What is a panic attack?

Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear, they may include palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, a churning in your tummy, chest pain, numbness, ringing in your ears, a dry mouth or a feeling that something bad is about to happen.

Most panic attacks last between 5 and 20 minutes. Some have been reported to last up to an hour. Some people have attacks once or twice a month, while others have them several times a week. Although panic attacks are frightening, they are not dangerous. They can feel hugely overwhelming and they can either appear unexpectedly or be triggered by something.

What helps during a panic attack?

  • Try not to fight it, stay where you are if possible
  • Remind yourself that the attack will pass.
  • Focus on your breathing, try and concentrate on breathing slowly in and out, if possible breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth and try and make the exhale longer. Try breathing in for 5 seconds and out for 7.
  • Stamp on the spot – some people find this helps control their breathing.
  • Focus on positive, peaceful and relaxing images
  • Focus on your senses, we call this technique a ‘grounding’ technique and this one specifically 5,4,3,2,1 grounding.
  1. Say out loud 5 things you can see around you.
  2. Say out loud 4 things you can feel.
  3. Say out loud 3 things you can hear.
  4. Say out loud 2 things you can smell
  5. Say out loud 1 thing you can taste.
  • Remember and tell yourself, panic attacks are not life threatening, this will pass.
  • After a panic attack it’s important to pay attention to what your body needs, for example you might need to rest somewhere quietly, eat or drink something or perhaps snuggle up in a warm blanket.
  • Get support, let your friends or family know what’s happened and let them help if they can.