Panic attacks are very upsetting and scary and lots of people have said that they are among the most horrible things they've ever been through. They develop from the 'flight or fight' reaction that is occurring in an out of place situation. Panic attacks typically last for around thirty minutes, which might not appear very long, but if you are a victim, that is a very long time to experience the fright, severe unease and distress that they bring. In addition single panic attacks may well occur in cycles that last for hours. Sufferers of panic attacks typically feel unease persistently as they foresee the next attack.

A lot of people, going through a panic attack for the first time believe they are undergoing a heart attack or nervous breakdown and may call the emergency services. The 'fight or flight' response causes the release of norepinephrine and adrenaline into the blood in preparation for the body to cope with the anticipated emergency and this is the reason for the abundant reactions that arise. There may be a panicked compulsion to run away from the immediate area, queasiness, feelings of faintness, breathlessness and sweating all arising from the rising level of adrenaline in the blood. These reactions themselves increase anxiety which causes a positive feedback, causing further adrenaline to flood into the blood which makes the physical reactions much worse.

Panic Attack Medication

The typical medication for panic attacks is an antidepressant, frequently a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) such as fluvoxamine, paroxetine, sertraline or fluoxetine. These can lessen the occurrence and the number of attacks and help to ease anxiety, although they can take more than a month to be effective. They can also have some side effects which may include fatigue, constipation, nausea, migraines and a dry mouth. Benzodiazepines were often prescribed in the past and although very successful at stopping attacks have a very high risk of addiction and are used much less often today. They also have some side effects which may include lack of concentration, decreased alertness and coordination and drowsiness.

Some Helpful Coping Methods

A lot of people who have panic attacks and don't wish to take panic attack medication have found help by using one of the following techniques. These can help to relieve the fear experienced throughout an attack and stop it from escalating.

1) Slow abdominal breathing - breath through the nose, while slowly expanding the diaphragm then breathe out gradually. This may help to rectify the imbalance of oxygen in the bloodstream.

2) Repeating coping thoughts such as
  • Even though it feels awful I will deal with it
  • It will pass in time
  • A panic attack isn't going to kill me


Panic attacks are often extremely scary especially the first time they occur. In spite of this if you are aware of the cause and are aware that you are not experiencing something that is a threat to your life you can learn techniques to deal with them.