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Coping with Panic Attacks

A panic attack is a sudden rush of physical symptoms, including shortness of breath, muscle spasms and nausea, along with uncontrollable anxiety and a sense of impending doom. People often visit the emergency room and call their doctors during a panic attack, only to receive test results that reveal nothing. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you can probably empathize with the frustration and hopelessness.

Recognize Panic Attack Symptoms

Familiarizing yourself with panic attack symptoms will help you feel in control. These symptoms differ between people, but here are some common ones:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Choking sensations and nausea
  • Shaking and sweating
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Chest pain and heartburn
  • Muscle spasms
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Tingling sensations in extremities
  • A fear of going crazy
  • A fear of dying or being seriously ill

Common Reactions to Panic

Your body is on alert

The brain sends a message to your body to protect it against perceived danger and your body prepares for the pseudo-emergency. The eyes may dilate to improve vision, your heart rate quickens to circulate blood faster to vital organs, breathing increases to get more oxygen to circulating blood and muscles tense in case you need to move quickly.

Your mind is stuck on fearful thoughts

Instead of reacting to solve the problem or remove yourself from the situation, you are stuck on the perceived threat and unable to let go of the fear.

Your breathing is rapid

During a panic attack, breathing rates increase so your body can absorb oxygen quickly in preparation for necessary action. During hyperventilation, your lungs exhale more carbon dioxide that your cells produce, causing carbon dioxide in your brain and blood to drop. This often causes dizziness and heart palpations and can cause further panic.

Techniques to Combat a Panic Attack

Relax your breathing and muscles

Place one hand on your upper-chest and other over your diagram. Take in a slow deep breath through your nose while counting to five; keep your hand on the chest while the other rises with your breath. When you reach the count of five, let the breath at slowly through your nose. Find a comfortable position to relax your muscles. Close your eyes and focus on your toes, your feet and your ankles; continue up your body, isolating each muscle group.


Walking is light aerobic exercise that produces endorphins. The fresh air and sunshine will also have a positive effect on your overall outlook. Find a quiet park or relaxing street and walk off the panic attack.

Yoga and stretching

These activities reduce muscle tension and help you regain composure. Lie flat on your back and bring a knee to your chest. Hold it there for 20 seconds with your hands, all while breathing deeply through your nose.