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Home arrow Health arrow Mental Health arrow How Long Do Anxiety Attacks Last? The Length, Signs, and Tips for Coping

How Long Do Anxiety Attacks Last? The Length, Signs, and Tips for Coping

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
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Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 10, 2023
6 min read 870 Views 0 Comments
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Anxiety attacks can be a terrifying ordeal with symptoms including pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, and feeling faint. But how long do they last, and is there a way to prevent them? This article explores the length of anxiety attacks and offers suggestions for reducing their frequency.

how long do anxiety attacks last

Anxiety attacks are usually suffered by people with an anxiety disorder, but anyone can experience them. A panic attack comes out of the blue and can sometimes feel as painful as a heart attack, but how long does it last?

Below, we’ve taken a closer look at panic attacks to find out how long they last, what the symptoms are, and how to cope with frequent anxiety attacks. Read on now to learn more.

How Long Do Anxiety Attacks Last?

Generally, panic attacks are short-lived, with symptoms usually reaching their peak around the 10-minute mark and subsiding after that. However, it is possible for some people to have longer anxiety attacks, with some experiencing attacks lasting up to 30 minutes. In addition, some people may have very short panic attacks, but these are rarer.

An individual may experience multiple panic attacks in a short space of time, which can make it feel like one very long attack. Additionally, some experts agree that if the symptoms of the anxiety attack do not peak at the 10-minute point, it is not technically a panic attack. Instead, this would be classified as a period of high anxiety instead.

What Is an Anxiety Attack?

An anxiety attack is a period of intense fear and discomfort, commonly experienced by someone with a panic disorder. Some people mistake the symptoms of a severe attack for a heart attack due to their severity.

Panic or anxiety attacks are caused by the sympathetic nervous system. When this is triggered, our “fight or flight” response kicks in. This response is designed to help the body fight or run away in dangerous and life-threatening situations, but people with anxiety disorders can be triggered by many things, most of which are not life-threatening.

These attacks come out of nowhere, but there are some people who are more at risk of experiencing them. These include people with panic disorder, any anxiety disorders, OCD, PTSD, or agoraphobia, as well as anyone with a family history of panic attacks, those who are grieving, and those who just experienced a traumatic event.

Signs of Anxiety Attack

The signs and symptoms of a panic attack are extensive, and to be classified as one, it must include one or more of the following:

  • Difficult breathing or swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hyperventilating
  • Faintness
  • Chills
  • Hot flushes
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Tingling sensation
  • Numbness
  • Fear of imminent death

After an anxiety attack, you may also find that some symptoms linger. These can be uncomfortable and often make you feel as though the attack is still happening. Most of the physical symptoms should subside quickly, but you may find you continue to hyperventilate, experience chest pain, and have stomach discomfort. You may also feel exhausted afterward.

But, while the physical symptoms subside quickly, the mental and cognitive symptoms can continue for much longer. People may continue to feel out of control or anxious after an attack. They may also continue to feel death is imminent. If this feeling continues, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

People with panic disorder may find that they worry, obsess over, and fear another attack which can lead to higher anxiety levels. If you experience this feeling but have not been diagnosed with panic disorder, it could be worth speaking with a doctor to get an official diagnosis and recommendations on coping with frequent panic attacks.

Can Anxiety Attacks Last for Days?

Most research is clear that panic attacks last only for about 30 minutes; however, it is possible to have a number of them over a series of days. This could lead some people to report days-long ordeals when in fact, they were experiencing multiple attacks over a longer period.

In addition, the lingering cognitive symptoms, like fear of death, overthinking, and feeling out of control, could lead people to feel like the attack has not yet stopped. 

How to Calm an Anxiety Attack

Anxiety attacks happen suddenly, so preventing them can be challenging. You can, however, calm one and reduce the symptoms when they do happen. We have listed some of our recommendations below for calming an anxiety attack.

#1 Create a self-care plan

Many people create a self-care plan for when they begin to feel the symptoms of panic attacks happening – to help them cope with the situation. A self-care plan may include deep breathing exercises, which have been shown to calm anxiety and are often used by mental health professionals in the treatment of a panic disorder. You may also use grounding techniques, like the 5-4-3-2-1 method or the 333 rule for anxiety, to bring you back to the present.

#2 Speak to someone you trust

You may have a friend or colleague who can help you when you have a panic attack. They could remind you of where you are and that you are present. They could also ask you simple questions, like your name and birthday, to help distract your mind and bring you back to reality.

In addition, this person could help spot the signs of an impending panic attack themselves and work with you to stop them in their tracks. Speaking with someone about what happens during an attack can help you better understand what causes them.

#3 Practice meditation

Meditation has been shown to boost mental health and well-being. It is an ancient practice thought to strengthen the mind and is often used as a holistic therapy for anxiety and other mental disorders.

There are a number of different meditation options, and many mental health apps now offer guided sessions to help you understand the practice a little better.

#4 Try exercise to boost your mental health

Exercise can have a profound effect on your mental health. It can boost your mood, reduce symptoms of anxiety, and even help with depression. Adding exercise to your daily routine with something as little as a morning walk could help reduce panic attacks and help you feel calmer.

#5 Try journalling

Journaling is thought to be an excellent way to boost your mood. You can journal your experiences with panic attacks to get to know them better and keep track of what triggers them. Understanding your triggers may help to reduce their frequency.

You could download a mental health app with a journaling section to have space to get your thoughts down wherever you are.

#6 Seek treatment

Seeking professional help for your mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. Starting sessions with a therapist can allow you to talk through what’s bothering you and hopefully find the root cause of your panic attacks.

You may also be able to work with someone who offers CBT therapy. This form of therapy changes the way you think about things to reduce symptoms of anxiety and other mental health problems.

What Should I Do After an Anxiety Attack?

After an attack, it is important that you focus on self-care and soothing your mind and body. Your body has just been through something very scary and jarring, and as such, you should give yourself time to rest and relax.

Consider going somewhere quiet and lying down. You could focus on your breathing to calm any leftover symptoms or try meditating if you still feel overwhelmed. If you are currently seeing a therapist, you could speak with them about other self-care tips you might implement around this time.

In addition, speaking with someone you trust is an excellent way to move past the panic attack. As we discussed earlier, having someone you trust to help you during them can soothe and calm you when they occur.

A Word From a Psychologist

Panic attacks are common in people who have anxiety disorders, but they can happen to anyone. Generally, an anxiety attack lasts for a short time, only up to about 30 minutes at most, but the symptoms can continue for long after the actual attack.

Finding a way to manage anxiety is one of the best ways to prevent and reduce panic attacks. There are many ways to do this, including practicing mindfulness and meditation, getting out in nature, taking walks to improve your mood, and getting enough sleep.

You may also want to speak with a doctor about anxiety. They may refer you to a therapist or counselor and offer services like talking therapy and CBT to combat anxiety. They could also offer you medical treatments, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which can be used to treat anxiety.

It is important that when you feel anxiety or panic, you remember you’re not losing control. Though it can feel terrifying at the time, understanding the attacks and managing triggers will help you stay in control and remain calm.

Conclusion

Panic attacks occur out of the blue and include symptoms like chest pain, hyperventilation, and a fear of imminent death. They often last for a short time, with symptoms peaking around the 10-minute mark. They don’t usually go on for longer than 30 minutes. Some people may experience more than one panic attack in a short period, which may make them think one attack has lasted much longer.

If you experience anxiety attacks often, there are ways to prevent and reduce symptoms, including speaking with a therapist, practicing mindfulness and relaxation, and exercising to reduce stress.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
HR_author_photo_Rosmy
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 10, 2023
6 min read 870 Views 0 Comments
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