Panic attack

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Panic attack

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​​A panic attack is a sudden onset of severe anxiety or fear, typically with also physical symptoms. Panic attacks are unpleasant and may be frightening. However, the attack is not dangerous and will usually pass within 30 minutes. You can learn to take control of your panic attacks by self-care.

A person suffering from a panic attack may feel they are losing their sanity or have a fear of death, and feel surreal, disconnected from their mind, body or surroundings and a loss of control. The attacks can occur unexpectedly or they are triggered by a frightening event or issue. Stressful life situations may increase the risk of panic attacks. Also, drinking a lot of coffee and other beverages containing caffeine as well as alcohol and other intoxicants may trigger a panic attack. Panic attacks are not uncommon and anyone can have one. Panic disorder, on the other hand, is a condition characterized by frequently reoccurring panic attacks, or the attacks limiting a person’s life when they try to avoid situations and issues that trigger panic attacks.

Symptoms

​The symptoms associated with a panic attack may include for instance the following:

  • palpitations
  • chest pains
  • sweating
  • tremors
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling of suffocation or choking
  • nausea and stom​ach ache
  • dizziness​
  • sensation of passing out
  • ​numbness​
  • ​​tingling
  • chills or hot flashes
  • fear and anxiety

A typical panic attack develops and peaks abruptly.

Self-care

​The first panic attack may be a very distressing experience. During a panic attack, try to remember that even if it is unpleasant, it is not dangerous and usually passes fairly quickly. If you are familiar with the symptoms, you can try and manage panic attacks before they begin through breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. Avoidance of coffee and other beverages containing caffeine as well as alcohol and other intoxicants may help to prevent panic attacks.

In the long term, various relaxation techniques, e.g. yoga and meditation and regular exercise may prove helpful. Talking about the issue with your beloved ones or different peer groups may also be helpful. Mental Hub has online therapies suitable for self-care, and good self-help books are available, too.

When should you seek medical advice?

​You should seek medical advice, if

  • panic attacks are frequent and limit your day-to-day life.
  • ​chest pain during panic attack is severe or continues for a long time

More information

The producers of the instruction

​​​​​Emergency care professionals have produced the instruction in collaboration with Terveyskirjasto.​

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Updated  22.4.2021