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How to Stop a Panic Attack

writtenByWritten by: Leah McCabe
Leah McCabe

Leah McCabe

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

Read more posts by this author.

March 30, 2020 Read Time - 5 minutes

How to Stop a Panic Attack

Because panic attacks come on so suddenly and can occur without any rational reason it can be hard to take preventative measures.

It’s also important to note that everyone will experience panic attacks differently and therefore may find some methods of stopping a panic attack more useful than others.

Here are the top 4 most effective tips for how to stop a panic attack as it is happening.

1. Use deep breathing

Hyperventilating is a common symptom of a panic attack. Taking deep breaths is one way to reduce these symptoms and gain control over your panic. 

2. Recognize you’re having a panic attack

By acknowledging you are in the midst of a panic attack, you can come to grips with the reality that this is a temporary state. By removing the fear of impending doom, you can reduce the symptoms of the attack and relax sooner.

3. Find a focus object

Some people find it helpful to focus all their attention and mental energy on observing one object during a panic attack. Anything in the room can be used, as your attention is shifted away from fear onto the object which grounds you.

4. Use muscle relaxation techniques

Much like deep breathing, relaxing your muscles can stop your panic attack symptoms and allow you to regain control over your body.

One technique to try is to work your way through various points in the body, such as shutting off the toes, then the legs, thighs, abdomen, arms, neck and head. Consciously relax one muscle at a time, and try to focus on how each stage makes you more physically calm.

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is the abrupt onset of intense feelings of fear and discomfort.

It can take only minutes to escalate, and includes mental and physical symptoms. Panic attacks are terrifying for those experiencing them and can occur without warning or reason.

A single panic attack can last more than 10 minutes however, the intense fear it causes may leave a lasting impression on those who experience it.

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What Causes Panic Attacks

If you’ve never experienced a panic attack or are confused why they’re happening to you, you may be wondering what triggers a panic attack?

It is unclear exactly why panic attacks occur however, there are some known factors which can increase the likelihood of one happening to you:

  • Genetics. Panic attacks have a tendency to run in families.
  • Big life transitions. Events such as graduations, moving, entering the workplace, getting married, or having a baby can all precede a wave of panic attacks.
  • Severe stress, such as the death of a loved one, job loss, or divorce can all increase your chances of a panic attack

It is also possible for panic attacks to be brought on by pre-existing medical conditions including the following:


If you experience unexplained panic attacks, it is important to have a doctor check for any of these possible underlying causes.


Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack

Often used interchangeably, there are some important differences to be aware of between a panic attack and anxiety attack.

An anxiety attack is an immediate response to a present stressor. You may feel your heart race as you become afraid, but the experience is often short lived.

A panic attack does not have to be a response to an immediate and present trigger. A panic attack’s physical symptoms are also more severe and last longer. 

Panic Attack Symptoms

If you’re unsure whether you’ve experienced a panic attack or just want to know what a panic attack feels like, here some signs of a panic attack:

  • Racing heart.
  • Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy.
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers.
  • Sense of terror, or impending doom or death.
  • Feeling sweaty or having chills.
  • Chest pains.
  • Breathing difficulties.
  • Feeling a loss of control.

Panic attack help

If you’re around when someone begins to have a panic attack its important to know ways to provide help. Below are just a few tips to assist someone while they’re experiencing a panic attack.

  • Remain calm. If you are noticeably stressed out, this can induce further discomfort in the person panicking and make symptoms worse.
  • Don’t make assumptions about the person’s needs, simply ask
  • Speak in short and simple sentences. Try to use a tone that is not demeaning.
  • Try breathing calmly, as getting the person experiencing the panic attack to do the same will help them relieve their symptoms. 
  • Offer medication if the person usually takes it during an attack

Panic Attack Medication

Some panic attack treatment may include a professional diagnosis and medication.

If panic attacks aren’t treated, they can develop into panic disorders and phobias.


If you believe you are experiencing panic attacks, speak to a doctor today and ask them about possible medication to help you.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common drug used to treat panic attacks and are generally low risk.

Your doctor may also prescribe serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) or benzodiazepines.


Read: Get Antidepressants Prescribed Online


  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Get Panic Attack Treatment Online

If you or a loved needs to speak to a doctor about panic attacks, just click here to set up an easy, online appointment with one of our trusted PlushCare physicians. 

PlushCare physicians are highly trained to handle a wide range of both physical and mental disorders. Our doctors commonly treat anxiety disorders such as panic attacks.


They are able to write prescriptions and prescription refills for all non controlled substances, including most panic attack medications such as SSRIs and SNRIs.


Read More About How to Stop a Panic Attack


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Help Guide. Panic Attacks and Panic Disorders. Accessed March 30, 2020 at https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/panic-attacks-and-panic-disorders.htm

MayoClinic. Anxiety Overview. Accessed February 14, 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961

MayoClinic. Panic Attacks. Accessed February 14, 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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