How Long Do Panic Attacks Last? Does Severity Make A Difference?

Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC

Published 12/10/2020

So many people in the world are dealing with extreme stress levels right now. There seem to be more people suffering from anxiety issues and depression problems than normal. Even in typical times, anxiety can be very problematic and prevalent. If you have really bad anxiety issues, then you might even get panic attacks from time to time. Panic attacks can really make you feel like you’re in mortal danger when you have them, and you might wish that you could just figure out a way to make them stop.

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How Long Do Panic Attacks Last?

How long can a panic attack last, though? Well, most reports indicate that a panic attack will last between five and twenty minutes, but that’s just for a typical panic attack. When you’re dealing with severe panic disorder issues, it’s possible that you could have panic attacks that will last for hours. Thankfully, most people who get panic attacks will not have to deal with attacks that last for hours at a time, but it’s going to be problematic even when the panic attacks are only lasting for five minutes or so. The severity of your panic disorder can make a difference when it comes to how intense your panic attacks are, but you’re going to be able to get help either way.

What Does A Panic Attack Feel Like?

When it comes to figuring out what a panic attack feels like, you’re going to find that some people will have different descriptions. There are people who have panic attacks that feel very much like heart attacks. They will get chest pain, feel short of breath, and sometimes they will even sweat profusely. Others will feel like they’re having a severe asthma attack when they’re going through a panic attack. The symptoms of an anxiety attack can differ from person to person more than many realize.

Some symptoms of a standard anxiety attack will include things such as nervous feelings, feeling as if you’re in danger, rapid breathing, sweating, shaking, feelings of weakness, having trouble concentrating, not being able to sleep, issues with bowel movements, and feeling as if you need to hide yourself. Many experts differentiate severe attacks from standard attacks by calling the severe issues panic attacks. Most people use the terms anxiety attack and panic attack interchangeably, but panic attacks are generally considered to be more severe.

When someone has been diagnosed with panic disorder, they might have more panic attacks than usual. The severity of the panic attacks will ratchet up much quicker than they do with standard anxiety attacks as well. As noted earlier, severe panic attacks have the potential to last for a longer time, too. These are the types of panic attacks that can last for hours, but not everyone with panic disorder will have such severe attacks to worry about. The symptoms can be more consistent with those “false heart attack” feelings described earlier, too. It’s very disconcerting to feel this way.

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How Often Do Panic Attacks Happen

If you’re wondering how often panic attacks happen, then you should know that it really depends. People who get anxiety attacks might only experience them in particular situations. For example, someone could have an anxiety attack when they are placed in a large crowd of people. Many individuals need some type of trigger event to occur to respond to an anxiety attack response. This isn’t the case for everybody, though, and some people have more serious trouble with these panic attacks.

Those with a more severe panic disorder might get panic attacks at least a few times per month. There are even people who have issues so bad that they will have to deal with panic attacks multiple times per week. Because of the fact that things can vary so much from person to person, it isn’t possible to give you a concrete answer to how often panic attacks happen. Just know that they can happen infrequently for some people and very frequently for others.

Avoid Anxiety Triggers to Avoid Panic Attacks

One good way to keep anxiety attacks from happening too often is to try to avoid situations that cause you to panic. You should be able to recognize certain situations as “anxiety triggers” if you think about what seems to set you off. For example, you might have more problems when you go out into public by yourself. Perhaps it’d be easier for you to avoid anxiety attacks if you went out with a trusted friend by your side instead. It can be a bit annoying to avoid certain situations, but it might be best to do this while you’re trying to figure out your anxiety issues and panic disorder symptoms. Avoiding triggers isn’t a long term solution, but rather one to use while you’re working to understand your anxiety and its triggers.

If you can get good at recognizing your own anxiety triggers, then you’ll be much less likely to have as many problems. Granted, some people have panic attacks without much warning, but you can still avoid situations that make you feel unsafe. while you work to understand triggers and learn coping skills. Sometimes it may be impossible to avoid triggering situations, which is why it is imperative to talk with a therapist or doctor about what you’re experiencing.

How Can You Stop Panic Attacks?

There are a few methods that can be utilized to try to stop panic attacks. Many people experiencing panic first go to their regular doctors due to the physical symptoms involved. It is a good idea to get cleared of having physical issues. Your doctor may diagnose you with an anxiety or panic disorder, or they may refer you to a mental health professional for assessment and diagnosis.

If you want to make sure that you’re having anxiety issues before seeing your doctor, it might set your mind at ease to take a simple panic disorder test. Many people use tests like this as a gauge to determine how bad their anxiety is. If you answer the questions honestly, then it’ll give you an indication of how tough things are for you right now. This isn’t a way to diagnose yourself with anxiety, but it can help you to decide to make an appointment with your doctor or therapist.

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Once you have been diagnosed, you’ll be able to work with your doctor or therapist to get your mental health in a better place. Some people just need to address anxiety issues so that they can get the panic attacks to go away. There are anti-anxiety medications that can work very well to help you manage anxiety disorders. Many anxiety medications are great for helping to lessen the severity of anxiety attacks or take them away. How well medications will be able to help you with your panic disorder depends on many factors.

You might have an easy time getting your panic disorder under control with the right medicine. Some people still have significant problems even with medication, each person is different. It’s all about having an open and honest discussion with your physician. Over time, you can get better at managing this problematic condition. Your doctor might suggest having you go to see a therapist to try to get your panic disorder under control as well or you may prefer to see a therapist instead of utilizing medications.

Therapy Helps Many People With Panic Attacks

Therapy helps many people who are struggling with anxiety issues and panic disorder. You can start to work through your problems when you have a dedicated therapist on your side. Working with a therapist is great and it can help you to better understand your anxiety issues. Coming to terms with why you’re feeling anxiety is a good way to help you learn how to control it. Eventually, you might get to a point where your severe panic attacks will become milder.

When you have a mild panic attack and need someone to turn to, it’ll be possible to talk to your therapist. Therapists are great at helping people to feel calmer when they’re going through tough times. Best of all, you have the option of pursuing online therapy now that can be as convenient as possible. This means that getting help for your anxiety issues and panic disorder will be easier than ever. You can get assistance without even having to leave the comfort of your own home.

Therapists can help you to develop coping mechanisms that will make dealing with anxiety attacks in the moment much simpler. If you can develop certain grounding techniques, you might get through your day without having so many severe issues. Techniques like this can involve breathing techniques to help yourself calm down or meditative techniques. Over time, your therapist will be happy to work with you to come up with the best methods for getting through anxiety attacks. If you have been dealing with anxiety by yourself all this time, then this is going to make a difference in your life.