How to Stop an Anxiety Attack

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
July 20, 2023
How to Stop an Anxiety Attack

You may think you have no idea how to stop an anxiety attack. But if you think ahead, you’ll find a remedy that works, and chances are you’ll remember it next time.

If you’ve ever had an anxiety attack, it’s important to think about remedies. If you have another one in the future, you will be prepared.


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Anxiety and panic attacks

Psychologists tend to speak of panic attacks rather than anxiety attacks. Anxiety is ongoing. A panic attack is when your fear is acute, and you can’t function normally for a short period.

During a panic attack, your heart is racing, or you might feel weak, faint, or dizzy. Your hands and fingers may tingle or feel numb. You sweat or have chills. Your stomach churns or aches. You may have chest pains or pant. You feel dread or are overwhelmed.

If you have panic disorder, panic attacks come repeatedly and may be unpredictable. Nearly 5 percent of American adults, and more than 2 percent of teens experience panic disorder at some point.

No one knows what causes panic attacks, but researchers suspect they may be a combination of biological and environmental factors. The trouble runs in families and may be involved with another anxiety problem.

For example, someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder may have a panic attack if they can’t engage in a ritual like checking the door handle repeatedly to see that the door is closed. If you’re afraid of heights, you might have a panic attack on a mountaintop. Other stressful events and drug and alcohol abuse may contribute.

How to stop an anxiety attack

Try the following techniques in advance. When you feel panic coming on, choose one for that moment. You might do two or more in a sequence.

  • If you learn a breathing technique in advance, you can try it when you’re panicking. You might learn alternate nostril breathing. In another approach, you breathe in through your nose for a count of five, hold it for five, and breathe out through your mouth for a count of five. You might breathe in for a count of five and breathe out while counting to 10. You might breathe slowly from your belly, rather than your chest. The technique is especially important if you are breathing fast (hyperventilating) which makes your panic worse.
  • Close your eyes if you think your environment is triggering you.
  • Remember a time or place you associate with peacefulness. Try to feel the sensations in detail.
  • Focus on relaxing your fingers, then your wrists, then your arms, moving through your body slowly.
  • If your panic is coming from your thoughts, direct your mind outwards. Notice your environment. Focus on one thing to see if you can notice it in great detail, making new observations. You could also look for four things you can see, three things you can touch, two that smell, and one you can taste.
  • Distract yourself. You could count backwards, starting from 100. You could add up the loose change in your pocket. The point is to give yourself a task hard enough that it requires focus, but not so hard you trigger more fear.
  • Play with ice. It’s easiest if you keep gel packs in your freezer. You can take one out and hold it, or you can hold one in each hand. You might put one on your lower belly if you can lie down.
  • Talk to your doctor about a benzodiazepine like Klonopin. Anti-anxiety drugs often work quickly. But they are addictive, so it’s important to learn other techniques and work towards lowering your overall anxiety, rather than relying on prescription medication.


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July 20, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN