger for hours. Such attacks are known to feel like a heart attack! Hence, people often find themselves in emergency care.

The duration of a panic attack may last between 5-20 minutes. Many individuals have reported an hour-long attack. The severity of attacks one has will corroborate how severe their condition is. Some people have attacks once or twice a month, while others have them many times a week. It is suggested to go for regular health check-ups as most of these symptoms can also be symptoms of other conditions or ailments.

For example, you may have palpitations if you’re anemic.

Meeting with a psychiatrist or a psychologist can help in understanding the triggers of panic attacks. Being in therapy will also help you in learning about tools that can help you during such situations where one is prone to have an attack.

Treatments aim to identify the cause, help in unlearning and learning new coping techniques, and minimize the frequency of panic attacks. In therapy, you can learn coping strategies to manage your symptoms. Psychological/therapy sessions and medicine are the 2 treatments for panic disorder. Your therapist can help you identify the need for pharmacological assistance. They may recommend a psychiatric consultation to ease the symptoms. Your treatment will be planned as per your needs.

How to handle panic attacks on your own?

It’s essential not to let your negative and fearful thoughts take control of you. Remind yourself that the symptoms you’re experiencing are caused by anxiety and are not a sign of anything harmful.
Instead of distracting yourself, choose to ride it out! Try to keep up with doing things, and if possible try to remain in this situation until the anxiety is reduced.

If you feel dizzy, choose to sit down and try to a deep breath.
Breathing deeply and consciously will send a signal to the brain for it to calm down. Once that happens, choose to PAUSE and ask yourself “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” Confronting our fears not only aids in identifying our triggers but also helps in making us feel empowered.

As you start to begin to feel slightly better and at ease, start to focus on the external environment and continue to do what you were doing earlier.

If you’re having a short, sudden panic attack, it can be helpful to have someone with you, reassuring you that it will pass and the symptoms are nothing to worry about, as suggested by a Professor of Clinical Psychology and Applied Science at the University of Bath.

Breathing exercise for panic attacks

If you’re finding it hard to breathe during a panic attack, doing any breath-work exercise can ease your other symptoms.

Try this:

Inhale through your nose as slowly and deeply as you can,

Exhale slowly and deeply through your mouth.

some people find it helpful to count from one to five on each in and out-breath.

close your eyes and focus on your breathing, pay attention to your upper lip or nostrils.

Follow the path of your normal breathing cycle.

You will start to feel better in a few minutes. You may feel relaxed afterward.

To prevent a panic attack

1. Make self-soothing a regular part of your life. Self-soothing involves deep breathing and making use of our five senses to stay in a neutral state of mind.

2. Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, will help you to manage stress levels, release tension, improve your mood and boost confidence.

3. Eat regular meals to stabilize your blood sugar levels.

4. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and smoking – these can make panic attacks worse.

5. Panic support groups- they can be useful; you may find solutions about how you can manage your attacks. It can be reassuring to know that there are other people experiencing the same.

6. Seek professional help.

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At CareMe Health, we provide an accessible and affordable virtual mental health platform, making it easy to receive the support you need, when you need it.

This blog was written under the expert guidance and feedback from Ms.Prachi Sharma, Clinical Psychologist at Edited and Coordinated by Ram


  • Prachi Sharma

    Prachi (she/her) is a Counseling Psychologist. She received her training and Master’s degree at Amity University, Noida concentrating in Clinical Psychology. She enjoys working with adolescents and adults. She has worked with a variety of clients and has experience in community mental health as well. She likes to provide an inclusive and affirming therapeutic environment. She is interested in working with clients needing support with depression, anxiety, grief and loss, relationship issues, trauma, stress and self-esteem issues. She aims to provide a relationship where the other will discover the capacity within themselves to grow, change and build an everlasting relationship with their authentic selves. She utilizes approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness, principles of Essentialism/Minimalism, NLP, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, Person Centered Therapy, Polyvagal Theory and Positive Psychology- making it eclectic, tailor-made and holistic for the clients. Prachi believes that merely through communicating, any individual can start the process of healing. She believes that with awareness of our struggles, one can work towards identifying and modifying behaviors one wishes to change. She is passionate about making our world a better place to live by her work and expertise. In her free time, you can find Prachi climbing the great Himalayan mountains, meditating, gardening and drawing mandalas.

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