What a panic attack feels like
Everyone gets anxious or stressed out sometimes. It’s completely normal. But you can teach yourself to manage anxiety.
Stuff you might be thinking:
I'm going to faint and pass out
I can’t breathe
I’m having a heart attack
I’m going to be sick
I’m going to choke
I'm about to embarrass myself in front of people
I’m going to lose control
I have to escape.
How you might be feeling:
shaky and weak in your legs faint, dizzy or sick. hot and sweaty like you're choking or can't breathe easily a really fast heartbeat or a sense that your heart isn't beating normally your vision going blurry like things around you have started to feel strange.
7 ways to feel less stressed over time:
cut down on caffeine (things like coffee and coke)
avoid alcohol and drugs because they can make you anxious
get plenty of sleep
exercise regularly because this releases chemicals into your body which make you feel good do the things you enjoy
talk to someone you can trust
Why do panic attacks happen?
Panic and anxiety can be brought on by physical danger such as being afraid someone will hurt you. But it can also be caused by a single thought or fear that something bad is about to happen. Sometimes we're just so anxious and stressed about something, such as exam results, that it builds up to a point where we panic. Sometimes events from the past can make you feel the stress all over again. And that can trigger feelings of panic. It could be a memory of bullying, or abuse. And sometimes the reminder can be a seemingly small thing. This means that you can actually think yourself into having a panic attack. But it also means that you can think yourself out of one. With time, you can begin to control panic when you feel it building up.
What can cause a panic attack?
Panic attacks can happen because of lots of different reasons - for example: being in similar places or situations where you’ve had a panic attack in the past
Somebody being ill or even just hearing about somebody being ill (these are common triggers for people with health anxiety)
having to do a presentation or talk aloud in class (these are common triggers for people with social anxiety)
being scared or seeing about something you have a phobia of such as heights, spiders or injections
thinking you must do something or something bad will happen (common triggers for people with obsessive compulsive disorder)
being reminded of something very frightening or unsafe that happened to you, such as an accident, crime, abuse, violence or anything else you are having trouble coping with (common triggers for people with post-traumatic stress disorder)
upsetting thoughts about daily life and worrying about worrying (common triggers for somebody with generalised anxiety disorder)
a harmless physical feeling such as sweaty palms or tight chest that you’re then frightened of (this can be a trigger for people with panic disorder who get a lot of panic attacks).
Controlling your panic attacks
Panic attacks can be common – but if you experience them, there are ways to stay in control. On this page
How to deal with panic attacks What to do after a panic attack
Finding ways to cope It's really normal to feel anxious sometimes. And lots of people experience panic attacks. Panic attacks can make it seem hard to breathe. It could feel like you're going to pass out or even choke. Sometimes people feel sick or sweaty when they have a panic attack.
But however panic attacks affect you, there are ways to deal with them. You can learn how to control panic attacks. And we can help you find what works best for you.
3 ways to help control a panic attack:
Focus on your breathing Take deep, slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth
Distract yourself Count things, create a poem, imagine a safe place
Think positive thoughts
How to deal with panic attacks
Here are a few different techniques that can help you keep panic attacks under control. They might not work for everyone – you might have to find the one that’s right for you. And often the more you practise them, the better they'll work. It can also take time to find what works for you.
Slow down your breathing
Try to breathe slowly. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Don’t hold your breath. Try to take controlled breaths instead – where you focus on making each breath deep and slow. Do this for about a minute, then go back to normal breathing.
Put your hands on your stomach. Breathing normally, move your stomach muscles in and out as you breathe while keeping your shoulders still. This helps make your breathing deeper. It helps to stand up when you do this.
Relax your body Focus on relaxing different muscles in your body. Start from your toes and work up to your head. Think about relaxing each one in turn.
Distract yourself To help cope with anxiety or panic attacks you can: count things around you like chairs, windows or pens
make a poem in your head think of the words to your favourite song imagine a place where you feel safe and calm – think about how it feels, what it looks like and how it smells count backwards from 100 work out a times table you’ve never learned.
Think positively Remind yourself of these things: this is just anxiety anxiety can’t harm me it will pass
I am in control.
Talk about it Panic attacks are really common. So you shouldn’t ever feel like you have to deal with them on your own. If you don’t talk to anyone, it can build up and feel like a big thing to deal with. Tell a friend or an adult you trust. It can help to tell someone at your school too. They can support you if it happens at school.
Write it down
Keep a diary of what makes you anxious. And keep writing down any ideas you have about how to cope. Make a note of anything that has calmed you down.
What to do after a panic attack
If you have a panic attack, you might not want to be in the place where it happened again. But if it’s safe, try to go back. This can help you feel in control.
It might take a little while until you feel ready to do this. That’s okay. But try it. It can help.