Panic Attacks

Do you ever feel like your heart is beating fast and your mind is racing with a million thoughts?

You may feel your breathing has become very fast or very slow and that everything around you feels different. You might feel that something bad is going to happen but may not know why.

Some thoughts of not feeling quite ourselves may have surfaced. Those thoughts can include for example: ‘Why do I feel like this?’, ‘Why am I thinking about this, and all right now?’. Sometimes, you can feel like those unfamiliar thoughts are turning into feelings. They may feel physical and unpleasant like you are sweating or experiencing nausea or a shortness of breath.

At the end of it all, you might feel exhausted. You might think: ‘What happened to me just now?’ or ‘Why is does this happen to me lately?’

These feelings can bring discomfort and self-doubt and happen unexpectedly during a calm or anxious state of mind. Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Many of us have experienced what you’ve felt. What you’ve gone through doesn’t mean you have an illness. And yes, it is completely normal to worry about what you’ve just experienced or have been experiencing and seek help. What you have experienced is called a panic attack.

It can feel like...

Mine are like I can’t stand up, I can’t speak. All I feel is an intense amount of pain all over, like something is just squeezing me into this little ball. If it is really bad I can’t breathe, I start to hyperventilate and I throw up.”
- Taken From HuffPost USA
“It feels like you’re going to die. Your airways close up. Your head spins. You collapse. Imagine not being to take a breath freely. It’s so scary.”
- Nadiya Hussain reveals the reality of living with panic attacks in Stylist magazine
“You would have no clue how your body will react next, you might be having a normal day and suddenly your heart rate shoots up. You are unable to breathe. Your body is shaking and the room starts spinning. You feel as if this is the end, this is death. Unable to help yourself, unable to explain your situation to others.”
- Mehreen Nadir

People often refer to panic attacks and anxiety interchangeably, or think it’s the same thing. It’s important for you to know the difference in order to get the support you need. This infographic is quite useful.

You may have an anxiety attack in anticipation of a stressful event, situation or experience. Whilst the symptoms are similar to those listed above, the attack should go away when the stress does.

Although the physical and emotional symptoms might feel similar, a panic attack is more complex: it’s not predictable and it might not always be provoked by a stressor. It can also feel completely terrifying, and you may experience more intense physical symptoms compared to an anxiety attack. It might also trigger a worry or fear about having another attack which makes living with panic attacks hard.


A panic attack is a period of intense fear or discomfort that starts very quickly and reaches a peak within minutes. It mostly last less than ten minutes. If you are experiencing a panic attack you can experience some the following symptoms:

Disclaimer: This guide has not been put together by mental health professionals. It is not intended to be medical advice. It has been crowdsourced by survivors and volunteers of Chayn. Care has been taken in reflecting the experiences and knowledge of people around the world, including therapists but information in this guide should be taken instead of certified medical advice. Please seek professional support.

Getting better & moving on: A guide for mental healing after abuse and trauma by CHAYN is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.