How Do You Stop Panic Attacks

Imagine being in a situation where suddenly your heart starts racing, your hands become sweaty, and you feel an overwhelming sense of fear and dread. Panic attacks can be incredibly distressing, and learning how to stop them is crucial for regaining control over your emotions and well-being. In this article, we will explore effective strategies and techniques that can help you manage and ultimately overcome panic attacks, enabling you to navigate challenging situations with calmness and confidence. Whether you have experienced panic attacks before or are looking to support someone who does, this article will provide valuable insights and practical advice on how to stop panic attacks and reclaim your inner peace.

How Do You Stop Panic Attacks

Understanding Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are intense episodes of overwhelming fear and anxiety that can come on suddenly and without warning. They can be extremely distressing and debilitating, causing physical and emotional symptoms that can make you feel as though you are losing control or even having a heart attack. It is important to understand panic attacks in order to effectively manage and prevent them.

What are panic attacks?

Panic attacks are characterized by a surge of intense fear or discomfort that peaks within minutes. During a panic attack, you may experience symptoms such as a racing or pounding heart, shortness of breath, trembling or shaking, chest pain or discomfort, sweating, chills or hot flashes, nausea or stomach distress, dizziness or lightheadedness, feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself, fear of losing control or going crazy, and fear of dying.

Causes of panic attacks

While the exact cause of panic attacks is unknown, experts believe that a combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors can contribute to their development. Some risk factors for panic attacks include a history of anxiety, a family history of panic disorder or other mental health conditions, major life transitions or stressful events, and certain medical conditions such as heart disease or thyroid problems.

Common symptoms of panic attacks

Panic attacks can manifest in a variety of physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms. Physical symptoms may include a rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness. Emotional symptoms may include intense fear, a sense of impending doom, and feelings of unreality. Cognitive symptoms may include racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, and a fear of losing control or going crazy.

Immediate Strategies to Stop a Panic Attack

When you find yourself in the midst of a panic attack, it is important to have immediate strategies to help you regain control and reduce the intensity of your symptoms.

Focus on your breathing

One of the simplest and most effective ways to manage panic attacks is to focus on your breathing. Practice slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. This can help regulate your heart rate and activate your body’s relaxation response.

Use grounding techniques

Grounding techniques can help bring your attention back to the present moment and decrease the intensity of a panic attack. Try focusing on your senses, such as describing the colors and textures around you, or physically grounding yourself by feeling the texture of an object in your hand.

Challenge your thoughts

During a panic attack, your thoughts may become distorted and exaggerated. Challenge these thoughts by asking yourself if there is any evidence to support them, and if they are based on facts or assumptions. Replace negative thoughts with more realistic and positive ones.

Practice muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and then releasing each muscle group in your body, from your toes to your head. This can help reduce muscle tension and promote a sense of calm and relaxation during a panic attack.

Long-Term Techniques to Prevent Panic Attacks

In addition to immediate strategies, there are also long-term techniques that can be helpful in preventing panic attacks from occurring in the first place.

Identify triggers and avoid them

Identifying and avoiding triggers that contribute to your panic attacks can be an effective long-term strategy. Keep a record of your panic attacks and note any patterns or commonalities. Avoiding situations or stimuli that trigger your panic attacks can help reduce their frequency and intensity.

Seek professional help

If panic attacks are interfering with your daily life and functioning, it is important to seek professional help. A mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychiatrist, can help you navigate through your panic attacks and develop effective coping strategies. They may recommend therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or prescribe medications if necessary.

Practice stress management techniques

Stress can be a major trigger for panic attacks. Engaging in stress management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation on a regular basis can help reduce overall stress levels and prevent panic attacks from occurring.

Engage in regular exercise

Regular exercise has been found to be beneficial for both physical and mental health, including the management of panic attacks. Exercise can help reduce stress, improve mood, and increase your body’s natural relaxation response. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Panic Attacks

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely recognized and effective treatment for panic attacks and panic disorder. It is a type of talk therapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to panic attacks.

What is CBT?

CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected, and that by changing our thoughts and behaviors, we can positively impact our emotions. In the case of panic attacks, CBT aims to identify and challenge negative and irrational thoughts that contribute to panic symptoms.

Benefits of CBT for panic attacks

CBT has been shown to be highly effective in reducing the frequency and intensity of panic attacks. Through CBT, individuals learn to recognize and challenge their distorted thoughts, develop coping strategies to manage anxiety, and gradually face their fears through exposure therapy. It empowers individuals to take control of their panic attacks and provides them with the tools to prevent and manage future episodes.

Working with a CBT therapist

To effectively practice CBT for panic attacks, it is recommended to work with a trained therapist. A CBT therapist can guide you through the process of identifying negative thought patterns, teach you coping skills, and provide support and guidance throughout your treatment journey. Together, you will work on developing personalized strategies to manage and prevent panic attacks.

How Do You Stop Panic Attacks

Mindfulness and Meditation for Panic Attacks

Mindfulness and meditation practices have gained significant attention in recent years for their effectiveness in reducing anxiety and stress. These practices can also be beneficial for individuals struggling with panic attacks.

Understanding mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It involves intentionally bringing your focus to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions you are experiencing in the present moment. Meditation, on the other hand, is a practice that involves focusing your attention and eliminating the stream of thoughts that often occupies your mind.

Benefits for panic attacks

Mindfulness and meditation can help individuals with panic attacks by promoting a sense of calm and relaxation. By practicing mindfulness, you can become more aware of the physical sensations and emotions associated with panic attacks, allowing you to respond to them with acceptance and compassion rather than fear and avoidance.

Practicing mindfulness and meditation techniques

There are numerous mindfulness and meditation techniques that can be helpful for managing panic attacks. These include mindfulness meditation, body scan meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and guided imagery. It is recommended to start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable with the practice. Many mobile apps and online platforms offer guided meditations specifically designed for anxiety and panic attacks.

Medications for Panic Attacks

In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help manage panic attacks, especially when they are severe or occur frequently.

Types of medications used

Antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are often the first line of medication treatment for panic attacks. These medications work by increasing the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, in the brain. Benzodiazepines, which are sedatives, may also be prescribed as a short-term solution for immediate relief during panic attacks.

Consulting a healthcare professional

It is important to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist or primary care physician, before starting any medication for panic attacks. They can evaluate your symptoms, assess the severity of your panic attacks, and determine the most appropriate medication and dosage for your specific needs. It is important to follow the prescribed dosages and to regularly communicate with your healthcare provider about any side effects or changes in symptoms.

How Do You Stop Panic Attacks

Support Groups and Peer Support

Connecting with others who have experienced or are experiencing panic attacks can be incredibly beneficial in dealing with the challenges they present. Support groups and peer support can offer understanding, encouragement, and valuable coping strategies.

Joining a support group

Support groups provide a safe space for individuals with panic attacks to share their experiences and learn from others who have been in similar situations. Joining a support group can help reduce feelings of isolation and provide a sense of community and support. Support groups can be found in local communities, online forums, or through mental health organizations.

Benefits of peer support

Peer support allows individuals to connect with others who truly understand what they are going through. It provides a space for sharing experiences, discussing coping strategies, and finding encouragement and validation. Peer support can help reduce feelings of shame, stigma, and isolation commonly associated with panic attacks.

Online resources and communities

With the widespread availability of the internet, there are numerous online resources and communities dedicated to supporting individuals with panic attacks. These platforms offer a wealth of information, forums for discussion, and the opportunity to connect with others who can provide guidance and reassurance.

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Panic Attacks

In addition to specific strategies and therapies, making certain lifestyle changes can contribute to better overall mental health and help manage panic attacks.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can have a positive impact on your mental well-being and reduce the frequency of panic attacks. This includes eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and drug use.

Getting enough sleep

Sleep deprivation can exacerbate anxiety and make dealing with panic attacks more challenging. Aim to get a sufficient amount of sleep each night by establishing a consistent sleep routine and practicing good sleep hygiene.

Reducing caffeine and alcohol intake

Caffeine and alcohol can both trigger and worsen anxiety and panic attacks. Limiting or avoiding these substances can help reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.

Alternative Therapies for Panic Attacks

In addition to conventional treatments, there are some alternative therapies that may be explored for managing panic attacks, although more research is needed to determine their effectiveness.


Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing practice that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body. Some individuals with panic attacks have reported a reduction in symptoms after receiving acupuncture treatments. However, more studies are needed to establish its efficacy for panic attacks specifically.

Herbal supplements

Certain herbal supplements, such as passionflower, valerian root, and chamomile, have been traditionally used to alleviate anxiety symptoms. While some individuals may find them helpful, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before adding any herbal supplements to your routine, as they can interact with other medications or have potential side effects.

Yoga and tai chi

Yoga and tai chi are mind-body practices that combine movement, breath control, and meditation. They have been shown to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Incorporating these practices into your routine may help manage panic attacks and improve overall well-being.

Tips for Supporting Someone with Panic Attacks

If someone you know is experiencing panic attacks, there are several ways you can provide support and understanding.

Educate yourself about panic attacks

Learn about panic attacks and their symptoms to better understand what the person is going through. This can help you provide empathy and support.

Offer a calm and supportive presence

During a panic attack, the person may feel highly distressed and overwhelmed. Offer your presence and reassurance, reminding them that their panic attack will pass and they are not alone. Avoid pressuring them to “calm down” or minimizing their experience.

Encourage professional help

While your support is valuable, it is important to encourage the person to seek professional help. Offer to assist them in finding a mental health professional or accompany them to appointments if they feel comfortable.

By understanding panic attacks, utilizing immediate strategies, incorporating long-term techniques, and seeking appropriate professional help and support, individuals experiencing panic attacks can effectively manage and prevent future episodes. With the right tools and support, it is possible to regain control and live a fulfilling life free from the constraints of panic attacks. Remember, you are not alone, and there is help available. Reach out for support and embrace the journey towards healing and recovery.