Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Panic attack

3-minute read

What is a panic attack?

Panic attack symptoms can strike at any time. They come on very rapidly and usually peak within a few minutes. Symptoms often include:

What causes a panic attack?

Panic attacks are very common, with up to 40% of Australians experiencing a panic attack at some stage in their life. During a panic episode, someone is overwhelmed and disabled by the physical symptoms listed above. The panic reaches its peak after about 10 minutes and can take up to half an hour to subside. A panic episode leaves the person feeling temporarily exhausted and drained. While common and debilitating, panic attacks are distinct from but a feature of panic disorder.

Panic attacks can be caused by:

  • chronic, persistent stress
  • genetics
  • a temperament that is sensitive to stress or negative emotions
  • changes in the way your brain functions.

Treating and preventing panic attacks

There are self-help, psychological and medical options available to treat and avoid panic attacks. Panic is associated with anxiety and the treatments are similar. During a panic attack:

  • Avoid ‘self-talk’ that focuses your attention on your symptoms – don’t tell yourself to ‘stop panicking!’
  • Reassure yourself that the symptoms of a panic attack are uncomfortable but not life threatening.
  • Focus your attention on something outside your own body and symptoms. For example, try to recall the words to your favourite song or concentrate on the sights and sounds around you.
  • Fleeing from the situation will confirm your fear that your panic symptoms are unbearable. Try to sit and allow the symptoms to pass and get confidence in your ability to cope.

Where to get help

If you need help, talking to your doctor is a good place to start. If you’d like to find out more or talk to someone else, here are some organisations that can help:

  • MindSpot Clinic (anyone suffering from anxiety or depression) - call 1800 61 44 34.
  • beyondblue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) - call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
  • Black Dog Institute (people affected by depression and extreme mood swings) - online help.
  • Lifeline (anyone experiencing a crisis or thinking about suicide) - call 13 11 14 or chat online.
  • Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) - call 1300 659 467.

 

Last reviewed: August 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 187 results

Panic Attacks

Lifeline is a trusted national charity that has been saving lives for more 50 years. Lifeline works to prevent suicide through a range of crisis support services including its national telephone crisis support line, 13 11 14, operating 24/7 and Online Crisis Support Chat that is available every night.

Read more on Lifeline website

Tool Kit: Panic Attacks

A self-help resource to help people experiencing panic attacks

Read more on Lifeline website

Panic attack - Better Health Channel

Without treatment, frequent and prolonged panic attacks can be severely disabling.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

How To Deal with Panic Attacks and Agoraphobia | THIS WAY UP

Feeling overwhelmed by panic? You may be dealing with panic attacks, panic disorder, or agoraphobia. Learn more about these conditions.

Read more on This Way Up website

What are panic attacks? | Anxiety | ReachOut Australia

Learn about the various symptoms of a panic attack and what you can do to manage them.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Childhood phobias, panic attacks & PTSD | Raising Children Network

Children often have phobias about the dark, storms, dogs, spiders and clowns. Panic attacks are quite rare. Post-traumatic stress is a reaction to trauma.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Panic disorder

Panic disorder is the term used to describe when panic attacks are recurrent and disabling

Read more on beyondblue website

Online Course and App for Panic Disorder (Agoraphobia) | THIS WAY UP

This Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course from This Way Up will help you learn to combat panic attacks, panic disorder, and agoraphobia.

Read more on This Way Up website

What is agoraphobia? | Anxiety | ReachOut Australia

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder characterised by a fear of having a panic attack in a situation that is difficult to escape from or where help may not be available.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Grounding and breathing techniques help trauma survivors

Controlled breathing techniques and thought distraction strategies help adult survivors of childhood trauma manage emotions and reduce panic attacks.

Read more on Blue Knot Foundation website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback