What Should You Do During a Panic Attack?

A woman putting her hand to her chest as she experiences a panic attack.When a panic attack strikes, it can be difficult to think clearly. Panic attacks can occur suddenly and without warning, causing a feeling of intense fear as well as symptoms that may resemble other medical emergencies, such as heart attacks. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid or pounding heartbeat
  • Hot flashes and sweating
  • Numbness or tingling

While they are not necessarily dangerous to your physical health on their own, panic attacks can have a detrimental effect on your mental health, especially if they become worse or more frequent over time. If you experience one, there are certain steps you should take to get through it and improve your ability to prevent future attacks:

When in doubt, go to the emergency room: The symptoms of panic attacks are similar enough to other serious medical conditions that it may be very difficult for you to distinguish between them in the moment. The safest option is to call 911 and get to the emergency room immediately. If no signs of a heart attack or other medical emergency are found during your visit, it’s more likely that what you experienced was a panic attack.

Get a friend or family member’s help: During a panic attack, you may find it difficult to calm down or communicate clearly, so it’s important to have a friend or family member with you who can help. This person should be able to get you anything you might need while experiencing the panic attack, such as water or a quiet space to yourself, and help you communicate with any healthcare providers who treat you.

Practice deep breathing exercises: Many people hyperventilate during a panic attack, meaning that they breathe too rapidly; this can cause symptoms to worsen and increase the sense of fear that occurs during an attack. Slower, deeper, rhythmic breathing can help reduce these symptoms and make them easier to cope with.

If you experience a panic attack, it’s important to visit a psychiatrist as soon as possible to receive treatment that can reduce the severity and frequency of future attacks. You can schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Mental Health Clinic by calling (718) 206-5575.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.