What does a panic attack feel like?
Panic attacks can feel like an intense and overwhelming feeling of anxiety. For some people, they can feel like they’re having a heart attack or even like they’re dying. But it can help to remember that although having a panic attack can be scary, it won’t hurt you.
Most panic attacks last between 5 and 20 minutes. Symptoms of panic attack can include:
- feeling faint, dizzy or sick
- getting hot and sweaty
- feeling weak or shaky in your legs
- a really fast heartbeat or a sense that your heart isn't beating normally
- feeling like you're choking or can't breathe easily
- your vision going blurry
- like things around you have started to feel strange or disconnected.
Lots of people experience panic attacks, but it can be hard to know what to do when they happen. There are ways to cope with them and feel better.
What causes panic attacks
For lots of people, panic attacks can appear to start for no reason or without any warning signs. This can be really difficult for people when they’re having them regularly.
The reasons you’re having panic attacks aren’t always clear. But there are things that can make people more likely to have them:
- Stress from family problems or exams
- Trying to cope after someone dies
- Anxiety and panic disorders
- Social anxiety
- Difficult experiences or memories
- Some health conditions
Some people feel like they have to avoid certain places because of their panic attacks, but doing this can actually make them worse. If you’re struggling to cope or you want help with your panic attacks, your doctor can help.
Helping someone who’s having a panic attack
It can be scary when someone you know is having a panic attack. But there are some simple things you can do to help them:
- Stay calm
Keep your voice calm and don’t talk about or focus on what’s happening to them during the panic attack. Remind the person that they’re safe and that it’ll be over soon.
- Ask if they need anything
Someone having a panic attack might not always be able to tell you what they need, but asking can help remind them they’re not alone.
- Help them to breathe
Try counting out loud as you breathe in for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds.
- Support them afterwards
Take them somewhere quiet to calm down and get them some water if they need it. Try to stay with them for a few minutes afterwards or for as long as they need to feel better.