Panic Attacks: Causes, Symptoms and Coping Strategies

Panic attacks can be overwhelming experiences, but understanding their causes, symptoms and effective coping strategies can help individuals manage and overcome them. In this article, we will delve into this topic, providing valuable insights and actionable advice. Read on to discover how you can navigate panic attacks and take control of your life.

What is a Panic Attack? Exploring the Causes

Panic attacks are intense episodes of anxiety that occur when the mind and body perceive a potentially dangerous situation. This natural fight or flight response triggers the release of stress hormones, preparing us to react quickly. While this reaction can be helpful in genuinely threatening situations, it becomes problematic when it happens frequently or in non-threatening circumstances. Let’s explore the common causes of panic attacks:
  • Triggers: PA can be triggered by specific phobias, anxiety and depression, sleep disturbances, or substance abuse.
  • Thoughts and Memories: Sometimes, PA are induced by distressing thoughts or memories, causing a sudden surge of anxiety and fear.
  • Spontaneous Onset: PA can seemingly occur without any identifiable trigger, leaving individuals bewildered as to why they started.

Symptoms and Recognising the Signs

Recognising the symptoms is crucial for effective management of panic attacks. Although experiences may vary among individuals, some common signs include:
  • Hyperventilation: Rapid and shallow breathing leading to a tight chest and feelings of lightheadedness and disconnection from the surroundings.
  • Numbness and Tingling: Sensations of numbness or tingling in the fingertips, toes, mouth, and nose.
  • Excessive Sweating: Profuse sweating, often accompanied by a racing heart and difficulty breathing.
  • Feeling Detached: A sense of detachment from reality, as if one is physically present but emotionally distant.

Panic Attacks and Coping Strategies

Panic attacks can significantly impact a person’s life, but there are effective strategies for managing and overcoming them. By understanding the causes and seeking appropriate help, individuals can regain control over their well-being. Here are some ways to deal with PA:
  • Self-Help Techniques: Explore self-help resources available online. Engaging in relaxation exercises, learning breathing control techniques, and practicing mindfulness can aid in managing panic attacks. Practice these exercises daily to reduce anxiety levels and prevent panic.
  • Seeking Professional Help: Consult with healthcare practitioners, psychotherapists, or counsellors who have the adequate knowledge and experience of anxiety disorders. Talking therapies like psychodynamic psychotherapy and counselling are often recommended. These treatments can help individuals uncover underlying triggers and address negative thinking patterns.
  • Medication Options: In some cases, a healthcare provider may prescribe medication to complement therapy. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed antidepressants that can help alleviate panic symptoms. Benzodiazepines may be prescribed for short-term use in severe cases, but their addictive nature requires caution.
  • Support from Family and Friends: Loved ones can play a crucial role in supporting. A person supporting a friend or a family member who is experiencing panic attacks needs to be patient, understanding, and empathetic. It is crucial to avoid suggesting that they simply “snap out of it” and instead offer practical support, such as helping them practice breathing techniques and engaging in calming conversations.
  • Educate Yourself: Take the time to learn more about panic attacks and their treatment options. Understanding the challenges individuals face and the methods used to overcome these situations can help you provide better support. Encourage those who suffer to seek professional help and offer assistance in finding a suitable therapist or support group.
  • Gradual Exposure: Confront your fears gradually by exposing yourself to triggering situations in a controlled manner. This desensitisation process can help diminish the intensity of panic attacks.


Remember, overcoming panic attacks is a journey that requires persistence and patience. Setbacks may occur along the way, but with determination and support, individuals can rebuild their confidence and confront their fears. By implementing these strategies and seeking the appropriate help via therapy and counselling, individuals can gradually regain control of their lives and embrace a future free from the grip of panic attacks.
It is essential to remember that panic attacks, while distressing, are not life-threatening. By understanding the causes, recognising the symptoms, and implementing effective coping strategies, you can regain control over your life. With the right information and support, you can overcome these challenges and embark on a journey toward recovery and improved well-being.
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