Dr. Meena Gnanansekharan

Consultant - Psychiatrist- Child Adolescent and Adult Psychiatry

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Dr. Meena Gnanansekharan

Consultant - Psychiatrist- Child Adolescent and Adult Psychiatry

Manipal Hospitals, Hebbal

Your Basic Guide To Managing Panic Attacks

Posted On: Mar 14, 2024

blogs read 4 Min Read

Panic Attacks - Reasons, Symptoms and How to Control Anxiety Disorders

Have you ever suddenly woken up from your sleep? Or, have you suddenly felt a sense of fear while sitting alone or with friends? You will understand that this feeling is grappling you from within! You may have noticed how your heart starts pounding faster in these times. You start sweating, and your brain feels congested. This is probably because it’s another episode of those panic attacks. Here, let us learn more about panic attacks and how you can control them.


What Is a Panic Attack?

Panic attacks are the result of a type of anxiety issue, that is, panic disorder. 

A sudden episode of intense fear is characterised as a panic attack. It peaks within a few minutes. These episodes can overwhelm you. Several physical and emotional symptoms often accompany them. Panic attacks occur out of the blue or can have certain triggers. Consult an experienced psychiatrist to diagnose this condition as early as possible.

Reasons behind Panic Attacks

  • Family History of Anxiety Disorders: It increases your risk by 40%. This is especially true within the close-knit family, like parents, siblings, or children.

  • Mental Health Issue: Anxiety and depression make you more susceptible to experiencing panic attacks.

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences: Childhood trauma is a major contributing factor to the development of panic disorders. They usually affect you the most if you have gone through them within 1 to 17 years of age.

  • Caffeine: Excessive intake can trigger the condition.

  • Fear: If you have a fear of something, for example, needles, you may get panic attacks during vaccinations.

  • Others: 

    • Drug abuse.

    • Intense physical exercises.

    • Another prevalent reason for anxious people can be a sudden change of environment.  For example, suppose you are walking alone on a quiet street, which suddenly leads you to a crowded place. 

It is said that panic attacks appear when our flight or fight response gets triggered. And the reason can be anything or simply nothing!

Common Symptoms of a Panic Attack

  • Rapid Heartbeat - You will experience your heartbeat racing during a panic attack. 

  • Shortness of Breath - Unable to breathe properly or experiencing rapid, shallow breathing.

  • Chest Pain or Discomfort - Your chest may feel heavy. Pain or discomfort may drain you. 

  • Trembling or Shaking - Your body may shake or tremble uncontrollably.

  • Choking Feeling - There might be a lumpy sensation in your throat. You may find it difficult to swallow or, sometimes, even talk. 

  • Sweating - Panic attacks may cause excessive sweating, even when the weather is not hot.

  • Nausea or Abdominal Discomfort - This is a common anxiety symptom. These signs are more like those of gastrointestinal disorders. There can be abdominal pain, upset stomach, and nausea. A weird sensation will grasp you. 

  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness - You may feel unstable or dizzy. Lightheadedness may make it challenging for you even to stand.

  • Numbness or Tingling - A tingling sensation in your body or a feeling of numbness. This usually occurs when the attack is severe. 

  • Fear of Losing Control or Going Crazy - You may feel like you are losing control of everything. Sometimes, we start thinking that we are going crazy or dying. 

Discussing these with a medical professional is important so you can manage the condition properly.

How to Control a Panic Attack? 

  • Recognise It's a Panic Attack - First, acknowledge that you are experiencing a panic attack. Once you realise that it is a temporary yet intense surge of anxiety, you can start calming yourself down.

  • Practice Deep Breathing - Focus on slow, deep breaths. Deeply inhale through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this cycle until you feel more in control. This will allow you to come back to the present and be mindful.

  • Ground Yourself - Bring attention to your immediate surroundings. Focus on the sensations of touch, such as feeling the texture of an object, to help anchor yourself in the present moment.

  • Use Relaxation Techniques - Progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, or other relaxation exercises can help calm the body and mind.

  • Challenge Negative Thoughts - Identify any irrational or negative thoughts. Challenge them with confidence to deal with your panic attack. Keep in mind that this, too, shall pass and that you are not in immediate danger.

  • Positive Self-Talk - Convert your negative thoughts into positive affirmations. Be aware of the fact that you are safe and that the panic attack will subside.

  • Focus on a Specific Object or Task - Concentrate on a specific object or engage in a simple, repetitive task to redirect your attention. This will bring you back to reality.

  • Seek Support - If possible, inform a trustworthy someone that you are having a panic attack. Communicating your feelings can be comforting. Being with someone in these moments gives immense support. 

  • Avoid Stimulants - Limit or avoid stimulus. This especially includes caffeine and nicotine. These are a major contributing factor to your anxiety.

If panic attacks are recurrent or significantly impact your life, it is advised to seek help from a mental health professional. They may prescribe Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and medications to treat panic disorders. 

Visit Manipal Hospitals, Hebbal, Bangalore, to receive all the necessary care and attention.


Usually, the symptoms of panic attack include:

  • Excessive sweat
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Choking sensation
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Nausea, etc.

Look out for these symptoms and never forget to address them.

Yes, lifestyle changes play a key role in preventing panic attacks. Here are a few effective measures:

  • Try not to take stress over little things. 
  • Keep yourself engaged in different activities. 
  • Eat healthy.
  • Drink water.
  • Quit smoking and alcohol consumption.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake.

Panic attacks are mental health disorders, just like physical health issues. First, you need to realise that there is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of suffering from mental health issues. Once you can make yourself aware, you can also spread it in your surroundings. Read books and articles, get involved in community activities, and talk to professionals to gain a clear understanding.

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