When faced with a panic attack, practicing deep breathing, mindfulness, and muscle relaxation can ease symptoms. Seeking therapy aids in long-term prevention of panic attacks.

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Panic Attack Symptoms | Counseling | Medications | Deep Breathing | Acknowledge Panic | Close Eyes | Mindfulness | Focus Object | Muscle Relaxation | Happy Place Visualization | Light Exercise | Lavender Benefits | Mantra Repetition | Talk Support | FAQs | Summary

What do panic attacks feel like?

Panic attacks are sudden, intense surges of fear, panic, or anxiety. They are overwhelming, and they have physical as well as emotional symptoms.

If you have a panic attack, you might have difficulty breathing, sweat profusely, tremble, and you may feel your heart pounding.

Some people will also experience chest pain and a feeling of detachment from reality or themselves during a panic attack, so they may think they’re having a heart attack. Others have reported feeling like they’re having a stroke.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines a panic attack as “an abrupt surge of intense fear or discomfort.”

They tend to start without warning, and symptoms reach a peak within minutes.

Panic attacks can be scary and may hit you quickly. Here are 12 strategies you can use to try to stop or manage panic attacks. Some may help you in the moment, while others can help in the longer term.

1. Seek counseling

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other counseling methods can effectively aid those struggling with panic attacks and panic disorders. CBT targets altering perceptions of challenging situations and developing new coping strategies.

Beyond behavioral changes, CBT may influence brain structures associated with panic symptoms, as suggested by a 2018 study. While this research is promising, further exploration is warranted.

Additionally, a 2018 meta-analysis of 41 studies highlights CBT’s moderate efficacy in treating anxiety disorders. However, various therapy approaches exist, and CBT may not be optimal for everyone.

Explore 7 therapy types for anxiety and their respective evidential support.

2. Take medications

Benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax) can alleviate panic symptoms swiftly. However, they aren’t a cure for underlying anxiety disorders and pose risks of dependency. Doctors typically advise short-term usage during crises.

Obtaining benzodiazepines requires a panic disorder diagnosis due to their prescription status. Alternatively, doctors may suggest long-term use of antidepressants or anti-seizure medications like pregabalin or clonazepam to manage anxiety.

3. Use deep breathing

While hyperventilating worsens panic, deep breathing can ease panic attack symptoms. A 2017 study showed that deep breathing training improved attention and emotional well-being. Another 2018 review suggested slow breathing has similar benefits.

Focus on inhaling deeply through your nose, feeling air fill your chest and belly. Then exhale slowly through your mouth. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 1, and exhale for 4.

4. Recognize that you’re having a panic attack

Recognizing a panic attack versus a heart attack helps you understand it’s temporary. Remind yourself it will pass and you’re safe. Set aside fears of dying or impending doom as symptoms. Focus on techniques to ease symptoms.

5. Close your eyes

In overwhelming environments, close your eyes during a panic attack to reduce stimuli. Blocking out distractions helps focus on breathing and calmness.

6. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness can be a powerful tool in combating panic attacks. By grounding you in the reality of the present moment, it helps counteract the feeling of detachment or separation from reality often experienced during panic attacks.

Practicing mindfulness involves focusing your attention on the present moment, acknowledging the emotions you’re experiencing without judgment, and engaging in meditation or relaxation techniques to calm the mind and body.

Studies have shown that mindfulness can be as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other behavioral therapies in reducing stress and anxiety associated with panic attacks. Incorporating mindfulness practices into your routine can provide you with valuable tools for managing panic attacks and promoting overall well-being.

7. Find a focus object

During a panic attack, focusing on a single object can help alleviate symptoms. Choose something in your surroundings and observe its details intensely. Describe its color, shape, size, and any patterns. Immersing yourself in this observation can divert your attention from panic and promote relaxation.

8. Use muscle relaxation techniques

Muscle tension often accompanies anxiety, but relaxation techniques can offer relief. Progressive muscle relaxation targets specific muscle groups, easing tension throughout the body gradually. Like deep breathing, this method can halt panic attacks by managing the body’s response. Explore the advantages of progressive muscle relaxation and master the practice for enhanced relaxation.

9. Picture your happy place

Guided imagery techniques offer a pathway to ease stress and anxiety. Studies indicate that immersing oneself in nature or visualizing serene natural settings can effectively alleviate anxiety symptoms. When visualizing, opt for tranquil and serene environments, steering clear of bustling cityscapes. Explore five visualization methods tailored to enhance meditation and promote relaxation.

10. Engage in light exercise

Recent research from 2021 suggests that maintaining a regular exercise regimen not only promotes physical well-being but also lowers the risk of developing anxiety. However, if you’re not accustomed to exercising, consult with a healthcare professional before commencing any physical activity. Some evidence indicates that initiating aerobic exercise can exacerbate anxiety in individuals with anxiety disorders. To mitigate potential challenges, gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to allow your body to adapt and prevent breathing difficulties. If you experience stress, hyperventilation, or respiratory distress, pause and consider switching to a more moderate activity like walking, swimming, or yoga.

11. Keep lavender on hand

Lavender, a traditional remedy, is widely utilized to alleviate stress and induce relaxation. Previous studies indicate that lavender possesses calming properties without causing dependence or withdrawal symptoms. Incorporating products containing diluted lavender essential oil may effectively mitigate symptoms of anxiety. Discover safe methods for incorporating lavender into your routine.

12. Repeat a mantra internally

Internally repeating a mantra can offer relaxation and reassurance during a panic attack. Whether it’s “This too shall pass” or a personalized mantra, looping it in your mind can help ease the intensity of the attack.

13. Talk with someone

Informing a friend, loved one, or colleague about your panic attack can alleviate feelings of isolation and enhance emotional control. Preemptively sharing your tendency for panic attacks allows them to offer appropriate support. In public, seeking assistance from a nearby person for a change of environment and accompaniment during the calming process can be beneficial.

Frequently asked questions

What are the 3 symptoms of a panic attack?

During a panic attack, you may encounter symptoms like heart palpitations, sweating, or difficulty breathing.

What causes panic attacks?

Panic attacks can occur for various reasons, sometimes without any apparent cause. They often arise when exposed to triggers, which can vary widely. In some instances, no clear trigger exists. Explore more about the causes and triggers of panic attacks.

Can you prevent a panic attack?

While it’s not always possible to prevent a panic attack, certain strategies may help. Avoiding specific triggers can be helpful, but it’s not always feasible. Some suggest “riding out” the attack and continuing activities if possible.


Many people experience panic attacks, sudden feelings of anxiety and loss of control, often without a clear trigger. Symptoms like breathlessness or chest pain can be frightening. While panic attacks can disrupt daily life, there are ways to manage them. Treatment options, including medications and counseling, are available for panic and anxiety disorders. If you’re concerned, speak with your doctor to develop a suitable strategy for symptom management and reduction.

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Panic Attack Symptoms | Counseling | Medications | Deep Breathing | Acknowledge Panic | Close Eyes | Mindfulness | Focus Object | Muscle Relaxation | Happy Place Visualization | Light Exercise | Lavender Benefits | Mantra Repetition | Talk Support | FAQs | Summary

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