Panic or Anxiety Attacks

Panic or Anxiety Attacks

Panic attacks are sudden attacks of extreme anxiety that give people intense feelings of fear, stress or excitement.

The attacks are often triggered by anxious or stressful situations. Most panic attacks last between five and 20 minutes.

During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you're:

  • Losing control.
  • Going to faint.
  • Having a heart attack.
  • Going to die.
  • Common Experiences of Panic Attacks
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Physical shakes, tremors or palpations.
  • Breaking out in chills or sweats.
  • Feeling sick, faint or dizzy.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Difficulty swallowing, or feeling a large uncomfortable lump in your throat.
  • Racing heart.
  • Feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings (these are types of dissociation – see our pages on dissociative disorders for more information).

Panic attacks can be frightening, but there are things you can do to help yourself cope. Here are some things you can try to help with anxiety, fear and panic. (

Personal Stories

“I started having panic attacks about three or four years ago. At the time I felt really lonely, and wasn’t sure how other people would react to how I was feeling."

“I was lucky that I had some friends and family who were supportive, however there were definitely people who couldn’t or wouldn’t understand how I was feeling. When my panic attacks were at their worst I was unable to leave the house.

“I got the feeling from some people, that they were thinking – ‘well why can’t you get out of the house, you are perfectly ‘healthy?’’. I felt that people on the outside looking in would have not have understood how I was feeling, and that would make me feel even more isolated."

– Heather McCartney

 Read Heather's story here

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