How do you stop a panic attack?
Panic attacks usually last from 5 to 20 minutes, but can sometimes even last up to an hour during a single episode. There are some techniques you can try to help you deal with a sudden panic attack episode, or if you feel an attack about to start.
1. Breath slowly and deeply
During panic attacks, you may start breathing very fast, making your breaths very shallow. This means your brain may not get enough oxygen and you could start feeling dizzy and confused.
Doing a breathing exercise during a panic attack can help improve your symptoms, after a few minutes. You should try the following:
2. Recognise you are having a panic attack
- Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, using your stomach muscles, then hold for a few seconds
- You should then breathe out slowly and fully through your mouth, then hold for a few seconds
- You should try to keep your eyes closed during this exercise and focus on your breathing
- Repeat this for a few minutes
A very important step in dealing with panic attacks is staying in control. You can do this by telling yourself repeatedly that you are experiencing anxiety and having a panic attack, but it will go away soon and you are not going to die.
It helps to keep reminding yourself that this attack is temporary, so you can focus on your breathing and improve your symptoms.
3. Stay grounded
To help keep your mind from being overwhelmed with fear and panic during an attack, you should try to stay grounded by focusing on your physical senses. Some good examples are finding something to cuddle, tasting something sweet, stomping your foot on the ground or feeling the texture of clothes on your body.
4. Confront your fear
Riding out a panic attack episode helps you confront the fear and panic, to prove to yourself that you are fine and you are not in any danger. You can ride out a sudden panic attack by carrying on with your tasks as much as you can. Keep doing things and stay in the moment, controlling your breathing, until it passes.
5. Picture a relaxing thought or image
Positive, peaceful and relaxing thoughts, images or memories can help distract your mind from panic and overwhelming anxiety. Try focusing on one thing at a time by taking time to think about the details. This can help to calm your symptoms and improve your breathing.
6. Use muscle relaxing techniques
Just like the breathing exercises, muscle relaxing techniques can help keep your symptoms controlled during a panic attack. You should aim to focus on one muscle group at a time, for example, starting with each finger on your hand, then moving up to your arm, and so on. These techniques are more effective if you practice them regularly, before you experience a panic attack.
7. Taking medicines (benzodiazepine)
Medicines like benzodiazepine can help improve the symptoms of panic attacks, if taken just before the attack begins. However, they are usually prescribed for people who have been diagnosed with ‘panic disorder’, which is when you experience panic attacks more frequently than the general population. Never take these medications without a prescription from a doctor, as they can cause major side effects and can even be fatal if taken incorrectly.