If life in danger call Triple Zero 000
If life in danger call Triple Zero 000

Panic Attacks

A panic attack can be a frightening and unsettling experience. Remember that you are not alone and there is help available.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a sudden rush of intense anxiety or fear together with a surge of frightening physical sensations and thoughts. They can occur frequently and unexpectedly and are not necessarily related to any external threat.

The way people experience panic attacks will vary from person to person, but some common signs of a panic attack are:

  • Pounding heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nausea or stomach pain
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Feeling out of physical and/or emotional control
  • Sweating, shaking
  • Numbness, tingling
  • Dizziness or feeling faint

Panic attacks are usually brief but may be frightening while they last.

Below are some suggestions on how to cope during a panic attack.

  1. Try not to fight what you are feeling. Often fighting the feelings or pushing them away can actually increase your fear of panic. Try to accept your experience and remind yourself that you are experiencing extreme anxiety that is most likely out of proportion to any actual danger.
  2. Practice relaxation techniques such as breathing control (for example slow breathing) if these have been helpful for you in the past.
  3. Reassure yourself that this will pass and if you have experienced a panic attack before, remind yourself of how you got through it.
  4. Give yourself time. Try not to rush through the panic attack. Some people find it helpful to think of panic as similar to ‘surfing a wave’ – it builds up, peaks, and then washes up on the beach. When you are ready, simply go back to what you were doing.

It can be very difficult to know what to do and how to cope, but help is available. Below are some places to go for information and support. If life is in danger, please call 000.

  • Beyond Blue - a free helpline provides advice and support via telephone - 1300 22 4636 and Beyond Blue - Web Chat (between 3pm-12am)
  • Mindspot Clinic - provides free, anonymous assessment and treatment for adults experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and chronic pain. mindspot.com.au
  • MyCompass - a free online self-help tool for mental health including anxiety -  mycompass.org.au
  • This Way Up - online, evidence-based CBT course for generalised anxiety, panic disorder, social phobia, specific phobias and trauma. You can get instant access for $59 or speak with your GP to enrol for free. thiswayup.org.au/self-help
  • The Brave Program - a free online program for the prevention and treatment of childhood and adolescent anxiety. BRAVE Self-Help Program (uq.edu.au)


For Crisis Support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, chat with us online at lifeline.org.au or text us on 0477 13 11 14. Lifeline services are available 24/7.