Panic Attacks – What to Do When They Happen

Panic Attacks – What to Do When They Happen

The frightening signs of a panic attack include hyperventilating, sweating, chest pains, and a racing heart.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, one in ten Americans will experience just one this year, and about one in fifty will experience multiple panic attacks.

Many patients claim that they feel as though they are going to pass away, have a heart attack, or “go insane,” while others claim that they feel as though they have lost control of their bodies altogether.

So how should you deal with such horrible symptoms when they happen?

Dr. Karen Lynn Cassiday, Dr. Ian Stanley, and Dr. Carolyn Rubenstein, all mental health specialists, discussed some great techniques for fending off attacks during a chat with

They include recognizing a panic attack when it occurs, taking deep breaths, and diverting your attention from any physical symptoms.

While giving tired advice like “take deep breaths” to someone having a panic attack may sound cliché, Dr. Ian Stanley claims that it actually works.

Try inhaling for 4 counts and exhaling for 6 counts when one begins to emerge.

That being said, here are some other methods that can help you calm down whenever you’re dealing with a panic attack.

Sit Upright

People who are prone to panic attacks should maintain good posture and sit up straight, according to Dr. Karen Lynn Cassiday.

The level of anxiety is induced and exacerbated by altered breathing brought on by poor posture.

She explained that chronic stress causes both humans and animals to adopt this “fear posture,” which makes it difficult to breathe naturally and causes you to abruptly exhale too much carbon dioxide.

A psychological boost is provided by standing or sitting with your chest puffed and shoulders broad. This posture also lowers stress, anxiety, and depression while boosting confidence, mood, and energy levels.

Slow Your Breathing Down

While the 4:6 technique can help put a stop to panic, Dr. Cassiday advises against breathing too deeply while experiencing a panic attack.

Many people going through a panic attack will be able to recall the common recommendation to breathe deeply to control their heart rate.

But doing so while hyperventilating is more difficult and only makes the situation worse.

That’s because panic attacks are characterized by heady symptoms like dizziness, which are caused by hyperventilation. These signs mimic suffocation, which starts a cycle of panicky, breathless symptoms.

Dr. Cassiday explained that “The worst thing that you can do is to take a big breath because that serves to lower carbon dioxide levels even more. Breathe slowly through your nose so it is as quiet as possible.”

Go to Therapy

Psychologists are trained to help people overcome anxiety and other mental health issues.

There are many different ways to treat panic disorders. The first treatment option is cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as talk therapy or psychotherapy.

With the aid of CBT, patients can more effectively alter their thought patterns and behavior to confront and disarm the intrusive thoughts that trigger panic attacks.

A person can learn how to change their behavior and thought patterns that might in the future trigger panic attacks through therapy.

Dr. Karen Lynn Cassiday shared that panic attacks feel “Like the time when you were a kid and someone’s older brother held your head underwater in the swimming pool and you did not think you would ever get to the surface. Having 4 or more of those symptoms is truly overwhelming, that is why a lot of people might think, I am having a stroke, I am going insane, I am dying, something is terribly wrong with my body. And in fact, they’re correct, it is just none of those things I have just mentioned.”


Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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