What is a Panic Attack?

During a panic attack you get a rush of intense anxiety and physical symptoms.  Having a panic attack can be extremely frightening, especially as there may not be a clear reason for it happening.  A panic attack can happen very suddenly.  

Am I having a panic attack?

You may feel like you are having a heart attack because it feels like your heart is beating fast or irregularly.  It is not unusual to have thoughts that you are going to die.  If you are concerned, you should always contact your G.P. or go to hospital.  For a genuine panic attack, you won’t usually need to be admitted to hospital.

Panic attacks usually last between 5 and 20 minutes. You can feel like something is seriously wrong with you.  They are not dangerous and shouldn’t harm you.

What are the symptoms of a panic attack?

Panic attack symptoms include:

  • what feels like an irregular or racing heartbeat
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • shortness of breath
  • a choking sensation
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • tingling fingers
  • ringing in your ears

What causes panic attacks?

The physical symptoms of a panic attack are caused by your body going into “fight or flight” mode.

As your body tries to take in more oxygen, your breathing quickens. Your body also releases hormones, such as adrenaline, causing your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense up. 

What should I do if I have a panic attack? 

Panic Attacks are frightening but it is important not to let your fear of panic attacks control you.

Panic attacks always pass, and the symptoms are not a sign of anything harmful happening, however at the time they are frightening.

The symptoms are caused by anxiety.

Don’t avoid your fear, confront it.  By riding out the attack you are giving yourself the chance to discover that nothing bad is going to happen to you.

Try to keep doing things. If possible, don’t leave the situation until the anxiety has subsided.

As the anxiety starts to pass, begin to focus on your surroundings and continue to do what you were doing before.

If you are prone to panic attacks let your friends and family know.  If you’re having a short, sudden panic attack, it can be helpful to have someone with you, reassuring you that it will pass, and the symptoms are nothing to worry about.


  • Breathe in as slowly, deeply and gently as you can, through your nose.
  • Breathe out slowly, deeply and gently through your mouth.
  • Some people find it helpful to count steadily from one to five on each in-breath and each out-breath.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.

You should start to feel better in a few minutes. You may feel tired afterwards if so, be kind to yourself and have a short rest.

How can I prevent panic attacks?

  • Identify any stress that you are under that could be making you anxious.
  • Don’t restrict your daily activities, go about them as normal.
  • Become familiar with breathing exercises and practise them every day. Breathing exercises will help to prevent panic attacks and relieve them when they are happening.
  • Take regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise. This will help you to manage stress levels, release tension, improve your mood and boost confidence.  You don’t have to join a gym, a brisk 30-minute walk will help symptoms.
  • Eat regular meals to stabilise your blood sugar levels. Eat something small e.g. nuts, seeds etc. between meals so that you eat every three hours.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking – these can make panic attacks worse.  Even decaffeinated tea and coffee should be avoided.  Try lemon or cucumber water or herbal teas. 

What is the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack?

There are similarities and differences between anxiety and panic attacks. An anxiety attack often comes in reaction to stress. For example, you’re walking down a dark road and hear footsteps near to you, you immediately begin to become agitated.

During an anxiety attack, you may feel fearful and apprehensive.  Your heart may begin racing and you may feel short of breath.  It is normally short lived, because when the stressor goes away, so does the anxiety attack.

A panic attack doesn’t come on as a reaction to a stressor. It’s unprovoked and unpredictable. During a panic attack you may be seized with terror, fear, or apprehension.  You may feel that you might die or lose control or have a heart attack. Panic attack symptoms include:  chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea. These symptoms can be worsened by fear of having further attacks; this means that you begin to worry about the next one and this is called anticipatory anxiety.

As a consequence, you might start avoiding places where you have previously had a panic attack. Although it is a common disorder it is easily treatable.

How I can help you. 

If you decide to seek therapy, I will show you techniques to help you manage your feelings.  These include breathing exercises, Mindfulness, and EFT or Tapping.  The techniques that you learn will become invaluable tools which will be useful to you for the rest of your life.

I can help you identify and change the negative thought patterns that are feeding your panic attacks.  We can examine the problems that cause you to feel stress and use a solution focused approach to deal with them.

It may be useful to consider your reactions to stress and apply new responses which we can implement together.  We can use both EFT and Hypnotherapy, to explore in more detail when you first developed these responses to stress.  Often, the roots started in childhood and were reinforced throughout your life creating neural pathways in your brain and coping mechanisms which no longer serve you.  Once we have identified the early events that caused this reaction in you, we use EFT and Hypnotherapy to eliminate the limiting beliefs you have formed and create new positive responses in your brain.

The process can be extremely quick when you consider that we are dealing with things that you have likely carried with you for decades.