Panic Attacks

A panic attack can be frightening and unsettling experience. You are not alone and there is help available.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a sudden rush of intense anxiety or fear together with a surge of frightening physical sensations. Panic attacks can include a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling, and muscle tension. They can occur frequently and unexpectedly and are often not related to any external threat.

The way people experience panic attacks will vary from person to person but some common signs of a panic attack are:

  • Pounding heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Feeling out of physical and/or emotional control
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sweating
  • Numbness, tingling

Panic attacks are usually brief but may be terrifying while they last. They can often come on unexpectedly, which makes them even scarier, and are often not related to any external threat.

Below are some suggestions on how to cope during a panic attack.

  1. Try not to fight what you are feeling. Often fighting the feelings or pushing them away can actually increase your fear of panic, giving it more power. Accept your experience and remind yourself that you are experiencing extreme anxiety that is most likely out of proportion to any actual danger.
  2. Practice relaxation techniques such as breathing control (for example slow breathing) and meditation if these have been helpful for you in the past.
  3. Reassure yourself that this will pass and if you have experienced a panic attack before, remind yourself of how you got through it.
  4. Give yourself time. Try not to rush through the panic attack. Some people find it helpful to think of panic as similar to ‘surfing a wave’ – it builds up, peaks, and then washes up on the beach. When you are ready, simply go back to what you were doing

It can be very difficult to know what to do and how to cope, but help is available. Below are some places to go for information and support. If life is in danger, please call 000.

  • MyCompass – online self-help tool for mental health including anxiety 
  • Mindspot 
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
  • This Way Up — clinician assisted online CBT course for generalised anxiety, panic disorder, social phobia, specific phobias, and trauma


For Crisis Support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24/7) or via text (12pm-midnight AEST) on 0477 13 11 14