About panic attacks

Panic attacks are really common. They happen suddenly and you might feel like something bad is about to happen. No physical harm can come from having a panic attack and whatever you’re going through, we can help.

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
  • eat healthily
  • 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).

Watch: Bottling up emotions

Other places that can help 

  • YoungMinds is a great place to learn more about mental health and find out what support you could get 
  • TheMix has info about anxiety and panic attacks, and how to help someone who suffers from them.