Panic attacks are becoming more common, but it isn’t completely certain why. An attack is not just a momentary feeling of nervousness or stress; it is a sudden and intense episode of anxiety that often peaks within minutes. While the exact causes of these attacks are not fully understood, a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors may contribute to their onset. Find out more about the signs and physical symptoms of panic attacks and how to treat them.

Panic Attack Common Signs and Physical Symptoms

Many distinct signs crop up when you are having a panic attack. Each person will have their own cluster of symptoms that pop up as a warning sign that they are experiencing an anxiety attack.

Sudden Overwhelming Fear

The hallmark of a panic attack is a sudden and intense feeling of fear or dread. This overwhelming emotion can be paralyzing, making it difficult for the individual to think clearly.

Rapid Heartbeat (Palpitations)

Many people experiencing an attack report a significantly increased heart rate or palpitations. An increased heart rate can be distressing and contribute to a sense of impending doom.

Shortness of Breath or Hyperventilation

Panic attacks often involve rapid breathing or hyperventilation, leading to feelings of breathlessness or chest tightness. Shortness of breath can exacerbate anxiety and contribute to a cycle of panic.

Dizziness or Lightheadedness

An attack may cause sensations of dizziness or lightheadedness. Some individuals may even feel as though they are about to faint.

Trembling or Shaking

Physical symptoms such as trembling or shaking are common during a panic attack. These manifestations can be noticeable to others and contribute to feelings of embarrassment.


Excessive sweating is a common symptom of panic attacks. Sweating can lead to feelings of discomfort and may be accompanied by cold or clammy hands.

Chills or Hot Flashes

Individuals experiencing attacks may alternate between chills and hot flashes. These sudden changes in body temperature can be unsettling.

Chest Pain or Discomfort

Chest pain or discomfort is a common symptom during panic attacks. However, it’s essential to seek medical attention to rule out any underlying cardiac issues, as chest pain can also be a symptom of heart-related conditions.

Nausea or Abdominal Distress

Some people may experience nausea or abdominal discomfort during an attack. Nausea can contribute to feelings of unease and intensify the overall sense of panic.

Panic Attack Triggers

There are various reasons why panic attacks are triggered. It could be due to a high-stress incident, something that reminds you of a stressful situation, or just about anything.

Stress and Anxiety

High levels of stress and anxiety are common triggers for panic attacks. Everyday stressors, as well as significant life events, can contribute to the onset of an episode.

Trauma or Past Experiences

Individuals with a history of trauma or previous panic attacks may be more susceptible to future episodes. Certain situations and reminders of past trauma can act as triggers.


Specific phobias, such as fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) or fear of public speaking (social anxiety), can trigger attacks when individuals are exposed to their feared situations. Avoiding these situations or having strategies to cope with them is essential.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism or respiratory disorders, can contribute to the development of panic attacks. It’s crucial to rule out any underlying medical issues through a thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional.

Substance Use or Withdrawal

Certain substances, such as caffeine or stimulants, may contribute to attacks. Additionally, withdrawal from substances like alcohol or benzodiazepines can trigger anxiety and panic.

Panic Attack Treatment and Management Strategies

While you are in the midst of a panic attack, there isn’t much you can do besides breathing exercises. However, there are treatment strategies that can help you cope better with stress and trauma that can reduce the frequency of attacks.

Breathing Exercises

Controlled breathing exercises can help regulate breathing patterns during a panic attack. Techniques such as diaphragmatic or pursed lip breathing can effectively reduce hyperventilation and promote relaxation.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness practices, including meditation and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and sensations. Increased awareness may contribute to a sense of calm during a panic attack.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a therapeutic approach that focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns. Through CBT, individuals can learn to reframe anxious thoughts and develop coping strategies to manage attacks.


In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage panic attacks. Antidepressants, benzodiazepines, or beta-blockers are commonly used. However, their use should be carefully monitored by a healthcare professional due to potential side effects and dependency issues.

Professional Counseling

Seek the guidance of a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or counselor. They provide individuals with coping strategies and a supportive space to explore and address the root causes of panic attacks.

Lifestyle Modifications

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can contribute to overall mental well-being and reduce the frequency of panic attacks. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a balanced diet can positively impact mental health.

Support Groups

Joining a support group for individuals dealing with anxiety or panic disorders can provide a sense of community and understanding. Sharing experiences with others facing similar challenges can be validating and empowering.

Identify Triggers

Understanding and identifying specific triggers for panic attacks can be a crucial step in managing them. This awareness allows individuals to develop strategies for avoiding or coping with triggering situations.

Create a Relaxation Toolkit To Manage Your Next Panic Attack

Developing a toolkit of relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, or soothing music, can be beneficial in managing panic attacks. Having these tools readily available can provide a sense of control during an episode.

Comprehensive Wellness Centers can help you deal better with your next panic attack or panic disorder. You don’t have to face this challenge alone. We deliver personalized care designed to help you overcome mental health challenges. Set up a consultation with our team to get started on the recovery process.