Panic Disorder Explained: Signs, Risk Factors, and Remedies

Panic Attack: The Signs, Prevention, and Treatment

Have you had a panic attack? Many people don't know how panic attack feel like and don't recognize when they are having one. But there are symptoms to distinguish the attack and risk factors that make you prone to having one. If you're worried that you may be experiencing panic episodes, here is everything you need to know to manage them.

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What Is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a sudden onset of extreme fear, anxiousness, and uneasiness that escalates in minutes. Some signs that accompany these episodes include increased heart rate, heavy breathing, sweats, and trembles. For the majority of people, these attacks happen a few times in their lives. However, if these attacks occur many times within a short period, the condition is known as panic disorder. You can manage these episodes and this disorder with proper help.

Am I Having a Panic Attack? Top Symptoms to Look For

Panic episodes are different from person to person. While one person may have intense symptoms, another may experience a few signs. However, knowing the red flags you should look for can help you manage the attack and even mitigate it. If what you are having is an episode, you should have four or more of these signs:

  • - Rapid, irregular, or increased heart rate
  • - Sudden sweating
  • - Dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness
  • - Abdominal discomfort or feeling nauseated
  • - Pains around your chest area
  • - Trembles or shakes
  • - A sensation of being smothered/ difficulty breathing
  • - Burning or prickling sensation (hands, legs, feet)
  • - Feeling cold or too hot suddenly
  • - Feelings of detachment from the body or mind (depersonalization-derealization syndrome)
  • - Intense fear of passing on or going mad
  • - A constant sense of impending terror

Is It a Panic Attack or Heart Attack? Know the Difference

A panic attack may sometimes resemble a heart attack and vice versa. Symptoms such as gasping for air, chest pain, and increased heart rate are common in both conditions. A key difference is that while a heart attack comes after physical strain, a panic attack can happen when resting. A panic episode wanes off and completely fades away after some time. A heart attack, however, becomes more severe with time if medical attention is not sought.

Panic Attack Triggers: What Brings About This Condition?

It is not known what causes panic disorder or isolated episodes. However, there's evidence to show that the condition runs in the family. Panic episodes can also be brought about by extreme stress. This stress may be related to the loss of a loved one, separation/ divorce, losing a job, etc. A panic attack may also be an indication of an underlying medical problem. Stimulants such as nicotine and caffeinated beverages may also instigate an episode.

Who Is at Risk of Developing Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder can affect people from as young as teenagers. Some things that put you at a higher risk include:

  • - Trauma: from things like an accident, assault, or a history of abuse.
  • - Genetics: you can develop the disorder because your mother or father had it.
  • - Severe stress: such as extreme sadness or pressure.
  • - Change: a significant change, like becoming a parent, can also be a trigger.
  • - Excessive use of stimulants: smoking or caffeine.

How to Prevent Panic Attacks From Happening

Are you at risk of developing a panic disorder or have had an episode before? You can prevent future episodes by changing or introducing some habits into your life. Here are some tips:

Avoid Stimulants

Cut down on your coffee or energy drinks. Even though caffeine can help you stay alert, it is also known to increase anxiety if overused.

Practice Yoga and Meditation

Meditation and yoga are good for relaxing both the body and the mind. When you practice them often, you can fight off stress and encourage feelings of happiness and calmness.

Nurture Supportive Connections

Being alone can aggravate stress or anxiety. So, keep in touch with your family and close friends regularly. You can also build new connections if you feel that you don't have anyone to confide in.

Stick to a Healthy, Balanced Nutrition

Eating right keeps your mind and body healthy. Not following a healthy diet can introduce stress - both physical and mental. So, try to pick healthy food items most of the time and ensure your diet is balanced.

Get Adequate Sleep Every Night

We all know how work, family obligations, or school can be stressful. So, at the end of each day, make sure you get enough rest. If you don't sleep enough, you're more likely to be irritable, anxious, and stressed.

Go for Counseling

Counseling can help you address the underlying causes of your condition. So, if you want to prevent future episodes, talk to a specialist.

What to Do When You Have a Panic Attack

A panic attack can manifest out of the blue and be quite overwhelming. Luckily, you can manage one or even multiple panic attacks in a row with the right tips. In that regard, here are useful bits of advice to help you manage such an incident (s).

Breath Slowly and Deeply

During a panic attack, people's breathing is super-fast, making the condition's mental and physical manifestations worse. By taking charge of breathing through slow and deep breaths, an individual can minimize the panic attack's effects.

Acknowledge the Panic Attack

When experiencing an incident, take some time to remind yourself that you are going through it. Keep your thoughts from wandering off by recognizing that you are only going through a temporary experience. Organize your thoughts and remember that the panic attack will pass and cause no physical harm.

Close Your Eyes

A person might experience a panic attack after coming into contact with things in their surroundings. By maintaining eye contact with such triggers, the condition will only worsen. Given this, it helps to close your eyes during a panic attack. It is especially essential if the environment triggers it. It is an excellent way to cut out the cause factor and manage your breaths better.

Think About a Specific Item

As one becomes overwhelmed with a panic attack, it helps to occupy the mind with a single item within their surroundings. Doing this can help the person feel more grounded, thereby minimizing the effects of the incident. You could think about anything regarding the item. It could be its feelings, why it is there, its form, and who made it. For recurrent episodes, carrying a familiar thing (hair clip, doll, etc.) can keep someone grounded.

Relax Your Muscles

Since a panic attack results in your muscles tensing up, it reduces tension in your muscles consciously. Progressive muscle relaxing is an excellent approach, whereby you tense up the muscles for five seconds and ease them for ten seconds. The exercise is done progressively for different muscle groups, i.e., after working on your legs, you can move on to your neck.

CBT for Panic Attacks: The Permanent Solution

Whether you seek help with a panic attack help online or via the conventional method, your psychologist will probably recommend psychotherapy. While there are different kinds of treatments for panic attacks, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) stands out as a top pick.

This solution is based on the idea that our thoughts determine how we feel or behave, not our surroundings or other things. This therapy's main advantage is that we can modify how we think to feel and act better even if the underlying issue does not change. It emphasizes on identifying the thought and behavioral traits that feed or cause a panic attack.

This therapy is time-bound, meaning the objective and the number of meetings for achieving them are set at the beginning. It leverages an array of cognitive and behavioral techniques to affect change. The price of CBT therapy services may vary from one provider to another. So, be sure to do some research before choosing a therapist.


The panic disorder will indeed reduce the quality of life. Luckily, you can easily get your life back by trying the methods discussed here. Better yet, you can make an appointment with a therapist. Today, you can find online therapy from any internet-enabled device. For the best solution, ensure that you check website reviews, cost/ pricing structures, and the therapists' experience in the company.

Want to keep learning? The DrMental website is dedicated to helping you choose online therapy and advice. There are detailed descriptions of therapy services and their benefits. Check out our vast library of useful information about psychology and therapy today.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Stop Panic Attacks?

You can deal with a problem with everyday tips such as the ones discussed here. Besides that, you can manage your situation with treatment. This could be anything from therapies to medication.

What Triggers a Panic Attack?

The exact reason for this problem is not known. However, experts have revealed that this condition might run in families. It is also prevalent in people battling other anxiety disorders.

How Long Can a Panic Attack Last?

The signs of an impending episode develop unexpectedly and normally peak within 10 minutes. They rarely go on for over an hour, with most ending within 20 to 30 minutes. Incidents can manifest anywhere and at any time.

Are Panic Attacks Normal?

An attack is normal. About 2-3% of US citizens report incidents yearly, and it is twice as common in females as in males. This problem usually affects people in their twenties but can also manifest in kids.