How long do panic attacks last? The answer to that question really depends on who you ask!
If you ask someone who doesn’t know the true nature of panic attacks and their underlying anxiety disorder, they will provide a description and explanation based on one generally accepted truth.
This accepted truth is partly right but it can be misleading and counter-productive for anyone who suffers from Panic Attacks.
The Truth Behind A Panic Attack
Panic attacks are uncomfortable, upsetting and physically exhausting. They can happen at any time and often without warning. Because they can make sufferers live their lives in a heightened state of anxiety, it doesn’t take very much to trigger a panic attack. Sometimes it can be as little as a sensation or an anxiety provoking thought.
Once that thought or sensation occurs a panic attack is activated by the autonomic nervous system. This happens when it becomes apparent that no real threat exists from which you need to flee or that you need to fight.
Most doctors and psychologists will tell you that a panic attack is the physical effect of high level anxiety during panic disorder. This is partly true, but what they always miss is an explanation of why a panic attack happens. The missing part of the explanation is the vital truth that panic attacks are a ‘tool’ that your mind uses to remove adrenalin from your bloodstream.
The adrenalin released during an anxiety disorder is unlikely to be ‘used up’ as there is no real threat. Because of this the mind activates what we perceive as a panic attack. This attack will use up the surplus adrenalin.
When Will Your Panic Attack Be Over?
Panic attacks can last from a few minutes to a few hours and can happen at any time, day or night, whether you are asleep or awake. The range of symptoms experienced can differ greatly from person to person. Sufferers often find that the core panic symptoms stay the same but that some symptoms can change regularly. Some people experience what are called limited symptom panic attacks. These attacks usually include less than five panic symptoms and are usually shorter in duration.
The length of time an attack lasts is based purely on the ‘job’ it has to do to. The length of time it takes for the adrenalin released by the autonomic nervous system to be ‘used up’ is how long your panic attack will last. When no surplus adrenalin remains in the blood stream, the panic subsides. There is no fixed reference for the length of time a panic attack can last but rest assured that the symptoms are harmless and that anxiety recovery will eliminate panic at its core.
After a panic attack subsides you are often left feeling physically and mentally depleted. A psycho-physiologist once told me that a panic attack represents the same level of physical exertion as an 8 mile run. Some people, including myself at the height of my anxiety, experience up to 10 panic attacks each day and the long-term physical affect of that can be overwhelming. It is relatively harmless but very tiring and can leave you feeling exhausted.
The time a panic disorder lasts is a different matter. Most sufferers become used to experiencing panic attacks and panic disorders can last for many years or even decades if not addressed directly.