So You Had A Panic Attack

This is a guide for people who have panic attacks. Maybe you just had your first one and are freaking out about how bad it felt. Maybe you’ve had them for a while and are really tired of how bad they feel.

I wrote this because a lot of people in my life have asked me for advice after they or someone they care about had their first panic attack or got diagnosed with panic/anxiety for the first time. I found myself giving the same advice over and over, so I started collecting it in a Google doc. I’ve been dealing with panic & anxiety for pretty much my whole life, so I figured, if I’m going to have decades of experience with this thing, might as well collect what I’ve learned in case it might help other people.

First, if you found this guide, congratulations. Taking steps to understand and help yourself with panic attacks isn’t always easy. Fighting to be well is challenging and not something we get enough credit for.

Know that it is common for people to call 911 or visit the emergency room when they have their first panic attack, because they are genuinely terrifying and feel like a medical crisis. But you got through it. You survived. You’re here now. Be proud of yourself.

About this document

I’m posting this on Medium because it’s prettier and more easily inter-linkable than the Google doc where it lived originally. But it’s still just a bunch of text. If you’re an artist, web designer, etc. who wants to adapt some of this into a prettier guide, that would be awesome. I’m posting this under the Creative Commons copyright waiver, so anyone who wants can borrow, adapt, or use any part of this as they need.

Index:

Understanding Panic Attacks
Does this mean I have a mental illness?
What causes panic attacks?
How do I know if it was a panic attack?
What exactly is a panic attack?
What are the symptoms of a panic attack?
More general information

Understanding What Happened
This is the first time I’ve ever felt like that!
I’ve felt like this before, but never knew what to call it!
That was awful and I never want to feel like that again!
It happened in front of other people and I’m embarrassed!

Caring For Yourself During & After A Panic Attack
During a panic attack: get safer
During a panic attack: get calmer
Making a resource kit
After a panic attack

Treating & Preventing Panic Attacks: Medical/Professional Help
Seeing a doctor
Seeing a therapist
Medical treatment for panic attacks
Online therapy

Treating & Preventing Panic Attacks: Non-medical/DIY
Diet, exercise & sleep
Rituals & spiritual community
Reducing lifestyle stress
Tracking causes & moods
DIY workbooks & courses
Apps & technology
Online support groups

Helping Others Help You
Helping other people understand panic attacks 
Communicating your needs during a panic attack

Disclaimer

Please don’t contact me for advice or support — I’m not a medical professional, and I don’t have the time or energy to be there for the entire internet. This guide does include lots of options for getting help and support, even if you don’t have access to professional care.

This is a guide written by one person who is not an expert or medical professional. This guide is only based on my personal experiences, and should be considered non-exhaustive. If your experiences aren’t reflected here, or if you think something I say is inaccurate, that’s okay. Take what you need, and leave the rest. Where possible, I’ve added links to other online resources as well.