Are panic attacks typical?

Even though our bodies have a natural alarm system that goes off when something is wrong to prepare us to handle emergency situations, having panic attacks is not typical. Usually, when we experience panic attacks, the alarm goes off without a real threat or problem.


Panic attacks can be triggered by specific situations, but a lot of times they seem to occur out of the blue. Most of us describe them as feeling as though a room is closing in on us, as if we can't breathe, or if we are about to die. Panic attacks include:

  • Feelings of imminent danger.
  • The need to escape.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling.
  • Shortness of breath or a smothering feeling.
  • Feeling of choking.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Sense of things being unreal.
  • Fear of losing control or "going crazy".
  • Fear of dying.
  • Tingling sensations across the body.
  • Chills or hot flushes.


Most of us who experience one panic attack don't experience more of them. However, for some of us this experience can be so unsettling that we can start to worry about having new attacks. It may be a cause of concern when such worries lead to the avoidance of places, activities, or situations where we may feel unsafe, as well as to an anxious anticipation that most times increases the chances of new attacks.


When should I pay special attention to panic attacks?

Those of us who face panic attacks and start fearing new ones usually develop an intense fear of the physical sensations associated with panic, such as elevated heart rates, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness, even when we are not having a panic attack. This apprehension increases our attention to those bodily reactions and the tendency to interpret them as signs of new attacks. This frequent apprehension leads to an increased sense of anxiety that makes us more prone to new attacks, maintaining a cycle.



Panic attacks are usually a sign that we are struggling, so they require attention and support whether they happen once, or recurrently. Early support can prevent the panic cycle to strengthen itself.


What can I do if I struggle with panic attacks?

It can be hard and frustrating to deal with panic attacks. If you understand that you struggle with them, there are a few things you may try:

  • Ask a trusted adult for help. Trusted adults are usually our caregivers, other family members, or someone else who is responsible for taking care of us. Let your trusted adults know about your difficulties. They can be helpful for assisting you and helping you get any additional help you may need.
  • Panic attacks don't last forever. Panic attacks usually last for about 10-15 minutes, but they can feel like a lifetime. Remember that, if you are having it, it will go away.
  • Take deep breaths. Focus your attention on your breathing and take deep breaths. Breathe in slowly counting to three, and then breathe out slowly also counting to three. You can also use the help and guidance of mobile apps.
  • Try distracting from anxious thoughts. When we are in the midst of a panic attack, we tend to be too focused on our own scary and anxious thoughts. Try to imagine a place that makes you feel happy or look around the room you are in and name what you see.
  • Try finding something relaxing that can relieve tension. One important symptom of panic attack is muscle tension. So, finding ways to relax, such as a warm bath, a few stretching exercises while taking deep breaths, and moving the body to release tension might be helpful.

When we learn how to manage our anxiety and prevent the occurrence of future panic attacks, it is important that we understand our triggers, and that anxiety responses are temporary and not all bodily sensations are signs of an attack. If you have tried some or most of these suggestions and the problems you are facing persists, it may be the moment to seek out professional support.

Panic attacks that are too frequent, intense, present in many different contexts, feared, and that negatively interfere with our daily lives, may indicate the possibility of Panic Disorder.


What kind of professional support can be sought out?

It is not unusual for us to feel embarrassed, inadequate, or guilty if we are struggling with panic attacks. But, if you think you are facing this difficulty, support and guidance are available now.

Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals. Also, whenever possible, a consultation with a mental health professional may be helpful.

The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).


Where to find more information

Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Panic Disorder can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].

If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.

You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.



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