How to tell if someone is having a panic attack?

We’ve all been there, feeling anxious or uneasy about something that troubles our mind. But for some individuals, the feelings of panic can be extreme and debilitating. Knowing how to recognize when somebody is having a panic attack could potentially save their life from being overwhelmed by fear.

In this article, we’ll give you 16 signs to look out for if you think someone might be experiencing a panic attack.

What Is a Panic Attack?

Let’s start with the basics; what exactly is a panic attack? A panic attack is an episode of intense fear or discomfort that arises abruptly and peaks within minutes. It’s not uncommon for people who experience them to feel like they’re dying (spoiler alert: they aren’t). Here are some common symptoms associated with panic attacks:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath/feeling suffocated
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Trembling/Shaking
  • Nausea/upset stomach
  • Dizziness/light-headedness
  • Chills/hot flashes

There can also be psychological side effects such as disassociation, derealization/depersonalization, and an overwhelming feeling of impending doom.

So How Do I Spot One?

Now that we’ve defined what one looks like let’s focus on spotting one happening in front of us.
Here are 8 things you want to keep your eyes peeled for:

  1. Deep Breathing
    People who are experiencing a sudden onset of anxiety often hyperventilate leading to shallow breathing at first – but eventually move towards deep consistent breathing as the feelings intensify.
  2. Fidgeting
    When people become increasingly nervous and their body engages its fight-or-flight response mechanisms they may begin fidgeting around which makes sense because instinctually speaking movement helps burn off adrenaline pumped into your system.
  3. Increased Heart Rate
    As panic takes over, the heart races, and there’s a general sense of apprehension. The person might notice it clearly and point to their chest or appear fidgety.
  4. Sweating
    When an individual is experiencing an adrenalin rush from anxiety they’ll likely start sweating profusely especially under their arms or on their palms leading them to wipe sweat away frequently.
  5. Difficulty Speaking
    As we feel more anxious our brains tend to go into overload making coherent thought challenging leading folks to clam up in the middle of speaking sentences.
  6. Fearful Look
    Someone having a panic attack will look nervous beyond words – you’ll see fear registered on their facial expression loudly screaming ‘I need help!’
  7. Insomnia/Sleep Disturbances
    Though sleep disturbances are not symptoms during the time-frames when attacks happen typically after someone has gone through one they may have troubles sleeping due residual emotional baggage from that experience – this isn’t necessarily something you’ll be able to spot but does demonstrate just how debilitating episodes can become for people who live with panic disorder long-term.
  8. Avoidance Behaviors Including Agoraphobia
    Sometimes those who suffer from Panic Disorder develop tendencies toward obsessive thinking regarding triggering situations which can lead them down paths that avoid certain events altogether (like public transportation/in closed spaces) it’s essential as these negative behavioral patterns set in place early for families/friends helping loved ones through overcoming anxiety.

Body Language

Body language plays an enormous role in identifying if someone is going through a bout of severe anxiety:

  1. Compressed Breathing Patterns
    The short and shallow breathing patterns mentioned earlier could also manifest physically by people clenching tight around areas like stomachs/chests indicating additional discomfort beyond mental anguish alone–which means that support groups teach different relaxation techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing exercises aimed at tackling these additional physical stressors.
  2. Tight Muscles
    Tense muscles all over the body, clenched fists or grinding teeth – usually this presents as a combination of shallow quick breaths and muscle squeezes that can cause the person experiencing extreme anxiety to rock back and forth rhythmically almost unconsciously.
  3. Trembling/Shaking
    People who are panicking could experience bouts of shaking or trembling throughout their bodies – typically most of it happens in their hands but sometimes folks may be entirely unable to focus as they fight off a full-body experience.

Supporting Someone Through

If you suspect someone is experiencing a panic attack, how do you help? Here some ways to support them:

  1. Stay Calm
    It’s crucial for invited individuals not too start escalating personally from externalizing feelings toward concerned parties caught up between conflicting biologies in specific contexts (an event triggered). Pause before Responding, Many people empathize with loved ones by trying whatever shows care & concern regardless if it’s rushing/stressing out nervously shouting “Calm down!” etc. However, anything confrontational will intensify rather than alleviate symptoms linked to panic disorders–this applies even if someone unknowingly inflaming an underlying issue doesn’t mean anybody did so deliberately!

  2. Use Compassionate Language
    A compassionate approach tailored listening quietly without interrupting/ dictating recommendations because ‘advising positively’ vanishes into moments when nothing truly helps prevent those situations anyway set expectations realistically instead convey empathy compassionately letting them know they’re being heard validated without practicing disbelief towards subjects at hand.

  3. Assist With Their Breathing
    One critical technique especially beneficial in helping others relax during attacks is breathing exercises aimed at getting involved with conversations I love doing these enough types like FOCUSSING ON inhalation/exhalation patterns putting mental energy/involvement behind deepening/shifting rhythms away from obsessive thoughts extenuating circumstances causing those negative feelings in the first place.

  4. Take Them Seriously
    It’s essential to take somebody seriously when they’re having a panic attack – not belittle/downplay what you’ve witnessed, and maybe don’t ask them why they’re feeling that way as that can feel dismissive too! Instead just be there let people express themselves about how difficult it was going through this attack until comfortable making that close personal connection required before continuing communication afterwards regarding feelings at stake regularly supporting affected individuals towards facing looming issues affecting these attacks head-on beyond immediate effects of panic disorder episodes alone.


In conclusion, identifying signs of someone who is experiencing a panic attack should become second nature especially if you work in social/emotional-based fields like customer service or health-care contexts. It’s always best to err on the side of caution by asking basic yes or no questions where possible as well, such as reassuring your friend stranger alike encouragement please seek medical help so we can come to explore all options controlling anxiety/obsessions together intensities lifting some emotional weight off both shoulders.. Remember, staying composed yet acknowledging their emotions with compassion will go a really long way for anybody dealing regularly with managing chronic mental illness (like Panic Disorder).

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