You may be wondering how long do panic attacks last? As anyone who’s ever had one knows, when you’re actually having a panic attack, it *feels* like forever. Time slows down and the seconds in which you are suffering feel like they drag on forever. But really, how long do panic attacks actually last?
Most people (myself included) have found ourselves terrified at the though of having a another panic attack, because we never know how long it will last. At the height of an anxiety attack, you feel like you will die or go crazy or lose physical or emotional control of yourself. The thought that this incredibly intense terror will go on indefinitely is too much for anyone to bear. When it’s happening, it does FEEL like it will never end.
So how long do panic attacks last?
According to the Surgeon General, a typical panic attack has an abrupt onset, and it builds to maximum intensity over 10 to 15 minutes. From beginning to end, a panic or anxiety attack rarely lasts longer than thirty minutes. -Source
If we look at a panic attack more closely, we can demystify some of the feelings we might have about them…
Because panic attacks are often triggered by specific events or situations, as well as our reactions to these triggers, the length of the panic attack can vary from one situation to another.
Take for example, someone who occasionally has panic attacks in elevators (I used to have this and I had to ride an elevator up 12 flights to get to work every day). If that person panics, but gets off at the next floor, the feelings will start to subside almost immediately. So in this situation, the panic attack would be over in less than a minute.
In another case, consider a person who may experience panic attacks when having to sit in a classroom or other enclosed area (like a movie theater or church or auditorium) for an extended period of time.
The class or movie may last for over an hour. And this, being the trigger situation, puts the suffer at risk for having multiple panic attack episodes. To the sufferer, it may actually feel like the panic attack lasted for the whole class or for the whole entire movie.
In still another case, a person with a more generalized anxiety may feel his anxiety peak several times throughout a stressful day. For this person, the whole day may have felt like one long drawn out panic attack.
How long a panic attack lasts therefore is a pretty subjective experience. It can encompass the peak feeling of terror along with the build up of disturbing signs and symptoms of panic attacks before hand, as well as the shaky feelings and reactions after the attack.
What can we learn from this?
It becomes clear that the original question, how long do panic attacks last? Is not nearly as important as: how can the sufferer stop panic attacks?
There are 2 ways to stop panic attacks:
1. If the sufferer leaves the trigger situation, the panic attacks will stop.
2. If the suffer learns that panic attacks are nothing to be afraid of, the panic attacks will stop.
#1 Leaving the situation will stop a panic attack because the sufferer left the elevator, or the classroom or the movie. They removed themselves from the anxiety triggering situation.
The only catch is that once the person returns to the trigger situation, the panic attacks are likely to happen again. So while leaving a situation helps in the short term, is not an effective way to manage panic attacks in the long run. In fact, living life this way becomes hard very quickly, because the sufferer begins to avoid people, places, and things he or she used to be able to do.
Or they try functioning with panic attacks by using various band-aid approaches: Over the counter remedies, extra medication, bizarre preparation rituals such as fasting or taking antacids or using various props before going into an anxiety triggering situation. (Not to brag, but I happen to be an expert on using band aid approaches to panic attacks, because this is how I functioned for years and years, lol) 😉
Avoiding a problem (panic) by running away from it is not the answer.
#2 – Learning how to stop panic attacks by removing the fear of them is obviously the better way. It is not necessarily the easier way, but it is the better way – I am living proof of this. 🙂
And this is a process of anxiety recovery where the sufferer learns how to calm and ground himself though various relaxation techniques. Once in a relaxed state, they learn that facing panic attacks not only doable, it is really safe. Little by little they learn that they can get safely to the other side of a panic attack unharmed.
Recovery from panic attacks can be done with a self help program or under the guidance of a therapist.
In order to really understand how long do panic attacks last for you, you can actually study the pattern of your own attacks and time the acute phase of a panic attack with a watch to determine the effectiveness of whatever form of treatment you are using.
One thing I can tell you for sure, once you learn to face and accept the panic and not run away from it, the panic attacks become less and less.
I wish you peace,
Want to know how I’m doing so well after suffering from anxiety and panic attacks for so long? I recommend and use The 60 Second Panic Solution. It truly teaches how to face, not fear panic. Click on the link to get started today and show those stupid panic attacks who’s the boss. 🙂