Panic attack

General information

A panic attack is a sudden onset of severe anxiety or fear. The symptoms are varied and can be quite severe, such as heart palpitations, chest pain, breathing difficulties, sense of suffocation or fainting, dizziness, numbness of the skin, tremor, tingling, sweating or shivers, nausea and abdominal pain.

A person suffering from a panic attack may feel they are losing their sanity or have a fear of death, and experience detachment and depersonalisation and a loss of control. The attacks can occur unexpectedly or they are triggered by a terrifying event or issue. Stressful life situations increase the risk of panic attacks, and some experience them in a crowd at a supermarket or a rush hour bus.

In nearly all cases, a panic attack develops and resolves quickly. Panic disorder is a condition when a person experiences regular panic attacks.


Panic attacks are usually scary and unpleasant, but they are not dangerous and usually resolve of their own accord in less than 30 minutes. The first experience of a panic attack can be very distressing.

If you are familiar with the symptoms, you can try and manage panic attacks before they begin through breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.

In the long term, healthy diet and exercise, finding information about the condition and talking about it with your loved ones and attending talking therapies can be helpful.

When should you seek medical advice?

You should seek medical advice for panic attacks when,

  • you experience a panic attack for the first time.
  • your panic attacks are frequent.

This Self-care instruction has been produced in collaboration with Duodecim Terveyskirjasto

Elsewhere in Health Village

Mental Health Hub: Panic (in finnish)

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Updated  8.6.2020