Stop a Panic Attack Now

Remember that Panic Attacks are a Problem of Perception, Not a Medical Condition

As an intensive care nurse, and then a clinical educator in mental health, I have learned that anxiety is a result of a missed connection between mind and body. Panic and anxiety attacks truly fall between the two disciplines, somewhere between psychological and physical causes. The normal sensations experienced by the body are misinterpreted by the brain as harmful. Sufferers experiencing panic attacks may believe that they are going to die, call 911, or seek out medication to reduce the awful experience. It is helpful to know that anxieties are a problem of perception, not a medical condition.

Yes, it's all in your head, but that doesn't mean it isn't real! It's very real. Below, you will find several tricks to help you convince your mind and body to handle it.

5 Steps to Stopping a Panic Attack

Before we get to the lengthier explanations, here are the five simple steps for addressing a panic attack in the moment:

  1. Recognize the symptoms. The first thing you have to do is to recognize that you're having a panic attack. There's no use in fighting it, because that will only make it worse. No, it's not a heart attack, and even though it might feel like you're going to die, you need to remind yourself that no, this is not a medical emergency, no need to call 911: it's just a panic attack.
  2. Stop what you're doing. Don't just soldier on, because it just won't work. A panic attack will suspend your ability to do anything for awhile, so don't even try. The first thing you need to do is stop what you're doing and find a quiet, private place, if possible. This might be easier to manage if you're sitting at your desk at work, but if you're driving your car, you'll need to pull over as safely and as quickly as possible.
  3. Watch and wait. Do nothing but focus on your breathing, massage your pressure points, and stretch any muscles that are tense. Think of nothing but making yourself more comfortable. Don't let yourself think about the past or the future or anything else but taking care of yourself at this moment. A panic attack is sort of like a roller coaster ride: No amount of struggling or screaming or trying to escape is going to make it end any quicker.
  4. When you can, redirect your focus to one simple task. For example, you might perform a simple, repetitive motion like tearing a paper napkin into tiny shreds, rubbing an ice cube against the back of your neck, or lifting a heavy book twenty times. Try to imagine that you are floating above yourself, watching yourself perform this repetitive task. Focus on the small steps.
  5. If you can, pick up where you left off. Your job now is simply to do the next step of whatever it was that you were doing when the panic attack started, but instead of thinking about the larger picture (I am driving home for a family reunion where I will have to interact with so-and-so), focus only of the next step in the process: I am starting the car, I am putting on my turn signal, I am merging into traffic....

If these attacks recur, the next step is to find a therapist to help and consider anxiety medications.

This is Your Brain on Adrenaline

Everyone has heard about the tiny woman that lifted a car off of her loved one, or the man that ran in front of a speeding car to save a child from certain harm— that is the awesome power of adrenaline. Adrenaline allows your body to quickly run away from a dangerous situation.

When the brain “thinks” anxiety, the body responds with “danger,” and your adrenal glands pump you up with adrenaline. The more panicked you become, the more adrenaline is released, and those feelings of impending doom become more severe. The job of adrenaline is to provide you with a way to escape danger, even if you don't know what that danger may be.

Unfortunately, your body sometimes tells you to run even when there is no real danger, and in those cases, you'll need tricks to convince your body to stop. Follow these steps to help stop your panic attack.

I Hear a Buzzing Sound in My Ears

When you’re hearing that distracting “buzzing” sound in your ears, your brain is reacting to increased adrenaline and the buzzing is the result of “beta brainwave activity.” It may be disorienting and confusing, as the brain is on overdrive and the thought process is overwhelmed by the “speed” effect. Your body is experiencing a natural response to adrenalin and not a physical or mental disease. Distract yourself with external sounds:

  • Put on soothing music (not too loud) and try earphones.
  • Have a conversation with yourself or someone you trust.
  • Distract yourself with a favorite movie or video.

I’m Feeling "Pins and Needles" in My Arms and Hands

Normally, you breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. When your breathing is faster, you exhale more carbon dioxide and it makes you dizzy and may induce the “pins and needles” sensation in your arms, hands, lips, or facial areas.

  • First, don't get alarmed. It is not going to hurt you.
  • Take slow, deep breaths into a paper bag or cupped hands to restore your carbon dioxide levels and these strange sensations will cease and you will feel better within minutes.

Distract Your Nervous System with Hot Water
Distract Your Nervous System with Hot Water | Source

My Heart is Pounding in My Chest

Adrenaline is speeding up your nervous system and heart rate to provide you with the extreme energy to “run!” In modern society, people rarely need to run from anxiety-producing situations. You can’t run away from your angry boss or the fear of your checking account being overdrawn. Stress in modern times does not always benefit from the “flight or fight” response of adrenaline, and you may interpret the natural disturbances as impending doom.

  • Don't let your pounding heart scare you even more. It's no different than if you were playing tennis or running a race. Your heart is designed to accommodate the oxygen supply your body demands with ease, and the adrenaline is making your heart beat faster so you can escape an undesirable situation.
  • Place both hands in a sink full of water as hot as you can stand it (but not hot enough to burn you). Alternatively, trying placing ice cubes on your forehead, face, or the back of your neck. This will distract your nervous system and slow the flow of adrenaline.


I Can’t Breathe Normally

Normally, people don’t feel themselves breathing. It is a highly evolved action that requires little energy. But during a panic attack, adrenaline expands your lungs so you can take in more oxygen to run away from danger. You perceive the expanded chest as the sensation of difficulty breathing.

  • If you can hold a conversation or speak, you are breathing just fine.
  • Sit down and rock yourself gently back and forth and inhale and exhale slowly with each movement, this will help you feel your breathing.
  • Breathe in through the nose and out through a straw; you will begin to feel the movement of air and sense your breathing.

Pressure Points Can Help Calm You
Pressure Points Can Help Calm You

I Want to Run Away from My Body

In response to adrenaline, your mind is telling your body to run away from danger. The panic response is confusing, and you may feel that your own body is the danger you must run from. Try to be as calm as possible so the adrenaline stops getting the signal of danger. Hold on, your anxiety will be over quickly. Use pressure points to distract the central nervous system.

  • Push your thumb on one hand into the space between your thumb and index finger on the other, hard enough to cause discomfort.
  • Pinch the bridge of the nose with the thumb and index finger, hard enough to cause discomfort.

I am Trembling and Shaking

The surge of adrenaline is giving you a “rush” and causing you to shake. It is perfectly normal and your body is responding to the chemical. The more fear you experience, the more adrenaline is released into the bloodstream, and the more trembling you will have.

  • Your body is reacting in a natural way to fear and it is not going to hurt you.
  • Fortunately, the trembling of the body is usually a sign that the adrenaline effects are almost over. So in that sense, the trembling might be a good sign.

Can I Die from a Panic Attack?

People who experience a panic attacks sometimes mistakenly believe they're having a heart attack, and sometimes that worry contributes even further to the stress. Heart palpitations are not necessarily signs of a heart attack. The vague feelings of tightness in your chest are due to the increased supply of adrenaline “speed” and not a malady. Your healthy heart is equipped to beat fast and pound as if you were jogging for exercise, were surprised with a birthday party, or were just notified that you won the lottery.

  • You're not going to die. It's just a panic attack.
  • Sit down and place your head between your knees and breathe slowly. This will slow your heart rate and relax the chest muscles.

How to Prevent Panic Attacks

Determine the Cause

Unfortunately, anxiety is a necessary evil. Too little creates a person that isn’t motivated enough to take precautions to survive. They generally don’t feel the pressure to find a job, take care of their future, or expend energy to learn new ideas and opportunities. On the other hand, too much can prevent people from learning anything or experiencing new opportunities for growth and success. High anxiety is debilitating and crippling to people that develop phobias and social anxieties that prevent them from enjoying their lives. Most people are somewhere in the middle. Moderate anxiety helps people safely gauge the risks and the rewards. A certain amount is necessary to stay alert and to push passed fear and find the courage to overcome adversity and pursue our dreams.

However, if you find that your anxiety is getting the better of you and holding you back, it's time to take note of your triggers. Knowing what people, places, and situations stir you up will allow you to premeditate and control your reaction to them.

See a Doctor

Get a check-up from your healthcare provider and discuss the anxiety you’re experiencing. There are many anxiety medications available today. If you see a doctor, you will have less worry about your physical health, be able to understand the effects of anxiety, you may opt for a prescription medication, and you'll be less likely to misinterpret the sensations as illness.

Avoid Stimulants and Eat Regularly

If you are prone to panic attacks, you need to take care of your body and achieve a healthy lifestyle that will keep you calm and relaxed. Avoiding certain foods and beverages will reduce the chances of stimulation causing an anxiety attack.

  • Avoid caffeine in coffee and cola products.
  • Don’t drink alcohol due to the initial stimulant effects.
  • Stop smoking: Nicotine is a powerful stimulant.
  • Eat protein every four hours and avoid drops in blood sugar.

Physical Activity

  • Exercise daily: Power walking is an excellent deterrent. Any kind of regular exercise will help.
  • Meditate daily and find a higher power that makes you feel safe.
  • Get massages that relax you and release natural “feel good” chemicals.

Seek a Therapist Who Understands

If you feel anxiety is overwhelming your life, find a therapist that works extensively with anxiety disorders. It is important they are someone you can trust, and they can help you how to cope in a positive way.

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Comments 42 comments

tipstoretireearly profile image

tipstoretireearly 4 years ago from New York

Exercising is a wonderful way to decrease anxiety and prevent panic attacks. After an invigorating run, it just doesn't matter so much what your boss might say!

eHealer profile image

eHealer 4 years ago from Las Vegas Author

Tips, LOL! Exercise is a great way to stay in shape and work off that "anger" in a positive way! Thanks for your comments, I really appreciate it!

annerivendell profile image

annerivendell 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

Another knowledgeable and well written Hub. Meditation is also a great way to help with anxiety, though not when in the middle of a panic attack of course!

eHealer profile image

eHealer 4 years ago from Las Vegas Author

Hello Annerivendell, thanks for your kind comments. Meditation does help anxiety attacks, but as you stated, not during an attack. See you soon on hubpages.

Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

this a great hub,, .. sometimes.. i feel like panic attacks... are major part of my life..... sometimes worse than others. bless you for posting this hub


eHealer profile image

eHealer 4 years ago from Las Vegas Author

Thank you Deborah, I am so glad you find it helpful. Panic is the most debilitating condition on the planet and probably just as misunderstood. I hope this article helps you and bless you to.

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

Good hub eHealer! Really useful info. I found the breathing section very helpful.

eHealer profile image

eHealer 4 years ago from Las Vegas Author

Thanks Glimmer, I appreciate the support. I find the breathing part helpful when I do my panic thing, it really does work. Hope you never have to use it, but if you do, it's here for you! See ya soon!

rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Fantastic hub, Deborah. I can relate to some of these symptoms at sometime in my life. However I knew they were a response to those particular situation.

Voted up, useful and shared.

eHealer profile image

eHealer 4 years ago from Las Vegas Author

Thanks Rajan, you have educated yourself out of responding to the panic, that is the best way to overcome them. Thanks for reading my article and see you soon at your great hubs!

epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

Thank you Deborah for you reassuring vote of confidence but it takes a great writer to recognize a great writer - and it's ironic that I live in the fantasy world , if you will, of writing because I am a storyteller first and foremost and you live in the reality of the world with your writing.

And that's what gives such a great balance to a forum/website like Hubpages - certainly most of us have probably experienced panic attacks - so it's helpful to know the symptoms and the signs and how to deal with it . This is really important to know. You are an essential writer; you can literally save lives - hubbravo to you and it's my please entirely to follow you - sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 5:19pm

eHealer profile image

eHealer 4 years ago from Las Vegas Author

Thank you so much epigramman, your kind words made my week! I am truly grateful for the balance that hubpages provides, I don't know where I would be without the graceful story telling that allows me to escape the real world once in a while and relax in a state of "wow." Thanks for your much appreciated comments. Take care and see you soon on hubpages.

gsidley profile image

gsidley 4 years ago from Lancashire, England

A quality hub packed with accurate and useful information.

eHealer profile image

eHealer 4 years ago from Las Vegas Author

Thank you gsidley, I am so glad you found it useful.

Vicky022389 profile image

Vicky022389 4 years ago from Orlando, Florida

Very insightful, most of these remedies I have never heard of. I have been dealing with panic attacks for years now, and there is one natural solution that calms me down and relaxes me. It's called the linden method program. It's a book that comes with a video and audio mp3s, the audio portion helped me so much! He does relaxation and visualizations and walks you through a panic attack. This tape got me through some tough times, so check it out if your still suffering from panic attacks! Thanks for the article though, gonna try these next time!

eHealer profile image

eHealer 4 years ago from Las Vegas Author

Thanks Vicky, people who suffer from panic attacks should have all available options to find the best solution. Thank you for your supportive comments, and I appreciate it!

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Absolutely fascinating (and informative). I don't suffer from panic attacks (at least, I don't think I do) but I have a couple of family members who do. Very useful suggestions and very well written. Thanks.

eHealer profile image

eHealer 3 years ago from Las Vegas Author

Thanks Phdast, I am so glad you don't have panic attacks. Many people do, it's a human thing. Pass on the info to those you know that do suffer. Thanks for you comments and I absolutely love your hubs!

FreezeFrame34 profile image

FreezeFrame34 3 years ago from Charleston SC

Great, insightful information! Thanks for sharing! I love the tips! I love the idea of breathing through a straw!

eHealer profile image

eHealer 3 years ago from Las Vegas Author

Hello FreezeFrame, it's so nice to meet you. I really appreciate your supportive comments thanks for reading my hub!

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

eHealer, this is an excellent article with tips I wish I'd known years ago when I did have anxiety attacks that made me hyperventilate. I used the "breathe into a paper bag" trick suggested by my doctor, but often the situation went from bad to worse before I could find a paper bag! (Nowadays, paper bags have given way to plastic, so it could be even more difficult to use that method.)

In my late 20s, I learned to recognize the signs of an impending anxiety attack and use relaxation techniques to calm myself. Although I still don't like crowds and avoid them as much as possible, I rarely suffer the discomfort caused by heightened anxiety any more.

However, I know other people who do, so will share your article with them.

Thanks. Voted Up++


Missy Mac profile image

Missy Mac 3 years ago from Illinois

I came across this hub and love the informative tips and information. Like many comments, exercise helps tremendously and diet. Thanks again.

Gail Meyers profile image

Gail Meyers 3 years ago from United States

I had pretty severe panic attacks for more than a decade. Panic attacks are awful! Thankfully, I have not had one for more than seven years now. I always enjoy your articles. Voted up, shared and inserting link in healing from a narcissistic mother hub. Panic attacks are so often an issue for adult children of narcissists.

Okhita 3 years ago

Ehealer, thank you for the time you put to write such a valuable article. I have been having these panic attacks for 2 months now. Even in my sleep. The worst is the uncontrollable shaking. I will have an appointment with shrink tomorrow but don't want to end up 10kg heavier. I know it's quite soon for a reply from all of you but I need anyone's opinion. What has cured you totally? I've heard of Panic Away and Linden Method. Or shall I go for Paxil or Effexor?

I'm really scared. Thank you Ehealer for your tips which I will print and have at hand. God bless you all.

DanielleFaith profile image

DanielleFaith 3 years ago from Los Angeles

I think in this day and age mental health is so easily overlooked. This hub is a good reminder not to forget about taking care of ourselves because, if we don't maintain our wellbeing we end up in panic situations that need emergency care!

LisaKoski profile image

LisaKoski 3 years ago from WA

I've experienced a few anxiety attacks over the years but never been too concerned about them since they aren't that frequent. The only time it really scared me was once when I was in school and I suddenly had an attack for what seemed like no reason. It was close the beginning of the semester so I wasn't too stressed at the time. Just as I walked to the door of my classroom, it hit me and I had to go to my car and try to calm down. Talking to a loved one on the phone really helped me at the time, although I'm still not sure what triggered it.

While I have heard of a few of the remedies you mentioned, there is quite a bit of useful tips here I never knew about before. I will definitely keep a few of these in mind next time I feel like I may be having a panic attack or feeling extreme anxiety. I think this is probably one of the most informative hubs I've read on this site so thank you for the time and effort you put into this.

kerlund74 profile image

kerlund74 2 years ago from Sweden

So important, many people suffer of Anxiety and panic attacks. I "only" suffer from Anxiety from time to time. In times of changes and when I feel down, there it is. So a teriffic hub, that can help a lot!

jlpark profile image

jlpark 2 years ago from New Zealand

As someone who has a mild panic issue - this is useful. Thank you for sharing.!

feelingcrazy 2 years ago

So, what is one to do if a supposed panic attack occurs occasionally during sexual activity with a trusted partner of years? Heart feels very cold, very tight, vision becomes obscured, very confused, unstable when I try to stand (i have fallen before), throat feels completely obstructed, very vigorous trembling and seizure like shaking. Involuntary muscle twitching, fingers bend in ways I can't willingly bend them. This will occur after only minutes of activity. Also, happens at work with zero exertion. Any ideas?

Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 2 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

Here we see the typically great responses you have had from your outstanding articles. So now I have to believe you took joanwz's hub on the subject of what to do at home when you are bored, and are still busily checking off the items from her list, or you retired and went to the Bahamas and forgot all about us left behind in Huberville?

tlcs profile image

tlcs 23 months ago from Hampshire, UK

Very interesting hub, I have also written about anxiety and panic attacks, we agree on many areas.

Linda Kessler profile image

Linda Kessler 18 months ago

This and another by this writer are not sincere but insulting to people who know more, and care far more than this writer does, about this topic. I could suggest something like writing about cheese or something.

Denise 16 months ago

I think the writer doesn't understand that most people who have panic attacks are actually dealing with PTSD. It is impossible to understand unless you have lived through a traumatic experience where you nearly died and could have died...possibly others did die.

It is a nice thought to think that sticking your hands in hot water would stem a panic attack but honestly it doesn't even come close to working. I believe you have to have meds and a good counselor experienced in dealing with PTSD. We, in the USA, have very little idea in the health care profession how to deal with this. It's sad to me to see someone treat it like its a minor over active stress experience when it really is an overwhelming and uncontrollable reaction to a stimuli that a lot of times the suffering person doesn't even realize it there...a smell. a color, or in one case a laundry basket. Once you experience a PTSD attack you will know that pinching your hand will never stop, or even slow down or lessen an attack. It's like throwing a bottle of water on a house won't even notice it!

No 12 months ago

A panic attack definitely can be a sign of a "medical condition." Panic disorder is a real illness and often needs medication and/or therapy to remedy. Don't give people your opinion and pretend that it is fact. You have some good remedies for panic attacks, but overall, you gave bad advice.

Marie from Western Australia. 10 months ago

I have suffered from Anxiety attacks on and off for the the last twenty years, ever since I left my husband of 35 years.

I spent most of those years living in denial of the fact that his lies and excuses would never change. In the end I had to leave as we had lost every home we bought because of his debts and lies.

Now I see him for what he was and it's usually late at night in bed when an incident in our marriage suddenly comes to mind and I see what was really happening at the time and how I was fooled.

It's awful, and when I acknowledge how that situation really was, 0ther situations from back then start rushing in to my mind at a faster and faster rate, and I see them in a different light and I can't stop it.

It's a terrifying and overwhelming experience and eventually I had to resort to a mild medication because it was so exhausting and I couldn't sleep.

I'm a lot better now, perhaps because I've re-lived and re-evaluated so much and it doesn't happen so often.

The only thing I can do when it happens is to get up and play silly games on the computer and have a hot drink until I just feel I can get to sleep.

So I have to say that none of the suggestions made would make any difference to me when an anxiety attack starts. I have to shift my mind onto something totally mindless but absorbing.

ghftf 10 months ago

my worst time is in the mornings. I have a hard time making myself face the day.

Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 9 months ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

This is a great article. I have struggled with panic attacks for a number of years.

Although I practice yoga and meditation daily, I am still overcome by panic occasionally.

Thanks for the tips.


Ruth Ann 9 months ago

The first panic attack I ever experienced was while driving on a 2 lane bridge over a river. My 2 children were in the back seat and had been bickering; plus we were running late to a doctor's appt. for one of my children. I'm very afraid of water and can't swim, so I just knew I was going to pass out, run into the side of the bridge and go into the water. Needless to say I made it to the other side. Kept having the same feeling for part of a year when I had to go over that bridge. I've had several other attacks over the years; all the attacks were in busy traffic on interstates or while in the city. I've either been on an overpass or somewhere that I couldn't pull off the side of the road. What do you recommend to do until I can pull off the road? One time I was on the way to my son's house about 2 hours away; I was on an interstate with lots of overpasses when I had an attack and pulled off on the side of the interstate. I sat there a long time, but just couldn't get back on the interstate. Finally I had to call my son & his wife to come get me. I have been taking Sertraline for years. I think it helps since this kind of thing doesn't happen often.

techygran profile image

techygran 7 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

This is a very helpful article from someone with personal and professional experience with panic and anxiety. Along with some suggestions for immediate, practical interventions was the suggestion to seek a good therapist should anxiety be overwhelming in one's life.

emge profile image

emge 7 months ago from Abu Dhabi

This is a nice article. Panic is something that just comes on. Excellent coverage.

Dee 7 months ago

I have suffered with Anxiety going on about 5 years now. I am overcoming it with Medication and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Just stared the therapy a few months ago and it is working wonders for me!! If anyone would like some advice, Please let me know. I would love to help. My Anxiety was so bad. I wish I had sought out help sooner but I just did not know what to do!! There is Hope everyone!!

L Smith 5 months ago

I was told that panic attacks are because of an imbalance in brain chemistry which I believe is a medical condition!

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