Panic attacks can be frightening and overwhelming experiences, often leaving individuals wondering whether they need medical attention. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what panic attacks are, how to cope with them, the difference between panic and anxiety attacks, common triggers, and how University Urgent Care can assist you in managing panic attacks and finding relief.

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a sudden and intense surge of fear or distress that often comes out of nowhere. The symptoms can be both physical and psychological, and they typically peak within a few minutes. Common symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Feelings of impending doom or terror
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea or stomach discomfort
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Numbness or tingling sensations

How Do You Cope with Panic Attacks?

Coping with panic attacks involves a combination of self-help strategies, lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, medical treatment. Here are some tips for managing panic attacks:

  1. Practice Deep Breathing: Deep and slow breaths can help calm your nervous system. Focus on your breath, inhaling for a count of four, holding for four, and exhaling for four.
  2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Tense and release each muscle group in your body, starting from your toes and moving upward.
  3. Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can help you stay in the present moment and reduce the intensity of panic attack symptoms.
  4. Regular Exercise: Physical activity can help reduce anxiety and stress, making you less prone to panic attacks.
  5. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Both substances can trigger or exacerbate panic attacks. Reducing or eliminating them from your diet may help.
  6. Get Adequate Sleep: Poor sleep can contribute to anxiety and panic attacks. Ensure you get enough rest each night.

What is the Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack?

While panic attacks and anxiety attacks share some similarities, they have distinct characteristics. Panic attacks are sudden, intense, and often reach their peak within minutes. They are usually accompanied by a sense of impending doom and a feeling of being out of control.

Anxiety attacks, on the other hand, are typically a response to stress or a specific trigger. They may build gradually and last longer than panic attacks. The symptoms of anxiety attacks may not be as intense, and individuals may still have some control over their thoughts and behaviors.

How Do You Stop a Panic Attack Fast?

Stopping a panic attack quickly can be challenging, but there are several techniques that can help:

  • Deep Breathing: As mentioned earlier, slow and deep breathing can help calm your nervous system. Focus on your breath and count to four for each inhale and exhale.
  • Grounding Techniques: Try grounding exercises, such as naming five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
  • Positive Affirmations: Use positive self-talk to reassure yourself that you are safe and that the panic attack will pass.
  • Visualizations: Imagine a calming and safe place in your mind. Picture yourself there to help reduce anxiety.
  • Seek Social Support: Contact a friend or family member who can provide comfort and reassurance.

How Do I Know If I’m Having a Panic Attack?

Recognizing the signs of a panic attack is crucial for managing the experience effectively. If you experience a sudden onset of intense fear or discomfort accompanied by symptoms like rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, and a feeling of impending doom, it is likely a panic attack. The symptoms are typically severe and peak within a few minutes.

What Can Trigger a Panic Attack?

  • Panic attacks can be triggered by a variety of factors, and these triggers can vary from person to person. Common triggers for panic attacks include:
  • Stressful life events
  • Certain phobias, such as agoraphobia or social anxiety
  • Traumatic experiences or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance abuse, including caffeine, alcohol, or drug use
  • Medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism or heart disease
  • Genetics and family history

What Are Three Types of Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks can be categorized into three main types:

  • Unexpected or Spontaneous Panic Attacks: These occur without any specific trigger and can happen at any time. They are often associated with panic disorder.
  • Situationally-Bound Panic Attacks: These are triggered by specific situations or phobias. For example, someone with a fear of flying might experience a panic attack when boarding a plane.
  • Situationally-Predisposed Panic Attacks: These panic attacks may be associated with a particular situation, but they can also occur spontaneously.

What Does a Physical Panic Attack Feel Like?

During a physical panic attack, you may experience a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Rapid, pounding heartbeat
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or stomach discomfort
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Numbness or tingling sensations

These physical symptoms often make individuals feel as if they are having a heart attack, which can intensify their fear and anxiety.

How to Deal with Panic Attacks

Managing panic attacks involves a multi-faceted approach:

  • Learn About Your Triggers: Understanding what triggers your panic attacks is the first step in managing them. Keep a journal to identify patterns and common stressors.
  • Practice Coping Strategies: Develop a toolkit of coping strategies that work for you, such as deep breathing, grounding techniques, and positive affirmations.
  • Seek Professional Help: If your panic attacks are severe or frequent, consider consulting a mental health professional for therapy and potential medication options.
  • Medication: In some cases, a healthcare provider at University Urgent Care may prescribe anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants to help manage panic attacks.

Medical Treatment Options

In an urgent care setting, the primary focus is on evaluating your condition, providing immediate relief, and offering guidance. Urgent care centers can assist with panic attacks by:

  • Assessing Your Symptoms: Healthcare providers can evaluate your symptoms and rule out other medical conditions that may mimic the symptoms of a panic attack.
  • Providing Medication: Urgent care centers may provide short-term relief through medications to alleviate anxiety and panic attack symptoms.
  • Offering Referrals: If your panic attacks are recurrent or severe, you may be referred to a mental health specialist for ongoing care.

How an Urgent Care Can Help

University Urgent Care can assist in managing panic attacks by providing immediate evaluation, symptom relief, and guidance. Our healthcare providers are equipped to:

  • Assess your condition and symptoms.
  • Provide short-term relief through medications.
  • Offer support and guidance on managing panic attacks.

When to See a Specialist

While University Urgent Care can provide immediate help for panic attacks, there are situations where consulting a mental health specialist is essential. Consider seeing a specialist if:

  • You experience recurrent panic attacks.
  • Your panic attacks are severe or debilitating.
  • Your quality of life is significantly impacted by panic attacks.
  • You need long-term therapy, counseling, or medication management.


Panic attacks can be distressing, but with the right coping strategies and, when necessary, medical assistance, you can effectively manage them. At University Urgent Care, we are here to provide immediate support and guidance to help you through panic attacks. By recognizing the signs, understanding triggers, and seeking appropriate care, you can regain control over your life and well-being. Don’t hesitate to visit our urgent care center for compassionate and professional assistance.

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