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How to spot: panic attacks

by Amanda Collins

A panic attack can be absolutely crippling for the sufferer, but for those looking on, it can seem confusing, scary or strange. But the fantastic news is that panic attacks are treatable, and with the right tools they can be minimised and even cured.

Getting help for anxiety and learning how to manage an attack can make a world of difference, not only during the attack, but for your life in general.

So what is a panic attack and what is the best way to spot one?

cure panic attacks

Panic attacks: what you need to know

A panic attack is pure fear. The sufferer may just be going about their daily business, then bam! they are struck with an overwhelming sense of panic.

They may just be lying on the couch watching TV when their body and mind start to react as if they are in a life or death situation.

Their heart races, they start sweating, they can’t seem to breathe properly; some sufferers think that they are dying, and some sufferers think that they are going insane. And the kicker is, once the fear starts, it feeds on itself until the panic has run its course.

An attack can last anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours, and it can be triggered by a thought, by an environment (like a plane) or sometimes, by nothing at all – it will just strike out of the blue.

So, to help you spot a panic attack in yourself, or in someone that you know, use the list of symptoms below.

Be aware that a panic attack will not necessarily have all these symptoms, it may only have a few, or it may have them all.

Panic attack symptoms


  • Strong dread
  • A feeling of unreality, or separation from the immediate environment
  • Extreme fear
  • A feeling of going crazy
  • A feeling of loss of control
  • A feeling of choking
  • The feeling that you are dying


  • Restlessness
  • Pacing
  • A need to escape


  • Trembling
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling along the limbs
  • Hot flushes
  • A tight chest
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Stomach upset
  • Dry mouth
  • Tense muscles
  • Heart palpitations
  • Vision troubles, such as tunnel vision
  • Ringing in the ears or temporary hearing loss
  • Difficulty swallowing

If you think you, or someone that you know, may have suffered a panic attack, or may be prone to panic attacks, find out how to get help here.

Be a calming influence on others

If you’re a good listener and looking for a career where you can help others, a counselling course could give you the skills to start a new career. Study online in your own time and start making a real difference in peoples lives.

2 Responses

  1. Barry Hunter says:

    Having been diagnosed with PTSD/ Ongoing Anxiety & Stress Disorder,
    all due to Bullying & Harassment in the Workplace,
    and for all of which you have battle with Bureaucratic bullshit with-out any road signage to direct you to ‘what/how/where/who & why’ – makes life a bit interesting to say the least,
    Guess what I’m saying is;- ‘I’m dealing with all this in my life and I’d like to learn more about all of this, and if possible – maybe even contribute to learning of this subject’

    • Sarah MacDiarmid says:

      Hi Barry, thanks for getting in touch and for being so open with your experiences. Have you had a look at the other articles within our Mental Health Matters series? It’s full of really useful content and resources should you need some help.

      We offer the CHC43315 Certificate IV in Mental Health, here is the link which contains detailed information about the course: The CHC43315 Certificate IV in Mental Health would suit to those who are looking to develop specialist skills to work with clients who face challenges with their mental health. It would also appeal to those who have some work or volunteer experience in community services or health and want to branch out into mental health work.

      For even more information and a detailed description of the course, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of the page to receive a free course guide. You can either enrol online by clicking ‘Enrol Now’ or you can have a chat with one of our Enrolment Consultants who can give you more information about the course and discuss current promotions and pricing plans. They can be reached on 1300 365 137, or click this link

      All the best, Sarah, Open Colleges team

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