A panic attack is a temporary medical condition that affects a large percentage of the population. But they occur much more frequently in the lives of specific individuals.

Sadly, recurrent panic attacks can cause mental health issues like sadness and anxiety in public places, called agoraphobia, and even behavioral issues like impulsive drug usage. You should visit a doctor if you’ve had multiple attacks. They are treatable and doubtful to return after treatment.

Fortunately, this article can help you determine if you suffer from panic attacks and what triggers them. In addition, we discuss some of the best methods now available on how to prevent panic attack.

Panic attacks: what are they?

Panic attacks occur suddenly and sometimes without explanation, causing extreme physiological responses. The episodes can be terrifying and cause a person to feel like they are losing control, suffering a heart attack, or even dying.

Most people experience no more than a couple of panic episodes throughout their lifetimes before the issue resolves itself, perhaps after the stressor has passed. But still, if you have panic disorder, you may suffer from unexpected panic attacks regularly and live in constant terror of having another episode.

Most people with panic disorder experience panic attacks. In some cases, however, they may coexist with other factors, including:

  • Mood and anxiety disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Specific medications
  • Illness brought on by extreme stress or traumatic experiences

Anxiety episodes don’t pose any immediate threat. Still, they might reduce your efforts to lead a quality of life and cause other problems if they occur frequently.

Causes and triggers of panic attacks

Even to experts, the specific cause of panic episodes and panic disorder is unknown. How you interpret and react to frightening situations is primarily determined by the intricate workings of the brain and nervous system.

Image alt text: how to prevent panic attacks. Panic attack emblems for awareness purposes.

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Some experts believe that problems with the amygdala, the brain region responsible for processing fear and other emotions, are at the basis of these disorders. Many people believe that chemical abnormalities in GABA, cortisol, and serotonin are to blame.

However, your panic attacks could be related to any of the following.

Chronic stress

The stress response mechanism in the body typically has a ceiling effect on itself. Hormone levels normalize when a potential threat has subsided. The body’s functions, like blood pressure and heart rate, return to normal functioning as adrenaline and cortisol levels decline.

However, the fight-or-flight response remains activated when persistent stressors persist, and one consistently feels threatened. Prolonged exposure to cortisol hormones, which results from chronic stimulation of the stress response system, can affect nearly every function in the body. Several health issues, such as anxiety and despair, that can bring on panic attacks are more likely to arise.


Although substantial evidence suggests a genetic foundation for panic disorder, the precise nature of this basis remains unknown. It is believed that anxiety attack is a complex syndrome, with environmental effects and genetic vulnerability playing roles.

According to a study, your risk of acquiring anxiety is roughly 2- to 6-fold higher if a close relative already struggles with it. Suppose you’re related or have an identical twin who suffers from anxiety (since you share similar genes). In that case, your risk is increased, even if they were raised in a different environment than you were.

Environmental factors

Several things in one’s surroundings can trigger anxiety. For instance, a 2018 research found that a person’s anxiety levels were affected by factors such as family dynamics, cultural and religious background, and early life events, which can cause climate anxiety.

Climate or eco-anxiety is the emotional anguish caused by concerns about global climate change and its consequences. It’s not a psychological disorder. Instead, it’s fear brought on by future ambiguity and serving to warn us of the perils of a changing global climate.

Climate change anxiety is frequently accompanied by other negative emotions, such as loss, anger, guilt, and humiliation, which can ripple effect on one’s disposition, actions, and thoughts.

How do you know you have panic attacks?

The abrupt onset of a panic episode sometimes catches people off guard. However, symptoms of panic attack usually begin around 10 minutes into the episode and can worsen after that time.

These are some warning signs to keep an eye out for:

  • Nausea and headache
  • Chills and hot flashes
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Extreme trembling or shaking
  • Difficult swallowing
  • Sweating profusely
  • Stomach pain or abdominal cramping
  • Tingling sensation or numbness
  • Apprehension of imminent peril
  • Intense fear of losing power or passing away

The overwhelming worry that you will have another attack is a particularly unfortunate aspect of panic disorder. Your anxiety about having a panic attack may cause you to avoid circumstances where one might develop. The good news is knowing these symptoms helps you know how to prevent panic attack.

What are some risk factors of a panic attack?

The likelihood of experiencing panic episodes or panic disorder may be influenced by the following:

Your family history: Panic disorder and other anxiety disorders run in families. If your sibling, kid, or parent has panic disorder, your risk of having the disorder is elevated by 40%.

Problems with one’s mental health: Panic attacks are more common in people who suffer from anxiety disorders, depression, or other mental health concerns.

Negative early experiences: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that occur between periods of 1 through 17 years. Generally speaking, these are painful experiences like childhood sexual or physical abuse. Anxiety and panic disorders may have an ACE connection.

Your risk of panic attacks is also high when there are:

  • Traumatic events, such as the passing of a dear one or a prolonged sickness, can significantly impact a person’s mental health.
  • An extremely distressing experience like sexual assault or a catastrophic accidents
  • Substantial shifts in your circumstances, such as marriage and parenthood.

Complications of panic attacks

You should get treatment immediately if you suffer from panic episodes or anxiety attacks. You may let your anxiety and worry about future attacks spoil your life.

Here are some of the consequences of panic attacks:

Immediate Effects

Some of the bodily signs of a panic episode are very obvious. A panic attack can cause a person to feel:

  • Muscle tension
  • Agonizing headaches
  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure

Patients with panic disorder often mistake the physical manifestations of their condition for actual heart attacks because of how severe they can be. These symptoms, moreover, can trigger an exacerbation of other chronic illnesses. For instance, a panic attack victim with asthma who is having trouble breathing could require an inhaler and seek emergency medical attention.

Patients can still experience the physical repercussions of a panic attack hours later. Muscle stress might cause them to feel achy or tired. Panic attacks, if left untreated for extended periods, can lead to less obvious but no less serious health issues.

A higher incidence of heart attacks

Anxiety and panic episodes are pretty hard on the heart because they cause elevated blood pressure and a faster heart rate. Thus, untreated anxiety increases the risk of heart attack and increases mortality.

A higher level of Stress Hormones

Adrenaline and cortisol, among other stress chemicals, are released in large quantities when someone is experiencing a panic attack or chronic worry. In some cases, these hormones prove helpful. Adrenaline, for instance, can provide the energy necessary to flee a physically threatening situation.

However, chronic exposure to high levels of adrenaline or cortisol might result in the following:

  • Accumulation of extra pounds
  • Mental deterioration
  • Problems with the immune system
  • Problems with the heart and blood vessels due to high blood pressure
  • Higher susceptibility to developing more mental disorders

Sleeplessness and other consequences

Not everyone who suffers from anxiety also experiences sleeplessness. But, anxiety is often a secondary symptom of sleeplessness. Sometimes anxiety leads to insomnia, which in turn heightens anxiety.

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The cumulative effects of poor sleep and stress can be extremely taxing on your body and mind, especially if it’s not treated in time, and they can lead to serious health issues like:

  • Less resistance to illness
  • Problems with thinking
  • Accumulation of extra pounds
  • Threat of more serious accidents

How to prevent panic attack

Your doctor should be able to help you figure out what sets off your panic episodes. It is possible to learn coping mechanisms and safeguards in psychotherapy to save you from having a panic or anxiety attack when a trigger event occurs. These measures may also help reduce the likelihood of panic attacks:

  • Go on a good eating plan for healthy life and make positive adjustments to your method of stress management.
  • Put down the alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee. These things can exacerbate panic attacks.
  • Regular physical activity is a great way to deal with stress, relax your muscles, and improve your mood.
  • Have a conversation with your doctor before using any OTC or natural treatments. Anxiety might be made worse by using certain drugs.

Interventions for Panic Attacks

Here’s what you should do if you or anybody else starts breathing quickly:

Practice deep breathing

Hyperventilation (shallow or fast breathing) is a common characteristic of panic attacks and can heighten anxiety; however, taking a few deep breaths can help alleviate the effects of panic attacks.

For instance, 40 people participated in the trial study on the impacts of diaphragmatic breathing, with half assigned to a therapeutic community that utilized deep breathing and the other half assigned to a control group. After the instruction, those who trained themselves to breathe deeply for 20 sessions reported greater focus and emotional stability

Also, a different set of scientists discovered the consequences of deep breathing. They theorized that it could alleviate arousal symptoms, including anxiety, despair, wrath, and bewilderment while enhancing sensations of rest, comfort, and attentiveness.

Suppose you can keep your breathing under control during a panic attack. In that case, you reduce your risk of hyperventilating, which can exacerbate your other symptoms and the attack itself. Therefore, pay attention as you inhale deeply with your nose and feel the air fill your lungs and stomach. Feel the breath leave your body as you exhale gently through your mouth.  

Consult a therapist

Many people who suffer from panic attacks or anxiety disorders find relief through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), amongst other forms of counseling treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) aims to help people deal with difficult or frightening events by re-framing their perspectives and teaching them new coping mechanisms.

CBT is widely available for a wide range of patient populations, delivery modes (online or in-person), and time commitments (from brief to in-depth). A therapist using exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy will gradually increase the patient’s exposure to stimuli known to trigger panic attacks.

Besides, some research suggests that CBT may also modify neural brain circuits that contribute to panic attacks and behavior.

Understand and recognize your panic attack symptoms

Being aware that you are experiencing a panic attack rather than a heart attack will help you reassure yourself that the feeling will subside and that you are fine.

Therefore, stop worrying that you are about to die or that something terrible is about to happen. By doing so, you can focus on alternative methods of relieving your symptoms.

Engage in Mindful Activity

Meditating on the present moment might help you feel more connected to the world. It can help you deal with an oncoming or ongoing panic attack by restoring your sense of connection to the world, which can feel distant during a panic attack.

Being mindful entails:

  • Maintaining your focus firmly on the present moment
  • Acknowledgment of one’s current emotional condition
  • Decreasing anxiety and easing tension through meditation

So, how best can you practice mindfulness? Think about the familiar sensations in your body, like the ground beneath your feet or the fabric of your pants against your palms. You may rely on these feelings to bring you back to earth and provide a focal point entirely detached from your emotions.

In 2015, American Family Physician suggested mindfulness as a method for coping with panic and anxiety, citing its potential efficacy in lowering stress levels on par with cognitive behavioral therapy and other behavioral interventions.

Practice deep muscular relaxation

Tension in the muscles is a common sign of anxiety and learning to relax your muscles before an attack can help you feel better and calm down faster. Progressive muscle relaxation aims to reduce stress throughout the body by easing tension in certain muscle groups at a time.

In other words, deep and slow breathing or muscular relaxation techniques allow you to take control of your body’s response and end your panic episode immediately.

At home, you can begin the muscle relaxation process by concentrating on relaxing each muscle group in turn. However, the best results will be achieved after the extensive practice of these methods.

Shut your eyes for a moment

Overwhelming triggers can be the cause of your panic attack. Besides, some anxiety might worsen in a high-stress setting with many distractions.

Keep your eyes closed during a panic episode to lessen the impact of outside stimuli. It might help you tune out distractions and concentrate on your breathing.

Think of a place that makes you joyful

Anxiety and tension can be eased with the aid of guided imagery. Several studies have shown that both direct exposure to nature and mental imagery of natural settings can effectively treat and manage anxiety.

Where in the world do you think you could go to unwind completely? A warm, sunny shore with soothing waves? A rustic lodge in the woods? Therefore, put yourself in the situation and consider as many specifics as possible.

Do some low-impact exercises

Exercising regularly has been shown to have positive effects on mental health as well as physical and heart health.

Discuss with your physician before beginning an exercise routine if you have never done so before. Those who suffer from anxiety disorders may experience a worsening of their symptoms if they suddenly start engaging in a cardiovascular activity again.

So, take it slow at first to help your body get used to the increased activity and prevent respiratory issues later on.

Use prescription drugs

Benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax) can aid treatment of panic attacks.

However, these can develop into dependency and won’t help treat an actual anxiety issue. Because of this, they are only advised for usage in extreme situations and for a limited amount of time.

Sometimes a doctor will recommend antidepressants for extended periods. Some examples are:

  • Anti-anxiety medications like azapirone (Buspirone)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

How can you assist a person experiencing a panic attack?

You can do a few things to aid a friend or loved one experiencing a panic attack.

  • Don’t lose your cool, and stay by their side.
  • Probe them to find out what they require.
  • Use brief, easy-to-understand sentences.
  • Keep their attention on the present
  • Help them develop the habit of deep breathing
  • Help them feel safe again by assuring them that the attack will not last forever


Countless people suffer from panic attacks, characterized by an overwhelming sense of fear and helplessness amid an unknown trigger. It’s terrifying because you might feel short of breath or like you’re experiencing a heart attack. Fortunately, there are strategies to prevent panic attacks, which can have a substantial negative impact on your life. Your doctor may recommend a series of panic attack treatment and management plans like counseling, meditation, medications, exercise, and some muscle relaxation techniques.