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How To Tell If Someone Is Having A Panic Attack

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Always Seek Professional Advice

Signs of a Panic Attack

Always seek medical advice if you are not sure whether your symptoms, or another persons symptoms, indicate a panic attack. In an emergency, dial triple zero for an ambulance. Its important to see your doctor for a check-up to make sure that any recurring physical panic-like symptoms are not due to illnesses, including:

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of A Panic Attack

When you are having a panic attack, your body can react in different ways. You might:

  • feel out of breath, start breathing really quickly or find it harder to breathe
  • feel light-headed, like you might faint
  • find lights a lot brighter and more intense
  • experience your heart beating really fast, perhaps feeling as if you are having a heart attack
  • sweat more than usual

Can We Practice A Grounding Exercise Together

During panic attacks, people often feel completely out of control, both physically and mentally. A grounding exercise can help.

Grounding exercises help bring people back to the present moment, Dr. Siegel explains. Practicing something like noticing five things you can touch, four things you can hear, and three things you can see, helps bring peoples attention back to the here and now, without over-relying on distraction. Plus, offering to do this together with the person having the panic attack helps them feel supported, and as if you are truly going through this with them.

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What Are The Complications Of Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are highly treatable. Unfortunately, many people put off seeking help because theyre embarrassed. Untreated panic attacks or panic disorder can interfere with your ability to enjoy life. You may develop:

  • Anticipatory anxiety: The possibility of having a panic attack triggers extreme anxiety.
  • Phobias: A phobia is an extreme, unreasonable fear of something specific. For instance, acrophobia is a fear of heights, while claustrophobia is a fear of enclosed spaces.
  • Agoraphobia: Approximately two-thirds of people with panic disorder develop agoraphobia. This anxiety disorder makes you afraid to be in places or situations where a panic attack might happen. The fear can become so extreme that you become too afraid to leave your house.

Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator


This online resource, provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration , helps you locate mental health treatment facilities and programs. Find a facility in your state by searching SAMHSAs online Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. For additional resources, visit NIMHs Help for Mental Illnesses webpage.

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Characteristics Of The Pain

Although chest pain is common to both a panic attack and a heart attack, the characteristics of the pain often differ.

During a panic attack, chest pain is usually sharp or stabbing and localized in the middle of the chest.

Chest pain from a heart attack may resemble pressure or a squeezing sensation.

Chest pain that occurs due to a heart attack may also start in the center of the chest, but can then radiate from the chest to the arm, jaw, or shoulder blades.

When To Get Help

It can be frightening to watch someone have a panic attack, but at what point should you bring in additional help? Its hard to say.

Simply sticking around and seeing them through the experience might not feel like much to you, but it can make a significant difference for the person having the attack.

That said, reach out for emergency help if:

  • chest pain feels like squeezing and moves to their arms or shoulders
  • symptoms persist for longer than 20 minutes and get worse, not better
  • shortness of breath doesnt improve
  • pressure in the chest lasts more than a minute or two

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How To Tell If Its A Panic Attack

Before you can help a person who is having a panic attack, you need to know if its because of fear or anxiety theyre experiencing or if theres a physical explanation.

Here are 10 symptoms of panic attacks to look for:

IMPORTANT NOTE: Do these symptoms look familiar? Theyre also signs of cardiac distress. Its difficult to know if a person is experiencing a panic attack or a heart attack.

The best thing to do is ask if the person has had a panic attack before. If they havent and they dont think theyre having one now, call 9-1-1 and follow physical first aid protocol. If the person loses consciousness, call an ambulance, check for breathing and pulse and apply physical first aid principles. You can also check for a medical alert bracelet or necklace for more information.

Focus On Action Over Words

How to Get Through a Panic Attack | Lifehacker

A soothing, familiar voice helps some people, but try to avoid repeatedly saying things like dont worry or asking them if theyre alright over and over.

Of course you mean well, but your words may not have much benefit in the moment. They can also make the situation more stressful, since your loved one may believe theyre doing something wrong by not being alright.

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How Do I Help Someone Experiencing A Panic Attack

Note: NAMI volunteers are not medical or mental health professionals, and we cannot offer medical or mental health advice. The material outlined below is informational and we hope that it helps provide guidance toward getting support.

When a person experiences a panic attack, there are things you can do and ways to help that will guide them through the attack and renormalize their physical state. Below you’ll find strategies to help during a panic attack and long-term tips for managing a panic disorder.

Panic Disorderis an anxiety disorder characterized by panic attacks and sudden feelings of terror sometimes striking repeatedly and without warning. Often mistaken for a heart attack, a panic attack causes powerful physical symptoms including chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and stomach upset. Many people will go to great lengths to avoid an attack, including social isolation.

For further information, you may wish to consult theAnxiety Disorderspage of NAMIs website where you will find more on the condition, current treatments, and ways to support recovery. Anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions, each having unique symptoms. However, all anxiety disorders have one thing in common: persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not life-threatening. People typically experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Emotional symptoms:

Physical symptoms:

  • Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea

Are Panic Attacks Bad For Your Heart

A panic attack will not cause a heart attack. A blockage in one or more of the blood vessels to the heart, which leads to an interruption of vital blood flow, causes a heart attack. Although a panic attack will not cause a heart attack, stress and anxiety might play a role in the development of coronary artery disease.

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Can I Avoid Panic Attacks In The Future

Whats horrible about panic attacks is that they come out of the blue and take you by surprise. However, you can do some activities to avoid them. Although that is not always possible.

  • Exercise has been proven to help reduce the possibility of panic attacks as it helps you manage stress and improve your mood.
  • Breathing exercises help your body stay calm and they also allow you to relieve the attacks easily when they occur.
  • A healthy diet can also help as it allows your blood sugar levels to stay stabilized.
  • You must avoid caffeine and smoking as they can make your attacks way worse.
  • Avoid stressful situations and environments. I had to quit working in a hostile environment for the sake of my mental health as my panic attacks were frequent and honestly painful and draining

Please note that if your panic attacks are more frequent, you must seek professional help.

Support Them To Seek Help

Chemical Equilibrium and Panic Attacks

If you think your friend or family member’s anxiety is becoming a problem for them, you could encourage them to seek treatment by talking to a GP or therapist. You could:

  • Offer to help them arrange a doctor’s appointment. If they are scared of leaving the house, you could suggest they ring their GP to find out if they will do home visits and telephone appointments.
  • Offer support when they attend appointments. You could offer to go with them to their appointments and wait in the waiting room. You can also help them plan what they’d like to talk about with the doctor. See our page on talking to your GP for more information.
  • Help them seek help from a therapist. See our page on how to find a therapist for more information.
  • Help them research different options for support, such as community services or peer support groups such as those run by Anxiety UK and No Panic. See our useful contacts page for more information. You could also call Mind’s Infoline to find out more about local services.

See our page on helping someone else seek help for more information.

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What Do You Do When Someone Is Having An Anxiety Attack Over Text

Here is what you can do when someone is having an anxiety attack over the text:

Try to remind the person who is having a panic attack that they do not have to stay where they are and they may find a comforting place if they likeProvide assurance that they dont have to be afraid and that you are thereRemind them that this is temporary and that it will passEncourage them to breathe and breathe with themTry to have an engaging conversation but dont ask questions or coax them to talkStay with them

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Panic Disorder

People with panic disorder may have:

  • Sudden and repeated panic attacks of overwhelming anxiety and fear
  • A feeling of being out of control, or a fear of death or impending doom during a panic attack
  • An intense worry about when the next panic attack will happen
  • A fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past
  • Physical symptoms during a panic attack, such as:
  • Pounding or racing heart
  • Stomach pain or nausea

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How To Help Someone Breathe During A Panic Attack

When a person is experiencing a panic attack, it is important that they get their breathing under control. Someone trying to help should not give them a paper bag to inhale and exhale from, as this could make them pass out.

Instead, it is better not to bring attention to their breathing and to keep calm and breath normally so that they can mirror this pattern. This method should hopefully get their breathing back under control.

Helping someone who is having a panic attack can be very stressful, so it is important that a person is mindful of what actions could make a panic attack worse.

Actions that could make a panic attack worse include:

  • Saying âcalm downâ: While getting a person to talk is vital, phrases such as âcalm down,â âdonât worry,â and âtry to relaxâ could make the symptoms worse.
  • Becoming irritated: Remain patient to help a person deal with a panic attack and do not belittle their experience. The focus should be on them, for however long it takes the symptoms to pass.
  • Making assumptions: Always ask a person what help they need, rather than assuming or guessing the correct advice.

While a panic attack can happen very suddenly, the person will often experience warning signs. These may include:

  • shortness of breath
  • feelings of terror or dread
  • shaking and dizziness

Faqs On Panic Attacks

How to Stop Panic Attacks Part 3/3

How do you ground someone having a panic attack?

The most effective way to ground them, or bring them back to the surrounding reality, is to help them stabilize their breathing. A lot of people will hyperventilate during a panic attack and this can have mental and physical side effects that make it hard to focus or relax. Focus on their breathing first by either doing counted breathing or using a breathing rhythm video or app.

Should you touch someone having a panic attack?

This is entirely dependent on the person. Some will find comfort in being held and rocked during their panic attacks, others may not want to be touched. It is very important that you always ask before simply reaching out or hugging someone experiencing a panic attack. The anxiety may become scared and lash out without realizing it if they cannot see you before you touch them or if they were not expecting to be touched.

How long do panic attacks last?

Everyone is different but in general the worst of a panic attack will peak within 10 minutes. Most panic attacks are no longer than 30 minutes. If you notice that your loved ones panic attacks are lasting longer, it may be time to seek professional care.

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How To Handle A Panic Attack

Professor Paul Salkovskis, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Applied Science at the University of Bath, says it’s important not to let your fear of panic attacks control you.

“Panic attacks always pass and the symptoms are not a sign of anything harmful happening,” he says. “Tell yourself that the symptoms you’re experiencing are caused by anxiety.”

He says don’t look for distractions. “Ride out the attack. Try to keep doing things. If possible, it’s important to try to remain in the situation until the anxiety has subsided.”

“Confront your fear. If you don’t run away from it, you’re giving yourself a chance to discover that nothing’s going to happen.”

As the anxiety begins to pass, start to focus on your surroundings and continue to do what you were doing before.

“If youre 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,” says Professor Salkovskis.

What Is It Like To Have Anxiety Or Depression

Anxiety is unique because everyone experiences it in normal amounts. It helps people avoid danger and be successful, for example. But anxiety can become worrisome.

Anxiety has always been interesting because it is the only psychiatric illness that is also experienced by people without a psychiatric illness, Dr. Robert Hudak, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, told TODAY.

Saying Dont worry might seem helpful, but in reality, it falls short as advice for someone experiencing serious anxiety. While there are different types of anxiety disorders and one script wont work for everyone, the experts agree a few supportive words can help.

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Signs Of An Anxiety Attack

These are some of the more common mental and physical symptoms of anxiety:

  • feelings of danger, panic, or dread
  • nervousness or restlessness
  • numbness or tingling in your extremities
  • feeling hot or cold

If you notice that quick tips havent been working, you may want to consider seeing a professional for help. Especially if you believe you have GAD and its interfering with routine activities and causing physical symptoms.

A mental health professional can help with streamlining the process of identifying your triggers, maintaining long-term strategies through behavioral therapy, medications, and more.

Anxiety may always be a part of your life, but it shouldnt overtake your day-to-day. Even the most extreme anxiety disorders can be treated so that the symptoms arent overwhelming.

Once you find what treatment works best for you, life should be a lot more enjoyable and a lot less daunting.

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Are There Clinical Trials Studying Panic Disorder

Is Someone Around You Having A Panic Attack? Never Say These 4 Things ...

NIMH supports a wide range of research, including clinical trials that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditionsincluding panic disorder. Although individuals may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so that others may be better helped in the future.

Researchers at NIMH and around the country conduct clinical trials with patients and healthy volunteers. Talk to a health care provider about clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether one is right for you. For more information, visit NIMHs clinical trials webpage.

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Would You Be Willing To Try Doing The Opposite Of What Your Brain Wants You To Do

Sometimes its best not to follow your instincts.

People who have panic attacks often fear not only the symptoms, but also the effect that these symptoms might have on their functioning, Dr. Jerud explains. For instance, they may believe that they’ll lose control and embarrass themselves in front of others if they don’t leave when panicking in public. Or they may think that they might pass out if they get up from the floor and walk around. In other words, their brains may be telling them to leave quickly or stay put.

In these cases, it can be really helpful to see what happens if they do the exact opposite and stay put or get up and walk around , Dr. Jerud adds. This helps drive home the idea that they do not need to let their anxiety dictate what they do or don’t do – even if they are having a panic attack.

Next, read about the 12 best apps for anxiety.

Anxiety Vs Panic Attacks

Anxiety is uncomfortable and ongoing dread that occurs when we worry about the future or things we cannot control. Physical symptoms include sleeplessness, stomach issues, and headaches. Panic attacks come on quickly, often without warning, and are short periods of intense fear, feelings of doom, and physical symptoms, like shaking or chest pain.

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