Panic Attack Resources

A panic attack is a sudden rush of intense anxiety or fear together with a surge of frightening physical sensations and thoughts. People who experience panic attacks often describe them as the worst feeling they have ever had. Panic attacks are usually brief (5 – 10 minutes) but may be very frightening while they last. They can often seem to come out of the blue, which makes them even scarier. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms; below are the most common. 

Physical sensations of a panic attack can include:

  • Pounding heart
  • Dizziness/faintness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Numbness/tingling
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Crying

People often feel:

  • Very frightened
  • Out of control
  • Like they are having a heart attack
  • A strong desire to escape
  • Like they are going to die

How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack

  • Stay calm. Speak in a soothing tone. Tell them you’ll help them through it. 
  • Quiet. Try to move the person to a quiet place, away from a crowd or commotion. 
  • Reassure them. Panic attacks are temporary, and will not cause any lasting harm. 
  • Ask. If they’ve had panic attacks before, what usually calms them down? 

Calming Techniques 

  • Encourage slow, deep breathing. Ask them to breathe into their belly through their nose on a count of 5, and then exhale through their mouth on a count of 5. 
  • Take slow, deliberate sips of water 
  • Touch each finger, one at a time, to the center of the palms. 
  • Ask them to observe and describe the sights and sounds around them. 
  • Hold and focus on an object to shift attention – stress ball, stone, keys, etc. 
  • Listen to music or watch a video (if available) 
  • Once the panic subsides, help the person figure out what they need to recover. Some people will feel exhausted and need a period of rest. Others will feel better engaging in activity, either alone or with the group.