4 Steps to Help You Calm Down from a Panic Attack—and 2 You Should Avoid

This sudden case of extreme anxiety can be alarming. Follow these steps to help yourself or someone else recover from a panic attack safely and quickly.


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A panic attack is a sudden bout of extreme anxiety that can be brought on by a strong fear of something (phobia), a stressful situation, or an emotional upset. It reaches its peak intensity within 10 minutes or less and then starts to subside. The following symptoms are characteristic of panic attacks and may even be mistaken for signs of a heart attack.

Panic attack symptoms to know

  • Fast breathing, such as hyperventilation or overbreathing
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Trembling
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Tingling in the hands or feet
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Fear of dying

With heart attacks, excruciating chest pain reaches maximum severity in just a few minutes and can radiate to other parts of the body. Pain caused by panic attacks is generally localized in one area. If you have a history of heart problems and experience these symptoms, treat them like they’re caused by a heart attack until a doctor proves otherwise. Here are some other signs of a panic attack that you should know.

Once you’ve recognized you or someone else is exhibiting clear signs of a panic attack, take the proper steps to calm the mind and body and stay away from actions that could make the situation worse.

In case of panic attack, do:

Remove the cause. Try to find out the cause of the person’s fear or anxiety and separate her from it. Either remove it from her or move her away from it.

Be firm. Try to calm the patient by talking firmly but kindly and calmly to him. Explain that he is having a panic attack and keep others away.

Encourage her to breathe calmly. Breathing more slowly will help to calm her and stop her hyperventilating. Take deep, slow breaths and encourage her to copy your breathing pattern.

Monitor the patient. Stay with him until he has recovered. If he has a history of panic attacks, advise him to seek help to learn how to control them.

In case of panic attack, don’t:

Restrain anyone who is having a panic attack. And never attempt to slap or hit the person to “snap her out of it.”

Ask him to rebreathe air from a paper bag. This can cause low blood oxygen levels. However, the person can try alternating taking 6-12 natural breaths with the bag covering the nose and mouth and breathing the same way without the bag. Never use a plastic bag.

Once the panic attack has passed and you’ve had time to recover, take some time to prepare for future stress-induced incidents. These tips for managing anxiety and panic disorder can help you better understand what you’re feeling, how you can cope, and how to prevent more attacks.


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