Panic attack

A panic attack is a sudden surge of intense anxiety.  Sometimes attacks are triggered by something specific.  However, people can panic spontaneously for no apparent reason.  This can be very upsetting and frightening.

Symptoms that may be experienced:

  • Shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing
  • A sensation of the heart beating faster than usual
  • Pains and tightness in the chest
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea
  • Trembling, sweating, shaking
  • A fear of dying or losing control
  • Tingling in fingers or toes
  • Fear, fright, afraid, anxious

You can’t control the chemical release that causes the actual panic attack. But you can learn ways to cope with panic attacks.

What to do during an attack?

  • Stop, take a break and try to think about what it is that is making you panic
  • Think positive thoughts. Tell yourself the attack is harmless and will soon pass
  • Breathe very slowly and steadily by counting along with each of the breaths. Try to hold each breath for three counts
  • Take a plastic bag and hold it over your nose and mouth tightly with cupped hands. This helps you to inhale your own carbon dioxide and slows your breathing

How you can help yourself?

  • Relaxation techniques make it more difficult to panic, because stress is part of an attack
  • Control your diet. Alcohol and too much coffee may make you more prone to anxiety
  • Learn to breathe properly. It helps to prevent hyperventilation
  • Regular excises reduces anxiety and helps to rid the body of the stress hormone
  • Distraction techniques can take your mind off the panic and any symptoms during an attack

Need help?

Make an appointment to see a student counsellor today.