Can You Die From a Panic Attack?


Panic attacks are sudden, intense episodes of fear and anxiety that can be overwhelming and physically debilitating. These episodes can strike without warning, leaving individuals feeling as if they are losing control or experiencing a life-threatening event. Commonly affecting people in their late teens to early adulthood, panic attacks can persist into middle age and beyond, impacting individuals across various stages of life. 

While the sensation of a panic attack can be terrifying, many people wonder if it can be fatal. In this blog, we will explore the nature of panic attacks, their causes, symptoms, and the critical question: can you die from a panic attack?

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear and anxiety that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. It is a hallmark symptom of panic disorder, characterized by its abrupt onset and intense nature. 

Affecting approximately 2-3% of the population, panic attacks are relatively common, with a significant number of cases emerging during the teenage years and early adulthood. Studies suggest that teens and young adults are particularly susceptible, likely due to the various psychological and physiological changes occurring during this developmental period. 

These episodes can significantly disrupt daily life, making it essential to understand their impact and management.

How Long Can Anxiety Attacks Last?

Anxiety attacks, often used interchangeably with panic attacks, can vary widely in duration. Typically, a panic attack reaches its peak within 10 minutes and then gradually subsides, with the entire episode lasting around 20 to 30 minutes. 

However, some individuals may experience a series of successive attacks, making it feel like the anxiety lasts for hours. In rare cases, residual symptoms such as fatigue, a sense of unease, or mild anxiety can linger for a day or more. 

Understanding the typical duration of anxiety attacks can help sufferers better manage their symptoms and seek appropriate treatment to reduce the frequency and intensity of these distressing episodes.

How to Stop Shaking from Anxiety Immediately?

Shaking is a common physical symptom of anxiety that can be distressing and disruptive. When anxiety strikes, your body’s fight-or-flight response is activated, leading to trembling or shaking. Fortunately, there are several techniques you can use to calm your nerves and reduce shaking immediately.

Deep Breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises by inhaling slowly through your nose, holding your breath for a few seconds, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth. This helps to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing shaking.

Grounding Techniques: Ground yourself in the present moment by focusing on your surroundings. Engage your senses by identifying 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. This can distract your mind from anxiety and help control physical symptoms.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Tense and then slowly release each muscle group in your body, starting from your toes and working up to your head. This method can reduce physical tension and calm your nervous system.

Hydration and Nutrition: Ensure you are well-hydrated and have eaten adequately. Sometimes, low blood sugar or dehydration can exacerbate shaking and anxiety. A healthy snack or a glass of water can stabilize your system and alleviate symptoms.

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Causes of Panic Attack

Panic attacks can be triggered by a variety of factors, often making it difficult to pinpoint a single cause. They are typically the result of a complex interplay between genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. 

Individuals with a family history of anxiety disorders are more prone to experiencing panic attacks. Psychological stressors such as trauma, significant life changes, or ongoing stress can also contribute to the onset of panic attacks. Additionally, certain medical conditions and substance abuse can exacerbate the likelihood of experiencing these episodes. 

Understanding the causes of panic attacks is crucial for effective management and prevention.

  • Genetics: A family history of panic disorder or other anxiety disorders can increase the risk.
  • Stress: High levels of stress from work, relationships, or personal issues can trigger panic attacks.
  • Trauma: Past traumatic experiences, such as abuse or significant loss, can be a major factor.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain conditions like hyperthyroidism, heart problems, or respiratory disorders can cause symptoms similar to panic attacks.
  • Substance Abuse: The use of stimulants like caffeine, drugs, or alcohol can provoke or worsen panic attacks.

Signs of Panic Attack

Panic attacks can manifest with a range of intense physical and emotional symptoms, often mimicking more serious health conditions, which can add to the fear and confusion experienced during an episode. Recognizing the signs of a panic attack is essential for timely intervention and management. 

Rapid Heartbeat: A sudden, intense increase in heart rate, often accompanied by palpitations, is a hallmark sign of a panic attack.

Sweating: Excessive sweating, especially in situations where it is not warranted by physical activity or environmental temperature, can indicate a panic attack.

Shortness of Breath: Feeling as though you can’t catch your breath or experiencing tightness in the chest is a common symptom.

Chest Pain: Sharp or dull chest pain can occur, which can be mistaken for a heart attack, adding to the panic.

Dizziness or Lightheadedness: A sensation of being unsteady, faint, or lightheaded often accompanies a panic attack.

Nausea or Stomach Upset: Gastrointestinal distress, including nausea, cramps, or an urgent need to use the restroom, is frequently reported during panic attacks.

Signs of Panic Attack while sleeping

Experiencing a panic attack while sleeping, often referred to as a nocturnal panic attack, can be particularly alarming due to the sudden onset of symptoms in the midst of sleep. 

Although less common than daytime panic attacks, they can be just as distressing. Signs of a panic attack during sleep may include abruptly waking up in a state of intense fear or anxiety, accompanied by physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, and shortness of breath. It’s not uncommon for individuals experiencing a nocturnal panic attack to feel disoriented or confused upon waking, with a lingering sense of dread or impending doom. 

These episodes can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to increased daytime fatigue and anxiety. Understanding the signs of panic attacks during sleep is essential for recognizing and addressing these episodes effectively.

Can Panic Attacks Kill You?

The question of whether panic attacks can kill you is one that often arises among those who experience these frightening episodes. While panic attacks themselves are not fatal, the intense physical and emotional symptoms they produce can sometimes mimic those of more serious medical conditions, leading to fear and confusion. 

However, it’s crucial to understand that panic attacks, although terrifying, are not life-threatening in and of themselves. They do not cause physical harm or directly result in death. However, in rare cases, individuals with pre-existing heart conditions or other health issues may experience complications during a panic attack. 

For example, someone with a heart condition may experience an exacerbation of symptoms due to the increased heart rate and stress associated with a panic attack. Additionally, prolonged or frequent panic attacks can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders, which may impact overall health and well-being if left untreated. 

Therefore, while panic attacks themselves are not deadly, it’s essential to seek proper diagnosis and treatment to manage symptoms effectively and prevent potential complications.

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How to Stay Safe During a Panic Attack?

During a panic attack, it’s crucial to prioritize your safety and well-being. Here are eight tips to help you stay safe during a panic attack:

Find a Safe Environment: Move to a calm and safe space where you feel comfortable and secure, away from crowds or situations that may exacerbate your anxiety.

Practice Deep Breathing: Engage in deep breathing exercises to help regulate your breathing and reduce the intensity of physical symptoms associated with panic attacks.

Use Grounding Techniques: Ground yourself in the present moment by focusing on your senses or engaging in activities that help distract your mind from anxious thoughts.

Reach Out for Support: If possible, seek support from a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional who can provide reassurance and assistance during the episode.

Avoid Substance Use: Refrain from using substances such as alcohol, caffeine, or drugs, as they can exacerbate symptoms and interfere with your ability to cope effectively.

Use Medication as Prescribed: If you have been prescribed medication for managing panic attacks, take it as directed by your healthcare provider to help alleviate symptoms and prevent future episodes.

Seek Professional Help: If panic attacks occur frequently or significantly impact your daily life, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist who can provide guidance, support, and appropriate treatment options.

Closing Note

While panic attacks themselves are not directly life-threatening, the physical and emotional symptoms they produce can be distressing and overwhelming. Understanding the nature of panic attacks, their causes, and effective coping strategies is essential for managing these episodes and maintaining overall well-being. While the fear of death during a panic attack is understandable, it’s important to remember that panic attacks do not directly lead to death. 

However, seeking proper diagnosis, treatment, and support from healthcare professionals is crucial for managing symptoms and preventing potential complications.

Get in touch with our expert psychiatrist for further guidance and mental health treatments.

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Faith Behavioral Health Group
Frisco, TX 75034
Faith Behavioral Health Group
McKinney, TX 75071
5509 Pleasant Valley Dr Suite 70, Plano, TX 75023


DR. Sadaf Noor Blog Updated Image
Dr. Sadaf Noor Psychiatrist, MD

As a skilled psychiatrist, I specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating mental health issues, emotional disorders, and psychotic conditions. Drawing on diagnostic laboratory tests, prescribed medications, and psychotherapeutic interventions, I strive to provide comprehensive and compassionate care for my patients in Frisco and McKinney, Texas, while assessing their biological, psychological, and social components of illnesses. I am committed to helping them achieve healthier and more fulfilling lives through my work.