Panic Attack Signs: What To Watch For, And When To Seek Help

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated August 2, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Tonia Cassaday , LISW

Just about anyone can suffer from a panic attack. It is important to know when this type of attack is severe or when it is something that you don’t need to worry about. Here’s a look at what a panic attack is, what it may mean is going on in your body, and information on what you can do to treat them.

Use Online Therapy To Manage Anxiety And Stop The Panic

What is a Panic Attack?

Panic attacks are attacks that come on suddenly and leave you feeling dread or fear. This can also make your heart race and leave you feeling like you don’t have control over your life. These unexpected panic attacks may have an underlying cause, or they might not.

There is a chance that anyone can have a panic attack in his or her life, so if you have one, there’s no reason to think that there is something wrong. Oftentimes, panic attacks aren’t caused by any type of disorder or condition, but by stress.

What Causes A Panic Attack?

A panic attack, as mentioned previously, may not have an actual cause. On the other hand, they can be caused due to being exposed to stress. If you are exposed to something that stresses you out or causes you to become scared, this may cause a panic attack.

Are They Serious?

Panic attacks are sometimes severe, and others times they are not. If you experience a panic attack with no other symptoms, there is a good chance that it isn’t a cause for concern.

If you do have other symptoms present, you may have panic disorder.

In specific circumstances, a panic attack should be considered serious. For example, it is possible to have a panic attack, which precedes a medical emergency, such as a heart attack. This is why the connection between coronary disease and panic disorder is currently being studied.

Panic Disorder

If you have experienced more than a couple of panic attacks in your life, you may have panic disorder. Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder, and it causes panic attacks, along with other symptoms that may be unwanted.

What should I watch for?

This is what to watch for when someone is experiencing panic. These symptoms are quite common when you have panic disorder or suffering a panic attack. Pay special attention to them.

  • Hard to breathe
  • Pain in your abdomen or chest
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Uncontrollable sweating
  • Chills
  • Racing heart
  • Tingling in extremities
  • Feeling detached from your body
  • Fearful feelings

Many people with panic disorder find themselves scared between their panic attacks due to the symptoms they cause. It can be very traumatic for you when you have this disorder. This can even lead to people developing agoraphobia, where they become unable to leave their houses.

Causes Of Panic Disorder

Certain things are thought to cause panic disorder, although the cause might be different for everyone.


Genes may play a role in whether you have panic disorder or not.  If you think you have this disorder, see if you can find out more about your family history to see if others in your family have suffered from the same symptoms.


We all know that stress is usually not good for you, especially if you experience too much of it. However, it can be next to impossible to rid your life of it completely. It is more important that you limit your stress, so it doesn’t cause negative consequences in your life. If left unchecked, it can cause panic attacks, as well as other health issues.

What things can trigger panic attacks?

It is thought that there are things that trigger panic attacks, although these likely change from person to person. A licensed therapist will be able to help you determine your triggers.

After you figure them out, it is necessary to stay away from them or limit these triggers greatly.

Things To Limit

There are certain risk factors that you should limit in your life to lessen your chances of a panic attack. It won’t be possible to limit all of them, so they may also be considered warning signs of a panic attack, in some cases.

  • Traumatic events. If you experience a traumatic event or are experiencing a medical problem of some sort, this can trigger you. This is not something that can always be avoided, so it can become difficult to cope if this happens to you.
  • Stressful events. Moments of intense stress can also be a major trigger. This includes things like the loss of a job or a death in your family. These things happen, and they can really turn your world upside down.
  • Smoking too much. You mustn’t smoke too much, as this may make you anxious and nervous, leading to unnecessary panic.
  • Drinking too much. Drinking too much is also something you’ll want to avoid, since it can lead to health problems or a dependency on alcohol, among other things.
  • Past abuse. When you have suffered abuse in the past, it may be more likely that you will develop panic attacks. You must have people around you that you can trust, so you won’t become hurt again or feel unsafe.
  • Big changes. Other major changes in your life can cause panic, as well. These include things like having a baby or moving to a new place.
  • Exposure to phobias. Anytime you are exposed to something you are scared of, it can cause a panic attack. When you can, try to stay away from things you are afraid of, especially if you have not started treatment yet. This can be hard to do completely, however, depending on what it is that scares you.

These are just some of the possible triggers that may come up, but there are undoubtedly more that may affect you.

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

Prevention Techniques

There are also a few other things you can do, which will help you calm down or prevent attacks. These include lowering your stress levels by relaxing and taking a minute to breathe when you need to. This small gesture may be able to take you out of a stressful situation for long enough to change your perspective.

Use Online Therapy To Manage Anxiety And Stop The Panic

You can also start exercising, which can allow you to work off some nervous energy, and it is also good for your health. Be sure to try to eat healthily and drink enough water.

Another thing that may help is looking around you when you feel a panic attack on the horizon. Since these attacks can cause you to feel detached, looking around and seeing reality may be able to keep your mind in check. If you can’t focus on everything around you, try to focus on one thing. This may be able to keep you grounded when your emotions are trying to work against you.

You want to make sure you are taking care of you and making healthy choices. These two factors can go a long way when it comes to your treatment working effectively. They won’t always work correctly, but they can make a difference during the healing process.

When Do I Need To Seek Help?

If you experience any of the symptoms above, this is the time when you should seek help. It is not easy to deal with panic disorder by yourself, and it is something that can get better when treated. Consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Treatments For Panic Attacks

You should always seek treatment for panic attacks when they continue to affect your life. You need to be able to live your life without being in constant fear of what the next one will feel like.

Two types of treatment are recommended for panic attacks, which are psychotherapy and medication.


This type of therapy allows you to talk to a professional about what you are feeling and how it is changing your life. This can be done by visiting a doctor’s office, or there are even online therapy services available that you may want to take advantage of.

If you do want to utilize an online therapy service, you can check out BetterHelp. Their experts are available to help each day, so they can assist you in working through your triggers, fears, and panic attacks.


In terms of prescription options for treating your panic attacks, there are multiple types that your doctor may suggest. The type that is right for you will have to be determined by your doctor. There may be other types of medicines that can help you as well, so it may take a while to find a drug that works for your symptoms. You should discuss potential medication options with your primary care provider.


Many people that are treated for panic disorder may see a decrease in their symptoms and attacks. In other words, they will see an improvement regarding this disorder. Research indicates that 90% of people can find repose from panic attacks if they seek treatment. This is a good thing, and maybe just the reason you need to seek treatment. You are unlikely to overcome your panic attacks if you don’t get the necessary treatment. Keep in mind that with the proper treatment (e.g., therapy), you will be in a better position to limit your risk factors and your triggers.

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