A panic attack is a sudden situation when you feel overwhelming fear, discomfort and get a sense of losing control of everything, even though there is no apparent danger. These attacks occur abruptly and without any warning. The symptoms of a panic attack might feel like a heart attack.
These attacks are usually of short duration and reach their peak in about 10 minutes or less. The typical length can be anywhere between a few minutes and up to 30, and repeated attacks might recur for the coming hours after the initial one.
Here are all the things you need to know about the duration of a panic attack and how you can prevent it or cope with its occurrence.
What is the longest a panic attack can last?
You might feel like your attacks are lasting for an eternity when you have them, but generally, these last only for a few minutes at a time. At around 10 minutes from the start of the attack, you can experience the most severe symptoms. These symptoms start to fade away after this point.
While 10 minutes is the average duration for symptoms to peak during a panic attack, some attacks can last longer or shorter. Most research found that a typical attack lasts upto 30 minutes, but some people have experienced attacks that lasted for hours or even days. A person can also have multiple attacks that occur in succession for numerous hours or longer.
Experts do not consider the situation where the symptoms do not peak within 10 minutes to be a panic attack, as panic attacks refer to a sudden onset of fear. Instead, these long episodes of increased anxiousness are called high anxiety. Though a person might go through an uncomfortable and unpleasant ordeal, they might not diagnose a panic attack.
Can symptoms of panic attacks stay present for long?
Some of the typical signs of a panic attack might include:
- Racing heart
- Fear of dying or losing control
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach discomfort
While experiencing a panic attack, a person can feel some or all of these symptoms. The feeling starts suddenly and out of nowhere and then gradually withers down.
After the peak point of the attack, the physical symptoms are the first to dissipate. But, depending on the level of anxiety you have, you might continue to experience discomfort like hyperventilating and abdominal and chest pain. People also feel tired or tension in their muscles after the passing of the attack.
Though the physical symptoms begin to subside right after the attack, the psychological symptoms remain for an extended period. The feeling of general anxiety lasts substantially long after the attack, and you might still worry about not having control. The pain a person experience during the attack can also induce a fear of death in them, which might persist until they visit a doctor.
There is also a destructive relationship between having a panic disorder and experiencing panic attacks. People with this condition may obsess about having another panic attack, increasing their anxiety and affecting their quality of life.
What are some coping mechanisms for a panic attack?
The most important thing to remember while experiencing a panic attack is to breathe. A significant sign of a panic attack is hyperventilation, and normalizing the breathing can quickly calm your body down.
The best way to control your breath is to take one deep breath in and a deep breath out, then count up to 10 and start the process all over again. Repeat this process until your breathing comes back to normal.
Following things can help cope with a panic attack:
- Finding an object to focus on
- Repeating a mantra
- Practicing muscle relaxation
- Recognizing what you are experiencing in a panic attack
Can you prevent a panic attack?
It is not necessary to live in fear of a panic attack for a person having panic disorder. There are several tools and techniques at your disposal that will help you manage the seizures and often prevent them.
A good idea to avoid a panic attack will be to create a plan to make you feel more in control. If you make a plan in anticipation of a panic attack, it will become easier for you to shorten the duration and frequency of the attacks.
You can include the following things into your plan:
- Practice a deep breathing exercise
- Do a progressive muscle relaxation exercise
- Read about panic attacks
- Find resources that help you rationalize the fear of dying
- Keep a list of mantras on your phone or in a notebook that you can quickly access. These mantras can be anything like “all is well.”
It would be best if you asked for support from your family, friends, or coworkers. Let them know about your plan and coping mechanism and when you are in a situation that can trigger an attack.
You can show your partner or roommate some relaxation techniques that work for you to try when you are having an attack. You can inform a coworker or your boss when you have a panic attack. While sharing this info might feel scary, doing so can make your workplace feel safer.
Some other ways to prevent panic attacks include:
- Learning about anxiety and panic attacks: Knowing more about the attacks can help you become more aware of the symptoms. This knowledge makes you feel more in control and reduce the duration of the attacks.
- Practicing relaxation techniques: Breathing exercise, meditation, and muscle relaxation can significantly help in reducing the chances or frequency of a panic attack. It is essential to learn these things if you anticipate a spell to better prepare for it.
- Regular Exercise: It has positive effects on both the physical and mental health of a person. By exercising regularly, you can prepare your mind and body to better deal with the symptoms of an attack like a racing heart, sweating, rapid breathing.
- Get enough sleep: Not getting the required sleep also contribute to the worsening of anxiety level. It is essential to maintain a good sleeping schedule to avoid panic attacks.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and smoking: These substances are known to increase the level of anxiety. If you experience an elevated anxiety level after consuming coffee or drinking or smoking, it will be best to avoid these substances.
When to visit a doctor?
It can be a terrifying experience to have a panic attack for the first time. But, just having an attack does not mean you have panic disorder. There are plenty of reasons for experiencing a panic attack apart from mental illness.
You should reach out to a doctor when:
- You have multiple panic attacks
- You feel anxious all the time without any good reason
- It is hard for you to cope with the symptoms
There are multiple options available for treatment. The doctor can help you prepare a plan on starting the therapy and talk with you to assess what might work best for you. They might also run some tests to evaluate your overall health.
Getting checked by a professional can lead to great satisfaction and can give you peace of mind. The medical report can also act as a deterrent for a panic attack, as it can mentally prepare you to take on the worries and fear.
Panic attacks can occur out of the blue without any warning. These can make a person very uncomfortable, but these attacks don’t last forever. Usually, it peaks at around 10 minutes and starts to fade away.
You might need to seek professional health if anxiety symptoms begin to interfere with your day-to-day life. The people who get treatment for their condition generally report achieving remission within six months.