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Can anxiety attacks last for days?

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7 min

Can anxiety attacks last for days?

We’ve all been there – that knot in your stomach before a big presentation or the racing thoughts as you pack for a move – it’s anxiety, a normal part of life. But sometimes, it comes in all shapes and sizes: fleeting flashes, anxiety, or panic attacks.

When symptoms are frequent or constant guests in your daily life, it should ring a bell, as it could be an anxiety disorder.

So if you ever found yourself with a heartbeat like a drum solo and sweaty palms, you might have experienced an anxiety attack… or wait.. maybe it was a panic attack? And how long can an anxiety attack last?

Buckle up and let’s find all of the answers in the middle of this storm (tips on how to handle included!)

Difference between anxiety and panic attacks

Before answering how long anxiety lasts, it’s important to note that it differs from panic attacks, despite both being classified as anxiety disorders.

Mostly, different types of generalized anxiety can be triggered by both known and unknown stressors for you. It builds gradually, so you may not feel it when it’s coming. It can be prolonged anxiety, so it can stay with you for a while, and we will talk about it soon. Speaking of symptoms, there can be mild or severe anxiety.

Please note that anxiety has to have been present for at least 6 months to diagnose generalized anxiety disorder. There are also some nuances where anxiety explained by other things is categorized as a different diagnosis, e.g., phobias or PTSD.

Panic attacks are a bit of a different beast. “Anyone can have a panic attack, and having a panic attack doesn’t necessarily mean you have a mental health condition,” states psychologist Lauren Koch, Ph.D. 

When anxiety reaches critical levels, a panic attack occurs. Like generalized anxiety, panic attacks can be caused by a trigger or happen for no apparent reason.

Unexpected panic attacks are needed for a diagnosis of Panic Disorder. Otherwise, another diagnosis might be more appropriate, and this might be where the confusion comes in,” says Katherine Pocock, Clinical Neuropsychiatrist, MBPsS.

Panic attacks can happen after drinking, eating, or just waking up, hitting you like a wave. They can make you feel out of control and come with physical symptoms so intense that they’re often mistaken for heart attacks.

They feel intense, making you think you are having a heart attack and losing control. But how long can a panic attack last? Unlike anxiety episodes, panic passes quickly.

Cool, now you are a bit familiar with both definitions and will have an idea of how to distinguish them. 

Yet, they share some symptoms. And let’s not forget that we are all different, so signs can vary.

Well…Then it got twisted again. So how do you understand whether you have anxiety or panic attacks? 

The bodily systems at work are the same in both, so they produce the same symptoms but at different levels of intensity. I get that figuring out these things can be confusing, so let’s distinguish them based on onset, duration, and intensity:

Onset Can be gradual Very sudden (but can be caused by anxiety)
Duration Can last a long timeUsually less than an hour
IntensityChanging from mild to severeVery severe

If you want to learn more about anxiety and its symptoms, our Breeze app is here to support you. Check out our mini-courses, self-discovery tests, and powerful insights. Take control of your life today.

How long does an anxiety attack last?

Now, as promised, let’s talk about the duration of anxiety attacks.

So how long does it take to get anxiety away? Usually, anxiety attacks last about 30 mins.  Unfortunately, sometimes anxiety has long-term effects. In some cases, it can last hours or even days. Then, you need to take action.

Remember, even though anxiety attacks can be scary, they are not dangerous. You will learn many effective coping mechanisms in this article to manage anxiety and improve your overall well-being.

How long can a panic attack last?

And what about a panic attack? How long does it take? Usually, it’s 5 to 20 minutes, but some can go on for an hour. How often they happen depends on how severe your condition is.

Some people have them once or twice a month, while others experience them more often. But can panic attacks last days? In very rare cases.

There is anecdotal evidence that a panic attack could last days, but research has found they usually subside within an hour.

Having one panic attack is tough, but imagine getting hit with multiple panic attacks in one day. It’s like a never-ending wave of panic that really stresses your body.

This happens because anxiety tricks your body into thinking it’s in a life-or-death situation, and it keeps pumping adrenaline. It’s like facing a dangerous snake over and over again, which is not exciting.

If your symptoms increase without stopping or you experience recurring waves of panic, it’s time to seek medical attention. Healthcare professionals will help you recover from anxiety or panic attacks. Do not go through this alone.

How do I stop an anxiety attack?

When anxiety hits, your mind gets stuck on it, making things worse. To beat generalized or extreme anxiety, shift your focus from overwhelming thoughts to simple senses. It’s called grounding – this helps you come back to the present and feel calm. 

To help you get through, I’ve prepared the 5 most grounding tips on how to handle anxiety episodes. “These are all really solid tips I have used in treatments, too,” noted Katherine Pocock, Clinical Neuropsychiatrist, MBPsS.

1. First off – breathe

I mean, we are all breathing, right? But I am talking about deep breathing. According to a study, it helps relieve stress and anxiety, giving you a relaxing effect. Also, shortness of breath from anxiety can happen too.

So when you feel extreme anxiety coming on, try rule 333, taking slow, deep breaths and counting to 10 with each inhale and exhale. 

Focus entirely on your breath, feeling it rise and fall in your chest or abdomen. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath.

Continue counting and breathing deeply until you feel your anxiety begin to ease and your breathing smooths out.

How long does anxiety attack last?

2. Pop a sour candy

Spicy counts, too. The intense taste can act as a distraction, pulling you out of anxious thoughts and grounding you back in the present moment.

 “There is definitely truth and science behind eating sour or spicy candy to ease anxiety and panic attacks,” says Catherine Del Toro, mental health counselor for USA Today.

A sour candy is perfect for any anxious situation, from pre-flight jitters to public speaking chills. Whenever you feel anxious, sour candy can be a lifesaver.

On socials, it took its place, too. The popularity of sour candies as an anxiety-relief tool is booming on TikTok, with millions of views for the related search term.

So next time you feel a surge of anxiety, reach for the best sour candy for panic attacks and take a bite towards calm. It can be a Warhea, Jolly Rancher, or whatever works for you.

3. What about your surroundings?

Yes, check your surroundings. Are you in any danger? If so, prioritize your safety first. Otherwise, notice where you are—your chair, your desk, familiar objects right at this moment. 

Focus on their presence and your own, reminding yourself that this overwhelming feeling, like the objects around you, will pass.

4. Mantra hack

Your mantra is a personal tool that is always with you, wherever you go. It can be called different things, such as a prayer or meditation, but essentially, it’s a set of affirming words you can use to support yourself. 

What can you repeat? Examples include “I am safe, and nothing is gonna happen to me” or “I feel calm, and everything is alright.” Choose something that resonates with you deeply that you can truly believe in.

5. Get your body move

For some, physical activity is the quickest way to channel anxious energy. Whether it’s a yoga flow, a quick run, or a set of squats, physical activity can shift your focus and drain that anxious energy right out of you.

“I promise you, the gym has taken away so much of my stress. It has helped calm me down. When I’m fidgety, and I just feel like everything is closing in, I go to the gym,” said reality star Khloe Kardashian in her interview with Marie Claire.

6. Educational resources (bonus section)

If you’d like to dive deeper into anxiety disorders, get more tips, or explore treatment options, check out the following resources:

  1. Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): This well-respected organization offers a wealth of information on anxiety disorders, including anxiety attacks. They have free downloadable brochures, infographics, blog posts, and more.
  2. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): The NIMH website provides informative resources on anxiety disorders, including a specific section on panic disorder (which always involves panic attacks). You can find links to research studies, information on treatment options, and tips for managing anxiety in daily life. 
  3. Mental Health Texas: This website provides information and resources on mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders. It has a section on finding treatment, with links to state-specific resources. 

Following up with Breeze

Panic episodes aren’t just scary. They can mess with your life.

Yes, they hit hard and fast. But typically, they peak around 10 minutes, then slowly fade. But anxiety can last for days.

If anxiety is making things tough, like work, school, or even hanging out, it’s time to take action and visit a healthcare professional.

But there’s more you can do! Breeze can be your personal healer, which will help anxiety go away. It’s a self-help platform based on CBT principles, and it’s packed with resources to:

  • Understand your anxiety.
  • Challenge negative thoughts.
  • Develop coping skills.
  • Calm your mind and body.

It’s full of courses, tests, tools to track your mood, and more, all designed to help you feel better.

Remember, you don’t have to wait for an appointment to start feeling better. Breeze is right here, ready to support you on your journey to calmer days. Take charge of your anxiety today!

Katherine Pocock, Clinical Neuropsychiatrist, MBPsS, shared her opinion on anxiety attacks and techniques to handle them
“Panic attacks can be a frightening experience, but remember that what goes up must come down, and they will always subside. Mindfulness and grounding techniques can be really helpful, and they’re practicable skills – the more you practice them, the more effective they can be. Practicing these skills while you feel okay can make them much easier to use while you feel anxious or panicked. If you feel that panic and anxiety are negatively impacting your life, please seek advice from a mental health or medical professional.”
Katherine Pocock, MBPsS photo

Reviewed by Katherine Pocock, MBPsS

Katherine Pocock MBPsS holds an MSc in Clinical Neuropsychiatry from King's College London and a BSc in Psychology with Neuroscien...